What is going on with the USCCB these days?

May 29, 2010


I found this article as I was trying to get a better grasp on the troubling actions of the USCCB of late … most of which coming to a head, I believe, by way of the actions surrounding the presidential election.

While I believe Jim Fritz has done his homework well here, I am going to leave out some of his passionate commentary, and let you come to your own conclusions.

Let me first say that my understanding of ecclesiology is that, as a priest, I am merely the extension of my bishop, and I simply allow him to teach and preach through me. He is to be in line with Peter and his successors. This relatively recent addition of a separate body – a bishop’s conference – which, at times, seems to be believing, teaching and acting contrary to the successor of Peter, seems to demonstrate the problem of deviating from the long-standing hierarchical structure of our Church. It just seems more vulnerable to worldly politics and ideologies. Has such a contrary body even led to many of the rogue “priest associations” we are seeing pop up in different dioceses?

You decide, but let’s all pray.

Actions of the USCCB

The actions we will review are:

  • the publication of the purposely defective Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship;
  • the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD);
  • the rejection of Canon 915;
  • publication of Always our Children; and lastly,
  • cinema reviews recommending movies with homosexual content.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

(Some say) this USCCB document has played a decisive role in empowering Catholic supporters of abortion by providing the escape clauses needed to convince Catholics they could vote for a pro-abortion candidate in good conscience. There are two major loopholes in the document. First, it states that Catholics are allowed to vote for a supporter of abortion rights so long as 1) the voter does not intend to support that position, or 2) there are offsetting “morally grave reasons.” The document never explains what constitutes “morally grave reasons,” leaving it to the reader to make his own determination which can be quite erroneous …

At a conference at Creighton University in June, John Carr, Executive Director of Social Development and World Peace for the USCCB, “stressed that the bishops’ document does not shut the door on any candidate, not even one who supports abortion rights.” The bishops were told this, and they still left the loophole intact … Although several bishops have spoken out forcefully, saying the document is being abused, it was never changed or clarified by the USCCB.

Bishop Robert Vasa pointed out that voting for a pro-abortion candidate is never justified when the opponent is pro-life. Similarly, Bishops Kevin Vann and Kevin Farrell in a joint letter to their faithful insist there are no “‘truly grave moral’ or ‘proportionate’ reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.”

Catholic Campaign for Human Development

In 1969, the U.S. bishops established the CCHD to fund low income controlled empowerment projects and to educate Catholics about the root causes of poverty. In 1994, The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly, ran a series of articles by Paul Likoudis shedding light on the activities of the CCHD. Likoudis wrote that the anniversary “brought [many U.S. Catholics] to plead with the… bishops for an investigation of and an audit into what kinds of programs the ecclesiastical apparatus has funded.” Likoudis exposed a broad range of serious problems. They included financing organizations that support abortion and contraception … 

Rejection of Canon 915

Church’s Canon Law 915 states: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Debate on the issue was closed several years ago with a letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The then-head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith intervened in a debate between the US Bishops on the issue in 2004. Cardinal Ratzinger said in his letter titled, “Worthiness to receive Holy Communion,” that a Catholic politician who would vote for “permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” after being duly instructed and warned, “must” be denied Communion. Ratzinger’s letter explained that if such a politician “with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.” Recently Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, confirmed this position. Former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, whom Pope Benedict appointed this year to head the highest judicial court in the Vatican, has remarked on the need for bishops to uphold this canon, since without doing so they undermine belief in the truth of the evil of abortion. “No matter how often a bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow,” wrote Burke. “To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law.”

Cardinal Arinze in 2004 said a pro-abortion politician “is not fit” to receive Communion. “If they should not receive, then they should not be given,” he added. In November 2007 during a video interview, Cardinal Arinze was asked again if a person who votes for abortion can receive Holy Communion. He replied, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that? Get the children for first Communion and say to them, ‘Somebody votes for the killing of unborn babies, and says, I voted for that, I will vote for that every time.’ And these babies are killed not one or two, but in millions, and that person says, ‘I’m a practicing Catholic,’ should that person receive Communion next Sunday? The children will answer that at the drop of a hat. You don’t need a cardinal to answer that.” Excommunication is allowed by Canon law which says the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ. Yet the USCCB refuses to enforce this law.

