Reflections on the Struggle to Advance the Culture of Life

September 28, 2009

Archbishop Burke speaks …

It is clear that we are experiencing today a period of intense and critical struggle in the advancement of the culture of life in our nation. The administration of our federal government openly and aggressively follows a secularist agenda. While it may employ religious language and even invoke the name of God, in fact, it proposes programs and policies for our people without respect for God and His Law. In the words of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, it proceeds “as if God did not exist” (Pope John Paul II, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, “On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World,” 30 December 1988, no. 34).

At the same time, there is a lack of unity among those dedicated to advance a culture which respects fully the gift of human life and its origin in procreation, that is, in the cooperation of man and woman with God through the conjugal union and through education in the home which they have formed by marriage. Recent statements, occasioned by the Rites of Christian Burial accorded to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, have manifested profound disagreement and even harsh criticism among those who are publicly committed to the Gospel of Life.

As we share the same commitment to foster respect for human life and the integrity of marriage and the family, I wish to offer some fundamental reflections on how to advance the culture of life in our nation. The reflections are not comprehensive. It is my hope that, in some small way, they may help us both to address more effectively the Gospel of Life to the political leadership of our nation and to draw together in greater unity with all who are truly dedicated to promote the respect for human life and the integrity of the marital union and its fruit, family life.

Finally, by way of introduction, I have tried to relate these reflections to the Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, “On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth,” of Pope Benedict XVI, given on June 29th of this year. It seems to me that the development for which God has created man is achieved in the establishment of the culture of life. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

Hence charity and truth confront us with an altogether new and creative challenge, one that is certainly vast and complex. It is about broadening the scope of reason and making it capable of knowing and directing these powerful new forces [in the development of peoples], animating them within the perspective of that “civilization of love” whose seed God has planted in every people, in every culture (Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, “On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth,” 29 June 2009, no. 33; hereafter, Caritas in veritate).

Our tireless promotion of the culture of life, in fact, responds to the deepest longing in every man, and in every society. It anticipates and prepares “a new heaven and a new earth,” which Our Lord Jesus Christ will inaugurate at His Final Coming (Rv 21:1).

Continue Reading …


The Danger of Turning Religion Into a “Toy”

September 26, 2009

Excellent Catholic Perspective on Health Care

September 23, 2009

Homily on health care  by Fr. John De Celles, of St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria, VA.

Scripture constantly reminds us of the healing power of God, especially in the life of Jesus, as he repeatedly heals lepers, the paralyzed, the hemorrhaging, the blind, the mute, and, as we read today [Mk 7:31-37], the deaf. It also makes it clear that as Christians we’re called to share in Christ’s special care for the sick, as we read: “And the people brought to him a deaf man…and begged him to lay his hand on him.”

It is a fundamental duty of the Christian to care for the sick. And today we find ourselves in the middle of a spirited debate about how best to do this, as Americans ponder health care reform. And as much as we might like to stay out of it, as Christians we cannot.

Recently Bishop William Murphy, writing as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee on health care issues, released a statement outlining what he called “criteria” for understanding the “basic ethical principles” that must be considered in the debate. You may have seen a summary of those criteria in last week’s bulletin.

All of the principles he listed are important. The most important was “respect for human life and dignity.” This is very clear and absolutely uncompromisable: whatever plan we come up with has to respect the right to life of all innocent human beings, especially the unborn and the aged.

But there are some things we need to keep in mind. First of all, remember, as helpful as this letter is, it is merely the letter of one bishop, not all the American bishops together, in union with the Pope, so it’s not binding to our consciences, except to the extent it presents the actual doctrines of the Church.

Sometimes, though, it goes beyond doctrine. For example, the Bishop has clearly concluded that the federal government should be heavily and directly involved in providing health care. That’s fine, but it’s his personal judgment or opinion, not the actual teaching of the Church.

The letter therefore begs the questions: “what is the Church’s teaching about the government’s role in health care?”

To answer that question, we need to first answer another, more basic question: is there truly a “right to health care”?

From the perspective of Catholic social doctrine the answer is very clear: yes, absolutely.

But what does it mean to have a “right”? Fundamentally, rights are most clearly defined and understood by looking at corresponding duties: if you have a right to something that means I have a duty to respect that right in certain ways.

