Friday, July 23, 2010

Wearing the Collar

The Catholic Education Resource Center has posted an article that originally appeared in the June 1995 issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review concerning the wearing (or not wearing, as the case may be) of clerical clothing by priests. After quoting the relevant sections of the 1994 Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, the authors (a monsignor and a priest) give 23 reasons why a priest should wear his collar. They then provide and rebut 14 common arguments against wearing the collar.

To priests who always wear the Roman collar we say: keep it up! To those who do not we say: take stock of the value which this seemingly insignificant piece of vesture possesses. Be aware that the priestly work you now do will not suffer but will be enhanced when you dress according to the venerable custom of the Church.

(H/T: Rich Leonardi)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Corapi in Cincy

A few people have asked me what I thought of Fr. John Corapi’s event in Cincinnati on Saturday. I don’t doubt that they expect me to say that it was great. The fact is, though, that I was disappointed. I fear that the man has become a rock star, throwing red meat to receptive audiences for the price of admission. From the moment he walked out on stage with a beard that was much too dark, I couldn’t help but think that something just wasn’t right. We were seated close enough to the stage that we didn’t need to rely on the jumbo-tron video displays, but his bald head and his black goatee kept making me think of his resemblance to Vladimir Lenin.

Fr. Corapi has evolved. In the older programs shown on EWTN, he is often seen wearing a gray habit, and as he speaks, you can see a twinkle in his eye. There was no twinkle in the eye of the hard man that spoke at the Cintas Center on Saturday. The gray habit was long ago replaced by a pressed black suit and French cuffs.

During the course of the day, we learned that Fr. Corapi owns a home in northwest Montana which he paid for with a million-dollar lawsuit settlement. He drives a fast car with lots of horsepower and keeps a loaded .45 in the glove compartment. He also rides a fat boy Harley Davidson motorcycle, owns a boat of unspecified size, and vacations in Key West. He works out six times a week, twice with a female physical trainer, and has lost seventy pounds and increased his strength by a hundred percent in the past year. The weight loss prompted him, at his charitable best, to donate two large bags of “fat clothes” to the local Salvation Army. I can only assume that the donated clothes did not consist of old habits and clericals. I don’t know why he chose to share these personal bits of information, but they did nothing to enhance his credibility as a witness to the gospel.

The four talks that he gave during the course of the day (which will probably be available for purchase at the discount rate of $99 from his website in a week or two) were based on the social teaching of the Catholic Church. He did touch on most of the principles of that teaching. Much of what he said, however, amounted to prudential judgments, and, while I agree with most of those judgments, he presented them as being what the Church teaches. It would have been great material at a TEA party event, but this was hardly billed as a political rally.

The crowd was enthusiastic, leaping to it’s feet whenever Corapi took the stage and cheering whenever he spoke of the disincentives of socialism and when he referred to the government in Washington as “the big drug dealer.” He seems to be fond of St. Paul’s exhortation in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” Completely unmentioned was the practice of the early Christians, as related in Acts 2:44-45, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”

At one point, he recounted a meeting with Mother Teresa of Calcutta shortly before she died. She described to him all of her poverty, frailty, and dependence upon others. Then she described how God had established her order in over 500 houses and, through them, touched the lives of tens of thousands of dying and forgotten people in Calcutta alone. “Go”, she said, “and do the same!” Fr. Corapi seems to believe that he’s doing that through his preaching and his production company, but I can’t help but think that maybe he missed the point.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Patrick Madrid doesn’t seem to be holding anything back in expressing his disgust with the duplicitous life of Fr. Maciel, the posthumously disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi. I can remember attending a Regnum Christi retreat or conference around the year 2000 when Mr. Madrid was in attendance. Having recently published his second or third Surprised by Truth volume and having appeared on EWTN, he was a bit of a celebrity. The Legionary priest who was going to give him spiritual direction joked that Patrick was going to convert him and put his story in the next book. I relate this anecdote only to point out that Patrick hasn’t always been a critic of the Maciel legacy. Like many of us, he was, at least for a while, fooled by appearances.