Publication of Always our Children

In October 1997, a document entitled Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children was published by the Committee on Marriage and the Family of the USCCB. To be fair it should be made clear the document was composed without any input from the majority of the American Catholic bishops, who were given no opportunity whatsoever to comment on its pastoral usefulness or on its contents. The illusion is given, perhaps deliberately, and carried forth by the media to the effect that this is something the U.S. bishops have published. However, to this date the USCCB has not denounced this very flawed and defective document, and it is still being promulgated by the homosexual movement.

Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, who has been one of the most vocal opponents to Always Our Children, had the following to say:

“The document, in a view which is shared by many, is founded on bad advice, mistaken theology, erroneous science and skewed sociology. It is pastorally helpful in no perceptible way. Does this committee intend to issue documents to parents of drug addicts, promiscuous teenagers, adult children involved in canonically invalid marriages, and the like? These are far more numerous than parents of homosexuals. The occasion and the motivation for this document’s birth remain hidden in the murky arrangements which brought it forth.

Not only does this document fail to take into account the latest revision in the authentic Latin version of The Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality, but it juxtaposes several quotes from the Catechism in order to pretend falsely and preposterously that the Catechism says homosexuality is a gift from God and should be accepted as a fixed and permanent identity.

Cinema Reviews

Harry Forbes, who heads the USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcasting, in his latest review, praises the movie, Milk, which exalts the first openly homosexual man elected to public office in U.S. history. According to Forbes, Milk contains scenes of “male kissing and non-graphic encounters, rear male nudity, murder, suicide, and some rough language, crude expressions and profanity.”

Despite such material, and despite the movie’s blatant glorification of the homosexual rights agenda, it is not rated “Morally Offensive” (O), but only receives a rating of “L,” for “Limited Adult Audience.” Furthermore, in his review Forbes in no way objects to or cautions viewers about the content of the film, instead offering nothing but words of praise.

Forbes calls the movie “a solid biographical drama about San Francisco Supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk.” Forbes also speaks approvingly of the movie’s strong emphasis on the Catholic faith of Milk’s assassin, Dan White.

Forbes has written other reviews praising films that promote and glorify homosexual behavior and attack the Catholic faith, including “Brokeback Mountain,” which is about a sodomite relationship between two cowboys, and “The Golden Compass,” which is atheistic and vilifies Christianity.

Despite repeated protests from priests and Catholic laity, the USCCB continues to allow Forbes to write reviews on the organization’s behalf.

Human Life International President Fr. Thomas Euteneuer angrily denounced Forbes’ latest pro-homosexualist review. “Moral outrage is the only response to someone like Harry Forbes who consistently trashes Catholic values in his movie reviews and gets away with it,” wrote Euteneuer. “We are accustomed to pagans celebrating their values and letting lots of immorality slide with a wink and a nod, but when the official movie reviewer for the USCCB does it time and time again with no consequences, we have no credible moral compass with which to evaluate the content of movies any more.”

We offer no solution other than prayers, plus verbal and written comments to your bishops. We believe there are many saintly bishops who are as embarrassed as we are about the USCCB. Give them your support. Be active in your protection of the unborn, the handicapped and the elderly. Be active in your protection of the Faith.

“Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.” (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen)

Jim Fritz


Communion Kneeling and on the Tongue is Preferred Form

May 29, 2010

The practice of Communion in the hand was first introduced in Belgium by Cardinal Suenens in disobedience to the rubrics of the Holy See. Not wishing to publicly rebuke a brother bishop, Pope Paul VI decided to lift the ban prohibiting Communion in the hand, leaving the decision to individual bishops. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then president of the United States NCCB, initiated two unsuccessful attempts to introduce Communion in the hand in 1975 and 1976. In the spring of 1977, the bishops’ vote again fell short of the required two-thirds majority. Nevertheless, for the first time ever bishops in absentia were polled by mail after the conference meeting; subsequently the necessary votes materialized and the measure was declared passed. Several canon lawyers have stated categorically that this procedure was illegal. An interview with Bishop Blanchette in the National Catholic Register (June 12, 1977) confirms that Communion in the hand was unlawfully introduced into the United States. Fr. John Hardon likewise has affirmed the fact that retired and dying bishops were polled to make sure the measure for Communion in the hand would be passed.