So, what is our duty, how do we respect another person’s right to health care? Unfortunately, official Church teaching tends to be rather vague in explaining this. But perhaps we can understand it by looking at what’s been written about another similar basic right recognized by Catholic social teaching- the right to work.

Does the “right to work” mean that the government has a duty to supply jobs for all it’s cuitizens- to give a job to everyone? Consider what Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus:

“[One] task of the state us that of overseeing…of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to individuals and to the various groups….which make up society. The state could not directly ensure the right to work for all its citizens unless it controlled every aspect of economic life and restricted the free initiative of indviiduals. Rather, the state has a duty to…creat[e] conditions which will ensure job opportunites.”[1]

In short, when it comes to the fundamental right to work, government doesn’t have to supply that work. In fact, it would do more harm than good if it tried to.

So, does government have a “moral obligation” to directly provide or ensure the right to health care for all it’s citizens? I think the Catholic doctrinal position, according to John Paul’s logic, would clearly be, “no.” In fact, it would even seem to be detrimental to society.

Some might say, “well, the right to work is not as fundamental as the right to health care.”[2] Okay, then consider another human right even more basic: the right to food.

The Church teaches that everyone has a right to food, but does that mean that the government has a duty to provide free food to everyone? No. It must protect the citizens’ right to food by keeping others from stealing their food, and defending their ability to work and buy food in the free market, But, no, it doesn’t have a duty to give food to everyone. As St. Paul’s reminds us in his second letter to the Thessalonians [2 Th 3:10]: “If anyone will not work, let him not eat.”

Now, if you are not able to work, that’s a different story. And so Catholic doctrine teaches that the government, or the state, may sometimes have to step in as a safety net.

But when would government, the state, have to step in? And how would that come about?

The answer to that lies in the moral principle of Catholic social justice called “subsidiarity.” In the last several decades many Catholics seem to have forgotten about subsidiarity.[3] In one form or another, it’s been part of Church teaching from the beginning, and has been one of the key principles of Catholic social justice since Pope Leo XIII’s wrote the foundational social encyclical in 1891, Rerum Novarum;[4] and has been reaffirmed by every Pope since. As Pope Pius XI wrote, in his 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, it is a “most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, [and] remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy.”[5]

So what is “subsidiarity”? As Pope John Paul II defined it in Centesimus Annus, this principle holds that:

“a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the [lower] of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need …”[6]

So for example, the family is the most basic unit of society—“a community of a lower order”—so governments—“communities of a higher order”—may never interfere in the life of a family except to genuinely help it.[7] Similarly, a neighborhood must be left to do the things it can handle on it’s own, as must a city, and the commonwealth of Virginia, without the interference of the federal government. And this applies to any organization in society, so that government must also leave businesses and unions to what they can on their own without unnecessary interference.[8]

Subsidiarity is based on the fundamental dignity of the individual human person, who is created to live in personal relationship with others. This is the foundation of society, at all it’s graduated levels of family, neighborhood, city, etc…up to the national and even global level. And the further we get away from real interpersonal relationships, the more easy it is to loose sight of the person, and compromise their dignity and their personal freedom.

Now, some things are clearly and naturally the province of governments. For example, defense of the nation—militaries— is a natural function of the national government.

But historically, the health care of individuals does not fall into this category, especially when it comes to the national government. Think about it: who is best suited, on a simply natural level, to give aid and care to the sick? Clearly the family, and the neighbors, including fellow parishioners, and the local doctor or nurse. Because health care is fundamentally about persons tending to the real immediate needs of other persons.[9] Government just isn’t very well suited to that.

You might say: “but Father, what about big insurance companies and big hospitals? Those aren’t very personal.” Believe me, I know.

But that only serves to make my point: the same problems we clearly see with big insurance companies are found in an almost geometrically larger scale with big government. But because of the free market you can easily choose to leave one insurance company and go to another, but you can’t “leave” one government for another, especially a national government, so easily. That’s why the Church embraces the free market —especially under the papacies of 2 men who grew up under socialist totalitarian governments, John Paul II in Communist Poland and Benedict XVI in Nazi Germany.