The veil was torn, however, and now the whole Maciel affair constitutes a festering wound on the Body of Christ.

Accusations of misconduct by Maciel had been present for many years, but could not be proven. In the absence of indisputable evidence and in light of the apparent good fruits produced by the order and the movement that Maciel had founded, the accusations against him were dismissed as calumnies – baseless charges leveled by enemies of the gospel. The problem is, at least some of the allegations now appear to have been true, and it was the defenders of Maciel who were calumniating his accusers.

A year after Maciel’s death in 2008, it was revealed that he had lived a double life and had fathered at least one child. All those who had previously been encouraged to look to him as an example of holiness and tireless devotion to Christ were thrown into a state of spiritual turmoil and forced to re-evaluate everything that they thought they knew about their service to the Church through the Legion or Regnum Christi and everything upon which Maciel had left his mark. Some within the movement insisted that the approval of the order’s constitution by the Holy See was imbued with a degree of infallibility and that, as flawed a man as Maciel was, the Holy Spirit could still work through him to produce a great gift for the Church. Last year, the Vatican conducted an Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries of Christ. A statement released by the Vatican at the conclusion of the Visitation noted that Maciel’s was “a life devoid of scruple and of genuine religious sentiment.”

I’ll leave it to others far more clear-thinking than I am to discuss what the future might hold for the Legionaries and Regnum Christi. George Weigel seems, to me, to be among the most lucid commentators on that front. However, over the last few weeks it became increasingly obvious to me that I needed to decide what, if anything, I would do. I found that I could not read the phrases “Maciel” or “Legionaries of Christ” or “Regnum Christi” without flinching.

The gospel reading from a few weeks ago was Matthew 7:15-20. When I read it, I was stunned into reflection upon the current mess. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Is this not an apt description of Maciel? “By their fruit you will recognize them.” When rotten fruit was presented to us, we denied it. We denied that it was rotten, or claimed that it came from some other tree. Then we pointed to the fruit that was still on the tree and claimed that it was beautiful and good to eat. Such good fruit couldn’t possibly come from a bad tree, could it? But Our Lord continues, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”

So there you have it. If I were speaking to any other person, I would advise him to steer clear of any fruit from a bad tree. It isn’t necessary. There are plenty of good trees to pick from, so why take a chance? Are you going to trust yourself to discern the goodness of the fruit when you and so many others were wrong about the tree?

So what stopped me? It can only be the thing that brought me into the Regnum Christi movement to begin with – the individual persons with whom I share a common theological perspective and a desire to see an authentic gospel proclaimed. They are my friends, and I want them to remain so. I very much enjoy our discussions, and I feared that if I were to leave the movement I would find myself – alone. (Except for my dear wife, of course, who is shackled to me for better or worse.) I already feel like an alien in my parish, and if I had to give this up, I would be completely on my own, or so it seemed.

What attracted me to the movement is not unique to the movement, but was largely borrowed from other sources and packaged together as a collection of best-practices. There is no other group in our area, as far as I am aware, that offers the kind of interaction that occurs at our Encounters (in which we reflect upon the Gospel and discuss a case of life) and Study Circles (currently Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI) or the spiritual depth of the retreats (other retreats that I’ve attended have been distressingly shallow). However, I could not ignore the counsel of Christ. Whatever apostolic zeal I once had has already been greatly eroded by the scandal, and I didn’t see how it could return if I remained within a movement founded under such circumstances. There will forever be a cloud of uncertainty and doubt over the order and movement, thanks to the actions of the one who was called Nuestro Padre.

And so, what began with a letter requesting incorporation into the Regnum Christi Movement ends with a blog post announcing that I cannot, in good conscience, remain a member. I harbor no ill will toward other members, whom I still consider friends. Nor do I think any less of them for coming to a different conclusion than I regarding their own future in the Movement. Many of them have experienced the Movement as a vocation. I never have. I hope that they can understand and respect my decision.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Slinging Mud

My wife and I are going down to Cincinnati tomorrow for a conference being given by Fr. John Corapi, and somebody responsible for pulling off the even (the promoter?) is slinging mud. Is it too much to ask for a little class, charity, and authenticity from those claiming to be Catholic paragons?

