Posts Tagged ‘John Paul II’

National Catholic Reporter Newspaper Steps Toward Formal Schism with the Roman Catholic Church

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

To live the authentic Catholic teaching on sexual morality today is as radically different from the current pop culture sexual mores–now apparently endorsed by the National Catholic Reporter as illustrated below–as was the radical commitment of early Christians to live their lives in a different way from the ancient pagan Romans and Greeks.

The National Catholic Reporter has unfortunately taken a big step toward formal schism with the Roman Catholic Church with its 3/27/12 editorial, which endorses the position of retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson that, according to the National Catholic Reporter:

“Rather than seeing sexual sin as an offense against God because it is a violation of the divine and natural order established by God, look at sexual morality in terms of the good or harm done to persons and the relationships between them.”

The National Catholic Reporter has thus formalized its long adherence to a 1960s consequentialist / proportionalist / situation ethics theory of morality that is separated from God’s revelation. This is a very popular and appealing theory, but it is not in unity with the Catholic faith as stated by Blessed John Paul II in section 75 and following of his encyclical Veritatis Splendor.

Please see the 2008 response of the Australian Catholic Bishops to Bishop Robinson.

Here is a link to a summary of official Catholic teaching on sexual morality. For more background on the authentic Catholic teaching on the meaning of sexual intimacy in creation, please see the original lectures given by John Paul II now called the “Theology of the Body,” also available in book form.

The Catholic teaching on sexual morality is not an easy teaching to accept, but it is a teaching that deeply respects God’s role in creation, and our human role in procreation.

The Catholic view of sexuality is not only based upon the Sixth Commandment, but also upon the First.

To hold that God is not involved in the meaning of sex is to say, in a fundamental way, that God does not play an essential role in every part of my life and in the lives of others. To reject the Catholic teaching is to say to some degree that I am my own god.

Acceptance of this Catholic teaching therefore involves acknowledging that there really is a God who creates, and then respecting God’s Creator role by not assigning God’s role to myself. To accept the Catholic teaching is to formally accept that I am not God. This acceptance is true in a very real sense to the First Commandment, to not have any other gods before God.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Cardinal Edwin O’Brien’s 3/17/12 Homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Cardinal Edwin Frederick O’Brien, the guest homilist at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day Mass, made a statement that will some day be read as indicative of an historic renewal in American Catholicism in a time of public challenge and hostility–

Below is my unofficial transcript:

Homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City, 3/17/12

Edwin Cardinal O’Brien:

A happy St. Maewyn’s Day to you all!

Of course we know that Maewyn Succat, born around 387 AD, had his name Romanized early in life, and it became Patricius Magnus Succatatus. So a happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!

I’m pleased and privileged to offer the homily on this great feast day and for several reasons:

First, as I look upon this large and distinguished congregation, I’m struck in awe by the presence of the members of the 69th, the Fighting 69th, as they’ve been known for decades and more. Their origin is in the mid-1850s as the 69th New York State Militia. At the start of the Civil War they became the 69th Infantry of New York City as part of the Irish Brigade that drew troops, mostly Irish, from up and down the Eastern seaboard. Their heroism at Antietam and Gettysburg was a principal cause of the Union victory in the Civil War. The many members of the Fighting 69th in our midst and their comrades have kept very much alive the noble traditions of the Irish Brigade in multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan this last decade. We New Yorkers and our grateful nation salute you courageous men and women. We pray for your fallen heroes and for God’s protection of each of you in the months ahead. (Applause).

Another reason I am pleased to be here today is somewhat more personal. As you know it was four weeks ago today that twenty-two men of the Church were created Cardinals and I was privileged to be one of them. (applause) What you might not know (applause) . . . What you might not know is that there was another American created a Cardinal that day. (laughter) Sure, he resisted until the end. (laughter) He made every attempt to keep it secret, (laughter) and refused all the overtures by the press for photos and interviews. (laughter) So it is my distinct honor to announce to you that the other American Cardinal admitted to that unique College of Cardinals was none other than Shirley’s son, and your own Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan. (applause)

I’m so grateful to Cardinal Dolan who almost a year ago extended the invitation to preach at this Mass. On this sanctuary floor almost forty-seven years ago I prostrated myself here along with thirty others of my Dunwoodie [seminary] class to receive the sacred order of priesthood at the hands of Francis Cardinal Spellman; and again, almost sixteen years ago to be consecrated a bishop here by the most remembered and courageous John Cardinal O’Connor. And I was honored for ten years to have served as a member of the staff of this famed Cathedral parish.