You say, “but not everyone in America gets to choose their health care provider or insurance company—especially the poor.” True. But does that mean we move away from choice and freedom, and move toward greater impersonalism? Or do we try to find solutions that promote greater choice and freedom, and move us toward a more person-centered system?

As Pope John Paul II wrote in Centesimus Annus:

“By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the social assistance state leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients….”[10]

And as Pope Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate:

“Subsidiarity …fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others….”[11]

Now, does this mean that the government can never step in and assist?

No. But if government does step in, local and state governments, should be the first intervene or lend assistance.

Still, in some cases the federal government can and should intervene. Again, as John Paul II wrote in Centesimus Annus:

“in exceptional circumstances the state can also exercise a substitute function, when social sectors or business systems …are not equal to the task at hand.”[12]

One thinks of natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, where local and state governments are absolutely overwhelmed and the federal government has to step in. Perhaps the recent banking and credit crisis was also such a case–perhaps. And maybe health care is a similar situation today.

But as John Paul continues:

“Such supplementary interventions, which are justified by urgent reasons … must be as brief as possible, so as to avoid removing permanently from society and business systems the functions which are properly theirs, and so as to avoid enlarging excessively the sphere of state intervention to the detriment of both economic and civil freedom.”[13]

And as Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate:

“.….subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state. …”[14][15]

Now, maybe you’ve heard it said that the Church teaches that we have a “preferential option, or love, for the poor.” This is absolutely true.[16] But we have to be careful when we talk about a “preferential option”, because, as St. James reminds us in today’s second reading [Jas 2:1-5] Christians must “show no partiality” between rich and poor.[17] So, as John Paul, clarified the “preferential option for the poor” is merely:

“a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity” ….”which is never exclusive or discriminatory toward other groups.” [18]

Charity never involves favoring the poor over the rich, but demands that we always make sure that someone’s looking out for the poor.

Still, some would say “solidarity” with the poor trumps subsidiarity, that government always has a “core ethical and moral obligation” to intervene to directly provide health care for the poor. But as Benedict XVI teaches: “… [solidarity] without [subsidiarity] gives way to paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need.” [19]

And as Blessed Pope John XXIII wrote in Mater et Magister, disregarding the principle of solidarity ” is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order.” [20]

Now, it may be that health care situation today is so dire that the federal government must step in, at least temporarily. But even if that’s so, subsidiarity reminds us of one other factor we must consider.

Think about this: what area of human life involves more moral decision making than the human body and it’s health? In the end, beyond the questions of whether or not the bill passed by Congress will provide taxpayer support of abortion or euthanasia, we have to ask ourselves a much more profound question.

That is, are we turning over all the vast numbers of moral questions and decisions involved in health care to a government that will make the right moral decisions for us? Can we entrust our health care, and our family’s health care to a government presently dominated by people who don’t understand the dignity of life from conception until death, or that it’s wrong to experiment on embryonic human beings, or to clone human beings? or even the very meaning of the words “family” and “marriage”?

And even if all 537 elected federal officials were 100% pro-life and pro-marriage, subsidiarity forces us to pause and remember the huge government bureaucracy, full of lots of unelected people. With all due respect for the many good and hard working federal employees, a lot of federal employees have many strange ideas about morality that are very different from Christ’s.

Today we remember Christ’s power and desire to heal and care for the sick, and the serious responsibility that places on us as Christians. We cannot lightly shift this responsibility to others —whether they are our neighbor, or an insurance company or a government official. Let us pray that God will guide our nation in the debate over health care reform. And let us pray that all Catholics may be led by the wisdom of Christ, so wonderfully laid before us in the richness and fullness of the social doctrines of His Holy Catholic Church. [By the grace of Jesus Christ, may “the deaf hear and the mute speak.”]

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[1] CA 48.

[2] For the sake of argument we move on, but this contention is patently contrary to Catholic teaching, and demeaning to the dignity and nature of human work.

[3] It is unfortunate that it is not considered in Bishop Murphy’s letter. But in the last 10 days or so at least 4 other American bishops have corrected this oversight, writing letters to their flocks that place subsidiarity right in the forefront of their analysis. See the joint letter of Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and Bishop Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, as well as the letters of Bishop Aquila, of Fargo, and Bishop Nickless of Sioux City.

[4] See, for example, Rerum Novarum 12, 13, 14, 35, 36, and 45.