Note that I am disappointed that it is virtually impossible to get material featuring Fr. Corapi without paying for it. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been spoiled by Catholic media outlets on the web that do not charge for their content, or at least offer some content free of charge (Mt 10:8).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Rocks at the End of the Lake

Joseph Bottum, in Drifting Toward the Rocks, finds an interesting metaphor for life, and a lesson regarding complacence, in a trip to the lake with his daughter.

Then the man on the inner tube awoke with a shout as the rocks brushed his feet—sitting up suddenly, too hard and too fast, so the inner tube squirted out to flip up in the air behind him and dump him with a splash into the shallow water. I think it must have been painful—those broken stones down at the end of the lake are sharp—and he yowled, scrambling along on hands and knees after the inner tube, trying to stand up and stumbling each time as the rocks sliced at his tender feet, before he finally caught up with the spinning tube and surged across it, belly first, puffing like a loud and startled walrus.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Allegorical Samaritans

The gospel for this Sunday (15th Sunday of Ordinary Time) was the Parable of the Good Samaritan. By happy coincidence, I just happened to be re-reading Chapter Seven: The Message of the Parables from Pope Benedict's book, Jesus of Nazareth. The Holy Father argues that we can't rule out reading the parables in an allegorical sense and we can't limit the meaning of the parable to just one salient point. He then goes on to give a more in-depth consideration to three parables, one of which is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In an allegorical sense and Christological focus, the wounded man is humanity, and the Samaritan is Christ.

God himself, who for us is foreign and distant, has set out to take care of his wounded creature. God, though so remote from us, has made himself our neighbor in Jesus Christ. He pours oil and wine into our wounds, a gesture seen as an image of the healing gift of the sacraments, and he brings us to the inn, the Church, in which he arranges our care and also pays a deposit for the cost of that care.

It just so happened as well that our celebrant at mass today was a visiting Comboni missionary who spoke about the missions in Africa. Africa was also a subject of reflection in Benedict's comments on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The topical relevance of the parable is evident. When we transpose it into the dimensions of world society, we see how the peoples of Africa, lying robbed and plundered, matter to us. Then we see how deeply they are our neighbors; that our lifestyle, the history in which we are involved, has plundered them and continues to do so. This is true above all in the sense that we have wounded their souls. Instead of giving them God, the God who has come close to us in Christ, which would have integrated and brought to completion all that is precious and great in their own traditions, we have given them the cynicism of a world without God in which all that counts is power and profit, a world that destroys moral standards so that corruption and unscrupulous will to power are taken for granted. And that applies not only to Africa.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Atheists Don't Have No Songs

I stumbled upon this little gem over at the First Thoughts blog, and thought it was amusing enough to share. There is a line that goes "Catholics dress up for mass and listen to Gregorian chants / Atheists just take a pass, watch football in their underpants." Alas, they give us Catholics too much credit. Around here, most Catholics (or at least those in white collar professions) dress less formally for mass than they do Monday through Friday for work, and I think that I would have to drive at least 45 minutes to reach a parish that uses Gregorian chant.

The atheists, though, have rock and roll.

H/T Joseph Bottum

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The non-Gospel readings from the Lectionary this week have been from the book of the prophet Hosea. Many years ago, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, did a series on the Old Testament Prophets for EWTN, and like so many other EWTN programs, the audio is available in MP3 format. In four of the episodes (Hosea’s Marriage; Hosea Puts Israel on Trial; Sins of the Past, Sins of the Future; and Yaweh’s Tender Love), Fr. Pacwa discusses Hosea – its context, its historical references, and its application to us today.

I encourage you to give it a listen to enhance your appreciation of this week’s readings.