It was Archbishop John Hughes–Irish born–who to the consternation of many laid the cornerstone for this Cathedral on August 15, 1859. The city and the nation were at the time in a deep financial depression. Bank closures and unemployment were rampant. And the site he chose to build was well north of the then bustling heart of New York. His whole plan was called Hughes’s folly. So unrealistic were the finances, as well as in the timing and the choice of this very location. Nevertheless, the dauntless Archbishop with prophetic vision and typically Irish determination–what others might call stubbornness–insisted on the need to erect, quote “A Cathedral in the City of New York that may be worthy of our increasing numbers, intelligence and wealth as a religious community, and as a public architectural monument to the present and prospective greatness of this metropolis of the American continent.”

This block on 5th Avenue, between 50th and 51st Street–Hughes’s Folly–with the interlude of the Civil War–it was not until 1879, twenty years later, that America’s first Cardinal, John Cardinal McCloskey, finally dedicated this America’s Cathedral. And what a symbolic triumph it was for all Catholics in New York, largely immigrants, highly suspect and openly rejected by New York’s elite of the day.

For the Irish of New York, it was especially meaningful. Transplanted from a small spot on the North Atlantic, where they were forced to smuggle bread and wine and priests into hidden forests for hushed celebrations of the Eucharist on Mass rocks, they now had a complete freedom to build their churches openly. They were now proud Americans and loyal Catholics. In complete obedience to the Church’s teaching, they brought children into the world, many of whom would become priests and nuns and brothers, saturating our country’s urban centers, and building the vast empire of Catholic educational and charitable institutions.

Author Edward Wakin has written, “There are very few churches from Maine to California, from Canada to Mexico, which Irish hands have not helped to build, whose Irish purses have not supported, and in which Irish hearts are not found worshiping. . . ”

And none the more so than this Cathedral, this marvelous monument to our faith. Within these walls many tears of the nation have been shed through all the wars and innumerable crises and tragedies of the last century and a quarter. Surely, and most poignantly, the laying to rest of many of the dozens of the 9/11 heroes whose loved ones chose this Cathedral to give them their final honor.

And what cathedral outside Italy, perhaps, has hosted three recent Popes: Paul VI in 1965, John Paul II in 1979 and 1995, and Benedict XVI in 2008. Many of us can remember that April day, when Pope Benedict, from that cathedra, called for a new Pentecost for the Church in America. He said he was, quote, “particularly happy to be in this Cathedral. Perhaps more than any other church in the United States this place is known,” he said, “and loved as a house of prayer for all people. The spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of Manhattan,” he said, “yet in the heart of this busy metropolis they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning for the human spirit to rise to God.”

Great words from a great Pontiff, but what of the future of this edifice to the glory of God and the memory of Patrick?

If these majestic spires are to remain strong and lofty, if this Cathedral’s once sure foundation is to continue to bear the burdened prayers of millions who kneel here annually in humble petition, sacrifice no less than that of the poverty-stricken Catholics of the 1850s and 60s will be called for–and with some urgency. Help us restore St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We will be challenged to make those sacrifices in thanksgiving for the freedom of religion which this holy temple proclaims day in and day out: a freedom of religion in startling peril at recent first signs of not-so-subtle government strangulation. (applause)

We will all be challenged (applause) . . . We will all be challenged to sacrifice for this Cathedral’s ongoing strength. And should we not feel compelled to do so in honor of those visionary forebears of Irish faith, whose total trust both in God’s Providence and the good will of neighbors, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to honor those who dared to embark on this daring venture to raise to the heavens a Cathedral of suitable magnificence. In the ensuing years since, decade after decade until now, how many have sacrificed and far beyond their means, to help shore up these sacred walls? Help us to restore St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And will there be those thousands of hearts to respond with sacrificial generosity to the pleas of this newly-minted Cardinal of yours, the present occupant of this cathedra?