[5] Quadragesimo Anno 79: “As history abundantly proves, it is true that on account of changed conditions many things which were done by small associations in former times cannot be done now save by large associations. Still, that most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them” [italics in original].

See also QA 80, which is the first time the principle is called “subsidiarity”, or rather “subsidiary function,” by the papal magisterium: “The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly. Thereby the State will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that belong to it alone because it alone can do them: directing, watching, urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands. Therefore, those in power should be sure that the more perfectly a graduated order is kept among the various associations, in observance of the principle of “subsidiary function,” the stronger social authority and effectiveness will be the happier and more prosperous the condition of the State.”

[6] CA 48, which continues: “and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”

[7] See also CA 11: “the individual, the family and society are prior to the state and inasmuch as the state exists in order to protect their rights and not stifle them.”

[8] NB: “society” is not the same as “the state”—“society” is all of us and our associations: individuals, families, businesses, parishes, churches, etc.; and “the state” is the government.

[9] CA 48: “In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbors to those in need.”

[10] CA 48.

[11] CV 57.

[12] CA 48.

[13] CA 48.

[14] CV 57. See also CA 48: “In recent years the range of …intervention has vastly expanded, to the point of creating …the so- called “welfare state”… However, excesses and abuses…have provoked very harsh criticisms … Malfunctions and defects …are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the state. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected….”

[15] See also RN 36. “Whenever the general interest or any particular class suffers, or is threatened with harm, which can in no other way be met or prevented, the public authority must step in to deal with it. …in such cases, there can be no question but that, within certain limits, it would be right to invoke the aid and authority of the law. The limits must be determined by the nature of the occasion which calls for the law’s interference–the principle being that the law must not undertake more, nor proceed further, than is required for the remedy of the evil or the removal of the mischief.”

[16] CA 57: “The church’s love for the poor…is essential for her and a part of her constant tradition.”

[17] Leo XIII, RN 37: “…the poor …have a claim to special consideration. The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves,…whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own…”

[18] CA 11 and 57.

[19] CV 58. Love for the poor, and the solution to poverty rests not first in more government bureaucracy or intervention, or government redistributing wealth, but in promoting the free market’s creation of wealth. As Benedict wrote in his “Message of the World Day of Peace,” on January 1, 2009: “the illusion that a policy of mere redistribution of existing wealth can definitively resolve the problem must be set aside. …Wealth creation therefore becomes an inescapable duty… if the fight against material poverty is to be effective in the long term.”

[20] Mater et Magister 53. Note, here Bd. John is quoting Pius XI in QA, 79; see above quotation above.


Blessed Be Your Name

September 22, 2009

The Marshmallow Test

September 21, 2009

The Fire is Out

September 21, 2009

From NLM:

For years I’ve searched for the missing link to explain what became of Catholic liturgy by the time I came to know it. One finds old Missals in bookstores or attends the Extraordinary Form or looks back at old instructional books in music or catechesis and it is overwhelming to consider the lost knowledge, the immense chasm that separates what was from what is today.

I’ve gathered that we’ve been through the worst of it and Pope Benedict is taking many steps to heal the great pre- and postconciliar divide. But the mystery remains, at least in my mind, as to what happened and why. The answer is not found in the documents of Vatican II where we find ringing endorsements of Gregorian chant and stern warnings not to change the liturgy in unnecessary ways. I’ve long examined the world of the 1970s and found interesting clues about what drove that lost generation.

But with Ken Canedo’s wonderful book, Keep The Fire Burning (Oregon: Pastoral Press, 2009), I feel as if I’ve found the missing link. This is the only book I know of that looks in depth at the Catholic music of the 1960s to provide an excellent empirical account of the rise of the folk music movement in the Church, a movement that was about much more than music actually.

In here we find a fascinating, if deeply harrowing, look at the dismantling of Catholic liturgy that occurred not so much at the hands of the hierarchy but rather at the instigation of a handful of activists and publishers that shoved contemporary styles down everyone’s throat in the name of keeping up with the times, as a cowed and fearful clerical class did its best to imagine that they were onto something.