Source: Rev. Paul J. McDonald

Communion Kneeling

May 29, 2010

If we are with the Holy Father, we can’t go wrong

May 28, 2010

It was a very nice 22nd anniversary gift to have my May 25 blog post (To Obey, or Not to Obey) included on Fr. Z’s blog. I have much admiration for Fr. Z., and the way he seems to be leading the charge for bringing more reverence to the Holy Mass.

After reading many of the comments to this post, I wanted to follow up here with some of the reasoning I used in deciding to offer a kneeler as an option.

As my blog post indicated, “obedience” needs to be at the essence of all we do in formulating our choices in life. Of course I am referring to obedience to God. After 22 years of priesthood, and a lifetime of being a Catholic in America, I had a growing sense that it becomes difficult to know how to obey God through His Church.

I am referring to almost 5 decades of watching such things as our beautiful churches being gutted out, listening to music that sounds more like a Barry Manilow concert, the Sacrament of Confession being put on a back burner, the rosary being treated as a relic of the past, haughty dissenters joyfully encouraged to come and receive our Eucharistic Lord as our bishops sit idly by and allow confusion among their flock to grow to epidemic proportions … I am left asking myself, “how can I best obey God?”

Of course this is an ecclesiological question. And I believe the answer is that, as a priest, I am to be the extension of my bishop, who must be in union with Peter and his successors. This is amazing, because this vine links me directly to the Bride, and to the Sacred Heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, I DID check with my bishop on offering the kneeler, and I was given his permission to proceed.

When worldly politics and ideologies try to infiltrate this Church of ours, it certainly makes it more difficult for us to discern what is of the Holy Spirit, and what is of man.

In the case of kneeling to receive Communion, I spent some time doing the research. I wanted to be sure I could sift through any “man caused disaster” of ideological proportions (usually of the progressive/modernist type) that may be causing any confusion.

Low and behold, there it was …

It turns out that when the issue of standing or kneeling to receive Communion was heading for a final vote among the US Bishops, the Congregation for Divine Worship stepped in and wrote to the Conference, noting that disturbing reports of people being denied Communion because they were kneeling had made this clarification necessary: The Holy See asked the bishops to make this – “Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel” – explicit in their adaptation of IGMR §160.

Further, before the bishops voted on the proposed adaptation of §160, a bishop questioned the meaning of the term “norm”. The chairman of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy (Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb) said that “norm” is a descriptive term meaning the usual or standard practice, not a legal term. With this clarification, the bishops voted to accept the BCL’s wording of the adaptation.  Since then, however, some bishops and liturgists are interpreting “norm” as implying that standing is legally obligatory. This is not the case.  

Therefore, while the US bishops’ adaptation established standing as the “norm” for the Church in the United States, it is not permissible to deny Communion to any person who kneels to receive. That would amount to virtual excommunication. The universal law permits either posture in IGMR 160 (refer here).

I want to obey. But the hard work of finding the truth, beyond some bishops’ and liturgists’ poor interpretation of “norm” (or ideological ulterior motive) is something that asks us to go the extra mile to uncover the truth. Again, haven’t we all been assaulted by “poor interpretations” (and ideological ulterior motives) since the Council of Vatican II?

Ultimately, I believe I was inspired to take the time to uncover this truth as I watched our Holy Father encourage His Church to offer this option of kneeling to receive.  I thought to myself that there is something more here … how could a “norm” in our country – treated as a mandate – directly oppose the encouragement given by the successor of Peter? The answer was, as it consistently seems to be, “poor interpretation.”

I agree with one of the commenters from Fr. Z’s blog: “If the norm of the Church throughout the world is to kneel (and standing is permitted, but not the norm) then isn’t our bishop’s conference striking a blow against unity of gesture by declaring that we are to have a norm peculiar to this country? Why does the need for unity of gesture stop at our borders? Shouldn’t seeking true union mean that we cleave to the norms of the Church worldwide?”