Friend, friends all, times are changing, and rapidly. Unborn human life, marriage and family life are under threat, not only from the usual elites in the media and academia, but even now from our own elected governments. How providential it is that we have a president of our national hierarchy, the Archbishop of New York, who is so effective in proclaiming and defending the faith and values for which this Cathedral has stood these many years. (applause)

As we seek to renew our faith in restoring this beloved Cathedral, let us not neglect to turn to Mary. How many prayers has she answered as devotees plead before the graceful statue of Our Lady of New York in the Lady Chapel behind our main altar? She indeed, was that First Cathedral, the prototype of all others, who hosted the same Son of God beneath her heart: That same Son of God who sacramentally radiates his grace daily throughout the heart of the city from the altar of this Cathedral of St. Patrick.

It was many centuries ago that the Saint we honor today, Patrick, once a slave in Ireland, heard unmistakeably the invitation to return there. The words he heard, and obeyed. We ask thee, young boy, Come and walk among us once more. Indeed, may Patrick walk among us and all who will participate in the parade today. Walk among us, dear Patrick, in the months that lie ahead. And may your patronage and intercession help guarantee the success we pray for in restoring this Cathedral, and restoring the faith of our city and beloved land.

We pray for this Cathedral, thanking God for the majestic grandeur that is so widely known and beloved, the great Cathedral in which our God is daily adored, and which we are so grateful to inherit. Make us worthy of this Cathedral, Patrick. Help us restore this Cathedral. Amen. (applause)

And now if you’ll say a special prayer for me. I’m going to go down and greet our Cardinal and probably get a bear hug that will take the oxygen out of me for the rest of the Mass. (laughter and applause).

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


How to Disagree with an Icon: On Rejoicing in Being Persecuted While Defending the Innocent

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

How does a pro-life believer best publicly disagree with President Obama, who possesses iconic cultural and political status?

And how best does a believing and active Catholic Christian respond to anti-Catholic persecution and anti-Catholic injustice in public life?

As Bill Clinton used to say, I’ll first consider the second question, then respond to the first one.

Defending Life while Rejoicing at Being Persecuted

On the one hand, our Blessed Lord taught us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and to rejoice when we are persecuted (Matthew 5:10-12). On the other hand, Scripture calls upon us to respect and defend the rights of the widow, the orphan, and the alien (Exodus 22:21-23; Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 24:17-18), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church urges us to disarm the aggressor (CCC 2265).

Herein I propose that the best way to strike a balance on this question is to accept persecution of one’s own person in Christian joy, but to continue to defend in the public square the truth and the rights of others–especially of the innocent, particularly the unborn–as citizens claiming the rights of any citizen and of any human.

About forty years ago, when I was still in college, my late father asked me to consider a similar set of questions. He had received a letter from his old high school teacher, Fr. Virgil Blum, SJ, who was in the process of establishing the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. My father was thinking about the turn-the-other-cheek / defend-the-innocent-and-the-truth question. I recall at the time coming down myself on the turn-the-other-cheek side, but acknowledging that distortions of truth and unjust attacks against individuals needed to be publicly refuted. We agreed then that the Catholic League was worth supporting, and my Dad became one of Fr. Blum’s early backers in this effort.

Christians and Catholics are today openly persecuted in a “red” or bloody manner in many Asian, Middle Eastern, and African countries, and in a mostly “white” or un-bloody manner at this time in Europe, the Americas, and Australia. In the United States, which brought with it the legacy of British anti-Catholicism, Catholics had a long climb up to open public acceptance until John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960. U.S. Catholics bore a special burden in proving that they could be both truly Catholic and truly American. This struggle is reflected in many ways in American Catholic church and school architecture of the early part of the 20th Century, which blend both American and Catholic themes.