As a historical narrative it is highly competent. Rather than providing a history of official statements and decisions, the author looks at the real-life praxis around the country, describing in detail the large gatherings and campus liturgies and goings on in the publishing houses – all the material that deeply affected the lives of Catholics at the time and provide a much richer look than a history of documents and pronouncements ever could.

One reason that this period has long been shrouded in mystery is that most all of the folk music of the period is long gone. None of it remains in the Missalettes. Nearly all—in fact, all but one—of the guitar strummers of the period who were the darlings of the new ethos left the Church in a huff and never returned. The strong fashion for folk music (phony folk music, to be sure) was a flash in the pan (1963-1969). What they left was a wasteland of confusion and disorientation just as the Novus Ordo Missa was promulgated. The damage had been done and how.

In his introduction, Virgil Funk of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians recommends that everyone read this book, including musicians who have no affection for the folk, genre. I think he is right about this. The author has done incredible research here, and the whole story comes across like a Film Noir plot of a rise and catastrophic fall. To be sure, Canedo had no intention of writing an indictment. In fact, he attempts but ultimately fails to make the case that the Folk music revolution in the Catholic Church made great contributions to Catholic life, such as getting people in the pews to sing and making Mass more lively, etc.

Despite his spin, he provides enough information for most any reader to be shocked and astounded at the sheer arrogance and ignorance of a generation that believed they could reinvent Catholicism with guitars, bongos, and extremely bad music.

Now, I’m probably not the best reader of this book, since I’ve never really understood what this phony folk music thing was all about anyway. It seemed to begin in 1963 and end a year or so after the Beatles came to the U.S., a shorter period of time than even Disco lasted a decade later.

I’ve heard some of the music, and it strikes me as strangely naïve and simple, with childlike lyrics that somehow secretly mask a kind of revolutionary proletarian movement of some sort, like workers and peasants struggling for something or other. It’s not rock really and it isn’t genuine folk but for some reason it caught on among a certain subset. I once tried to watch a movie about the subject (“A Mighty Wind”) but I had to turn it off because I didn’t even understand the jokes.

In any case, it was gravely unfortunate that permission for vernacular in the liturgy came about just as this music was temporarily popular, just after the Council closed. As the author points out, the composers and performers of this material didn’t care a flying fig about the actual documents of the Council and what they intended. All they knew was that these were new times; old forms had to be thrown out and new forms come into being. So we went through some five years of experimental liturgies around the country that the “youth” were just crazy for, though the “youth” are often nuts for all sorts of things and civilization is usually wiser than to pay any attention. This time, however, it stuck.

And so we are treated to a painful and detailed narrative of the new fashion for the Kingston Trio, Ray Repp, Sister Germain Habjan, The Dameans, Joe Wise, Jack Miffleton, John Fischer, Paul Quinlan, and others who wrote and performed reduced and vaguely religious knock-offs of the music of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez, and others – and let me tell you, the secular material sounds like Bach and Brahms by comparison with what the poor Catholics had to endure in their parishes. I know this only because of the extremely interesting podcasts that have been released alongside the book. It is painful to listen but essential if you wanted understand the backdrop to the struggles of our time.

Central to the entire success of the movement was its promotion of compositional freedom, learning, and sharing. The author writes:

“Folk artists also had a way of taking old songs everyone knew from childhood and re-shaping them as their own… Clearly, there was a common repertory of folk music that reach beyond the Tim Pan Alley school of commercial songwriting. The folk song, like the Bible, grew from an oral tradition, pre-dating radio and recording technology. A singer observed a slice of life, turned the observation into a song and, with guitar or banjo, presented it to anyone who would hear, perhaps on a front porch, at the town square, or down in the mine. If people liked it they would sing along and bring the new song home to share with a new audience. Those audience members would in turn grow to love the song and take it to their homes to share with their family and friends. Sometimes the lyrics would change, sometimes the tune was modified, and no thought was ever given to composer credits or copyright protection. A song was a song, something free and sweet for the entire world to sing.”

(Some of the above actually applies to the chant, by the way, which was never copyright protected until the 20th century.)

In practice, this was all about the technology of the time, which was the primitive ditto machine. It permitted groups and parishes to make copies of the music. It was widely understood that this practice was part of the joy and freedom associated with the genre, and no one thought a thing about it.