Here is the conclusion, derived from the facts:  The word “norm,” in this context, is merely stating that it is the most common practice – a custom right now – but not a mandate. And, the universal law permits either posture.  Therefore, kneeling to receive our Lord in Holy Communion remains now and always a legitimate option for our faithful.

And, as we continue to sift through a politically and ideologically charged USCCB, I will humbly yield by having my bishop teach through me, and I will seek the truth in the way my bishop prescribes: “If we are with the Holy Father, we can’t go wrong.”

Modern Spirituality & Gnosticism

May 25, 2010

To Obey, or Not to Obey …

May 25, 2010

This is my Bishop, I am proud to say.  Two weeks after he gave this homily in his parish, I began to offer a kneeler to my people in my parish.  It has made all the difference in the world!

Prior to offering the option of kneeling and receiving on the tongue (which was offered with much teaching), I may have had a small handful of people who felt comfortable enough to receive on the tongue.  Since offering the option, I now have 60-70% of my parishioners receiving this way. 

It is difficult to describe how much it has helped so many who were, as Bishop speaks about, “desensitized” before making the choice to receive in this way.  Now they approach in a much more discerning and serene way.  I have even noticed such things as people choosing to get a bit more dressed up for Mass.  Praise God!

A word of caution:  For those parishes who choose to do this, I would say that the divine benefits far outweigh the earthly costs. In other words, I have come to understand, over 22 years of priesthood, that if we are going to choose to do the hard work of reversing the trend in our churches of a growing ‘cult of the casual’ and ‘privatization’ of our faith,  we are going to be met with FIERCE opposition.  Having encountered such disproportionate hostility toward any efforts to call us to a deeper reverence (while introducing each effort with much love and much teaching), has left me convinced that this is particular turf the devil does not want to give up without a fight.  Which tells us this is all the more reason why this is a fight in which we must engage.

This is what it all boils down to for me … I may not be among the great intellects of our day, nor among the great writers and speakers, but I know what I have learned from the books I’ve read and the face of Christ I contemplated … that obedience is the evidence of our love:

The Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy shows God’s will and ways and what He blesses.  As Christians we obey the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

  1. Leviticus 26:3-13 — blessings for obedience
  2. Leviticus 26:14-39 — curses for disobedience
  3. Leviticus 26:40-45 — restoration from repentance
  4. Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 4:9-12, 5:32-33 & 6:1-25, 11:26-32 — commands to obey
  5. Deuteronomy 7:9, 7:12-15, 8:1-10 — blessings for the obedient
  6. Deuteronomy 8:11-20 — curses for those who backslide
  7. Deuteronomy 11:8-25 — blessings for the obedient
  8. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 — blessings for the obedient
  9. Deuteronomy 28:15-68 — curses for the disobedient
  10. Deuteronomy 30:1-20 — blessings for the repentant

God’s promises in these passages are “yes” and “amen” for us individually and collectively.

 The New Testament reflects this:

God blesses obedience.  Luke 8:21
Jesus wants obedience.  Luke 6:46
Obedience to Jesus is evidence we are saved.  1 John 2:3-6
Obedience to Jesus is evidence we love God.  1 John 5:3, John 14:15

And so, I have come to understand that the more we obey, the more pure is our love.  And, delayed obedience is disobedience.  Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.”  What he meant was that, in that self-surrendering love, obedience comes with ease and promptitude.  Anything short of this swift obedience only reveals a measure of corruption, a lessening of our love.  I must obey, and I must do it now.

Personally, I cannot understand why, if our Holy Father places a kneeler in front of him, that virtually every church across this globe didn’t offer the same to their parishioners in the weeks that followed his encouragement.  Could delayed obedience such as this be one the primary reasons why such things as only 66% of our faithful today agree that “the communion bread and wine at Mass” truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? Or that about 50% of Catholics believe abortion should be legal?

There is no doubt that we need more pure love for God … a love that finds us following His will with ease and promptitude.