St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, Chicago, 1917; Source: non-copyrighted parish website; fair use invoked

Films such as The Fighting 69th (1940), starring James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, showed how Catholics were willing to fight for America.

from Wikipedia, fair use invoked

The HHS Rule Controversy

But in the past few weeks, Catholics in the U.S. have begun to face perhaps the most significant church-state conflict in over a century.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed a rule on 1/20/12 that almost all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception effective August 1, 2012. According to the NCHLA website, “Non-profit religious employers that do not now provide such coverage, and are not exempt under the rule’s extremely narrow definition of religious employer, will be given one year—until August 1, 2013—to comply.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York acting as spokesman, has published a number of responses on their website, calling for Catholics and people of good will to urge Congress and the President to take specific actions to respect religious freedom, such as supporting the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467).

Besides writing Congress, other politicians, and the President, and voting one’s conscience, what other actions are appropriate for believers?

Certainly, violent actions are forbidden and are dreadfully self-defeating. Such extreme action is not only immoral in itself, but would discredit religious believers and the pro-life cause. Only the deranged or an agent provocateur would suggest violence in this case. History has shown, especially in the case of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, that contemplating extreme or violent action can activate an even more direct persecution, and marginalize religious believers for centuries. Catholics were only able, by the Catholic Relief Act of 1829, to regain their right to religious freedom in England more than two hundred years after the Gunpowder Plot. The British monarch is still forbidden to join the Catholic Church.

Extreme rhetoric in response to the HHS rules is also not appropriate, and will in the long run prove ineffective. Appeals to constitutional, Biblical, and universal human rights on behalf of others, these others being the unborn and those believing taxpayers morally objecting to pay for sterilization and abortifacients, promise to be the most effective.

But mere words are not enough. Politicians can and in some cases must be voted out of office over this issue peacefully through the constitutionally-established electoral process.

There is also the question whether the honors and courtesies usually granted to certain politicians, such as appearances speaking to students and faculties, should be given. This is not yet the time for any across the board end to these practices, but each case should be carefully reconsidered. But this is also not the time for Catholic institutions to shower politicians, labor, and business leaders who support abortion rights with awards and knighthoods.

A Failure as Men

This HHS challenge faces the Catholic Church in America at a time when, weakened by the priest abuse scandals, it lacks unobstructed access to the public square without every message from the Church being confounded and scrambled by the scandal.

A few comments on the clergy scandal are therefore apt, because present communication from the Catholic Church is heard in light of it, and little effective communication is possible without addressing it. In a powerful sense, a Catholic bishop’s public words have the priest abuse scandal static humming behind them.

Recently, I have begun to think of the failure of certain bishops and clergy as responders to the priest abuse scandal in a different way: The failure of these bishops and priests was not only a failure of church “headship,” but a “natural law” failure in the traditional male role as the defender of children. Certain bishops and clergy have failed in the priest abuse crisis in a manly sense, as men, in their paternal role. This failure brought into question not only the integrity of ineffective bishops and clergy, but their very manhood.

Because certain bishops and clergy appeared to fail as men in this natural law sense, they have in a very visceral way especially lost the confidence of many women who still value the male as defender. Four decades of political correctness have not wiped out this traditional expectation for the male. Many Catholic men who value this expectation are likewise sickened by this failure.

This loss of confidence in certain bishops and leading clergy is of Biblical proportions. I recall Professor Scott Hahn’s theory of Adam as the failed husband for his silence in not defending his family when Satan came to tempt in Genesis 3. Prof. Hahn assigned great significance to the silence of Adam in this passage.

Weakened by the clergy scandals, our Catholic Church “headship” is therefore in need of redemption in a theological sense, which we believe is a grace given by Christ. The redemption in the social sense will take many years, and depends on the repenting actions of the clergy and of all believers. The episcopacy must understand the depth of their failure in not just the hearts but in the guts of the faithful. I cannot stress more emphatically that this redemptive action includes bishops and clergy reaffirming and in a sense reestablishing their own Christian manhood.

In the mean time, Catholics must effectively communicate as citizens against violations of human and religious freedom, and in particular against the HHS rule in question. This effectiveness of communication depends on the individual acts of millions of believers in contact with their own government officials despite the constant static of the clergy scandals. We should not be deterred by scandal into allowing serious violations of human rights and religious freedom.