So the author here makes a point I’ve long emphasized: it was the absence of copyright protection that assisted in making this music ubiquitous. It was the key to its success. While the world of actual Catholic music – chant and polyphony and organ works and good hymnody – were increasingly tied up with the world of “intellectual property,” Folk music tossed all restrictions aside and thereby seemed to embody the spirit of the time.

All was fine until the publishers got involved. The man at the center of this story is Dennis Fitzpatrick, originally a proponent of a somewhat dignified English chant Mass who became converted to the cause of folk music. One gets the impression that for him it was all about its commercial viability. The publishing company he founded was called the Friends of the English Liturgy or FEL. It absorbed unto itself all the performing energy of the period, putting out and selling song sets and new hymnals of all sorts and making an extraordinary go of it.

With this institutionalization of the folk genre came a new concern over copyright. Initially it was not about enforcement so much as encouraging people to buy more music and then trying to come up with techniques to foil the new technologies. Of course if history tells us anything it is that those who fight against new technology always lose, and Fitzpatrick was no exception. The ethos of free copying, the very heart of the distribution method that made the folk genre successful, continued but it also annoyed the publishers to the point of madness.

In time, Fitzpatrick’s ambitions reeled out of control and he moved his company to Los Angeles and attempted to mainstream Catholic folk music in the Hollywood fashion, complete with whiz-bang recording technology and modernized contracts that pretty well robbed composers of both their music and their royalties. His gamble did not pay off, and his company sunk into a financial crisis. Rather than try a new model, he turned to the age-old strategy of many business losers in history: intellectual property litigation.

He hired bounty-hunting seminarians to snoop around parishes in Los Angeles and Chicago to see how much pirated music was in the pews. He found plenty of course. In 1976, he filed a suit against the Archdiocese of Chicago, claiming a loss of $29 million to his company nationwide and the Chicago-area losses of $300,000. The Archdiocese retaliated and ordered the collection of all FEL material from the pews. Fitzpatrick claimed restraint of trade and got a district judge to order all the material back into the pews.

As astonishing as this whole scene was, it is only the beginning. He then sued the USCCB, for $8.6 million, targeting the whole of the American Church through the courts in an analogous way that he had done with folk music – adding injury to insult, one might say. Obviously he had turned his attention away from music and toward lawyers and courts – a disastrous choice for any entrepreneur.

But you live by the sword and you die by it: a group called the Dameans sued Fitzpatrick himself for lost royalties. In their view (rightly in my view), they felt they had lost all the rights to their music but hadn’t received any royalties and didn’t expect to. All the folk musicians lined up with the Dameans and eventually beat him in court, even as Fitzpatrick won the suit against Chicago, with the final judgment being issued in 1990.

Neither the publisher nor the artists saw a dime of the settlement money. It all went to the lawyers. FEL went belly up. And where is Fizpatrick today? He is a licensed drug counselor in Nevada. That’s right: the man who turned the whole American church upside down, then sued everyone following his initial success and bad financial moves, ended up skipping town in the end. Riches to rags, from the soaring heights to the depths. I tell you, if this weren’t true, you would surely believe it was pulp fiction.

But he was hardly the only one. “Interestingly,” the author writes, “most, if not all, of the original class of ordained or professed Folk Mass composers eventually left the religious life.” The non-religious left the Catholic Church altogether. Relaying this fact isn’t about a personal attack; I have no doubt of the sincerity of their music efforts or the sincerity about the decision to leave Catholicism. It does become relevant as to the success of this genre in terms of securing people’s attachments to the actual Catholic faith. The critics said that the folk music movement was deeply dangerous to Catholicism; it was apparently exactly that to the very people who composed, sang, and pushed this music. The rest of us are left to pick up the pieces.

I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is the essential tableau for understanding where we’ve been and where we are going. I put the book down so deeply thankful that I wasn’t around in those days to see the wreckage taking place. Even reading about it I found to be a great challenge but absolutely necessary. Regardless of Canedo’s own attempted positive spin, he has written a very important documentary history of 1960s Catholicism that I’m quite certain will earn a place in the history of our times. The book is titled Keep the Fire Burning but the reality is that his narrative is the movement’s tombstone.


STUNNING VIDEO: A Look Inside the Culture of Death

September 20, 2009

**warning** some written profanity appears in the video. Not suitable for children.