It is fortunate that Cardinal (effective mid-February, 2012) Timothy Dolan serves as the spokesman for the U.S. Catholic Bishops in this instance. Despite continual attempts to smear him, his integrity and forthrightness continue to shine through. I do not doubt that there will be aggressive efforts to discredit him going forward. Cardinal Dolan is the right man to stand before the faithful both on the question of episcopal redemption and on defending the unborn and the consciences of those who recognize the rights of these holy innocents. Please see his 1/25/12 Wall Street Journal article.

The bishops’ strong stance on the defense of innocent life is not only redemptive in a theological sense, but in a natural law, manly sense. They are restoring their manhood by acting as the defenders of the innocent, and provide a stunning contrast with the unmanly compromises of business, labor, and government leaders who somewhere along the line decided that they would betray themselves on the defense of innocent life, perhaps, as the old saying goes, to be “happy” in this world rather than “right.” The bishops are seen by many critics in their strong pro-life stand as being on the wrong side of history, when they in fact are on the right side of eternity.

Since potentially millions of pro-life citizens may in one way or another speak to the HHS rule controversy, below I offer some background information on some of the social and political forces at work, which I hope will be helpful for these pro-life citizens as they communicate with their government representatives.

Toward Disagreement with an Icon

Barack Obama is not only the President of the U.S., but commands additional power as a cultural icon.

Many, not only social progressives but also the young, see President Obama as the standard-bearer for movements for human and civil rights, whose election vindicated their lifelong efforts. The Grant Park, Chicago celebration of the President’s election on November 4, 2008 was for many the high point of their lives.

Pro-life believers see this same President as the most radical pro-choice politician ever to hold high office, who would not support a proposed Illinois law providing medical care for infants who survived abortion.

The U.S. Catholic population reflects this divergence of views, and the success of President Obama’s agenda has depended on his ability to in a real sense divide and conquer the U.S. Catholic population on the question of life. He has taken great pains, most recently in his speech at the 2/2/12 National Prayer Breakfast, to establish how a believing Christian can support his own pro-choice policies, with some skirting of the direct question on whether a believer can support abortion rights.

Many socially progressive Catholics agree with the President, but their position has become much more difficult to reconcile with Catholic teachings. Whether by accident or by design, the President’s actions have begun to tear apart the recurrent claim that one can be both a social progressive–if that includes abortion rights–and a faithful Catholic.

While Benedict XVI forcefully linked life ethics and social ethics in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, many progressive Catholics have operated since the 1960s as if this link was not necessary. The President has now brought through the HHS Rule a firm decision on this matter to the doorstep of Christians in general, but to socially progressive Catholics in particular.

But First a Bit of History

Since President Obama arose politically from Chicago, I offer some history on what led to this turning point:

Chicago, the historic home of the Haymarket Affair and thereby the partial inspiration for May Day as an International Workers Day, has a long and varied tradition of progressive and radical political activism.

From the Haymarket martyrs, to Chicago and Illinois labor pioneers, to the intellectual progressives and philosophical pragmatists such as John Dewey and Jane Addams, to the Lakefront Liberals and community activists of today in the tradition of Chicago’s Saul Alinsky, to the violent anti-war protests and later education reforms of Bill Ayers, an amalgam of progressive ideas and traditions has firmly established itself within specific layers of Chicago culture. Over the 20th Century the progressive Chicago panacea of choice shifted from eugenics to abortion.

But despite the “brief, shining” progressive moment of the Harold Washington mayoral administration, 1983-1987, almost every institution established by the Chicago progressive reformers, from the pioneering Juvenile Court system and Chicago Park District to the Cook County Hospital to even the Chicago Public Schools, became a fiefdom within Chicago machine politics. The Chicago progressives, despite periodic vociferous protestations sometimes descending into sullen resignation, and despite the earnest shadow-government machinations of Chicago foundations and civic organizations, have likewise ultimately enabled the “Chicago Way” of one-party machine politics to rule Chicago for decades. Barack Obama himself prior to his presidency endorsed an inept Cook County Board president who had to be forced from office for incompetence. Chicago progressive history is thus comprised of recurrent vainglorious visions that continually evaporate into politics as usual.

Chicago also evidences a distinct tradition of activist Catholicism with likewise early roots prior to Leo XIII‘s encyclical Rerum Novarum. Chicago Catholic Action, with mentors like Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand, erupted during its heyday of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s into either “Specialized Catholic Action Movements” in the European Jocist tradition such as the Young Christian Workers, the Christian Family Movement, and the Young Christian Students, or into the separately-founded and imported Catholic Worker, Friendship House, or into the parallel and more institutional youth and labor-oriented efforts of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Bernard Sheil, including the Sheil School of Social Studies (1943-1954), and the Chicago Labor Alliance, the latter led by former Catholic Worker and Loyola University educator Ed Marciniak. Later Chicago Catholic activist organizations, such as the Association of Chicago Priests, the Eighth Day Center for Justice, and allied activist non-sectarian organizations (but heavily supported with Catholic dollars) the Industrial Areas Foundation, United Power for Action and Justice, and several others, drew upon these Chicago Catholic activist traditions.

These two Chicago activist traditions, the progressive and the activist Catholic, have complexly intersected both in terms of social networks and in terms of ideas since the late 1800s, especially in labor, politics, philanthropy, neighborhood life, higher education, civic leadership, and clergy politics. Catholic organizations have generously funded community organizing in Chicago since the 1930s, including the work of a young community organizer named Barack Obama in the 1980s, whose move to the U.S. presidency echoed Chicago’s potent blend of strong-arm, one party rule with a progressive patina. By this Catholic-funded work, Mr. Obama earned his status as an “honorary Catholic” among religious Chicago progressives.

The traditions of Chicago progressivism and Catholic activism meet, if not merge, in another significant way, in their descent into pragmatism, not of the philosophical variety, but of the political and economic. The style of leadership among some of the elites of political Chicago and religious Chicago is therefore sometimes indistinguishable, and appears established along the categories of political power and money power alone. From time to time, one might find within Chicago church circles a brash, confrontational approach to action, including not-so-subtle forms of blackmail and intimidation, similar to what one might encounter in Chicago politics. As we say, “It’s a tough town.”

Since the time of the 1960s Kennedy-era “New Breed” Chicago Catholics, activity between Catholic and progressive activists represented itself in a number of free-flowing and permeable relationships. Catholic activists, and especially inner-city Catholic pastors and religious, have had strong standing in neighborhood and civic affairs.

Numerous neighborhood, community and economic development, professional, and civic organizations have been founded in the Chicago area in recent decades with the backing of Catholic talent and resources. In tandem with the growth of these organizations, a number of leading Chicago Catholic clergy, following the lead of Hillenbrand protege Msgr. John J. Egan, have strategically oriented their civic efforts into an interfaith and intentionally secular dimension, in order to broaden the base of support, participation, and power. This strategy, which heavily relied on coalition-building across a wide spectrum of organizations, coincided with the end of the influence of Catholic Action organizations as such, while still paradoxically relying on money donated from Catholic parishes and the Archdiocese of Chicago as a whole to sustain the bulk of these efforts.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, originally founded as the Campaign for Human Development in 1970 by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, but with significant impetus from Chicago Catholic clergy and in particular Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Michael R. P. Dempsey (1918–1974), who served as co-founder and first national director of what later came to be called CCHD, has served, among other things, to extend the Chicago style of Catholic community and development activism nationally. In an important way, the CCHD has institutionalized the pattern laid down by the original requests by Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Bernard Sheil and later Msgr. John J. Egan to Cardinal Samuel Stritch to fund Saul Alinsky’s community organizing with Archdiocesan funds.

These traditions of secular and Catholic progressivism overlapped most dramatically when a Chicago diocesan priest, Rev. Carl Lezak (1937-2009), served as head of the Illinois ACLU from July, 1971, until he resigned September, 1972.

The late Fr. Lezak’s clericalization of civic action was only one of several such incidents in Chicago history, a usurpation of the lay role against which Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand, unheeded, warned his protegees in the clergy. A number of these clerical interventions prevented the development of a lay reform tradition independent of one-party rule. Progressive Catholics therefore could not envision themselves voting against the dominant party, but would coalesce with almost liturgical devotion around this or that reform candidate for relatively minor office, thus shoring up of one-party, corrupt government in Chicago and Illinois.

The desire to participate in a glorious public jubilee like Chicago’s November 4, 2008 Grant Park celebration is a powerful one, as is the desire to belong to a larger group. Perhaps a desire to belong, an attachment confusing self-image with public interest, has long prevented socially progressive and labor activist Catholics from deserting one-party rule and throwing the rascals out. This attachment has shaped Chicago and Illinois toward one-party, pro-abortion oligopolies.

But there may be another reason for the staying power of one-party rule in Chicago and Illinois, and that may be abortion itself. Minus the abortion rights controversy, many voters would have switched parties long ago over financial mismanagement and public scandals. But the abortion issue has kept the otherwise reform-minded progressives inside the dominant party, thus perpetuating corruption. Abortion is in many ways the glue that holds the Democratic party together in Illinois and beyond.

Progressive Chicago Catholicism has long misunderstood power as originating solely in money and in politics, but has missed, as Blessed John Paul II well and better understood, the power of culture.

Progressive, pro-choice Catholicism has fed off the illusion that life issues can be set aside for the sake of a wider social justice agenda. Progressive Chicago Catholicism has accepted a permeable, non-Aristotelean definition of justice not inclusive of the rights of the vulnerable unborn, but tied to their own self-image as compassionate and just.

It appears that some of these contradictory progressive dreams and politics–and illusions–have been exported by Barack Obama from Chicago to the nation.

The End of the Church as Mediating Institution?

But now Catholics may face a choice between following their President’s health care policies and following their Church. The President promised a “Sensible Conscience Clause” at Notre Dame in 2009 but did not deliver on it. There is therefore no tangible bridge between the pro-life Catholic and Barack Obama’s “fundamental change.”

And equally critically, the important role of the Church as a mediating institution in society, an institution standing between the power and abuses of government and the defenseless, the very institutional foundation of progressive Catholicism, is being shaken away.

It is at this point an open question whether we will see the state slowly seize all health care away from pro-life charitable institutions, like the Tudor monarchs seized the monasteries, ending their charitable services to thousands who thereby had nowhere to go. If some day the government does seize the health care industry, we can expect that it will manage to combine therein the worst inefficiencies seen in Cook County government.

A strong clue to the intent of the Obama Administration in this HHS case can be found in the final chapter of economist Paul R. Krugman’s The Conscience of a Liberal, in which he urges a coming administration to in very determined fashion continue to lock in progressive reforms so that they can never be undone.

So, How Does One Disagree with an Icon?

First, more traditional Catholics should refrain from shouting “I told you so” to their progressive friends. This is a time for Church unity, not one-upmanship.

Second, the Herod analogy (as slaughterer of the innocents) should not yet be used by Catholics in President Obama’s case. St. John Fisher famously used this analogy regarding marriage with Henry VIII when all else failed, and an enraged Henry VIII lived up to the tagline by treating St. John Fisher as Herod treated Fisher’s namesake St. John the Baptist. All else has not yet failed with President Obama. (Strictly speaking, St. John Fisher had not even used the literal word “Herod” in reference to Henry VIII. Fisher had written in a book defending the marriage of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII that he, Fisher, was willing to die like St. John the Baptist defending the authenticity of their marriage. Henry drew the Herod reference himself. Fisher evidently thought and prayed for quite some time about invoking St. John the Baptist. The book he wrote on the royal marriage took him two years, and when the King’s men inventoried St. John Fisher’s possessions after his imprisonment in 1534, they found a replica head of St. John the Baptist on a platter in Fisher’s chapel.)

Third, Catholics should not bemoan any persecution they personally endure for their pro-life beliefs, but bear such persecution, invoking St. Thomas More, merrily.

Fourth, besides writing their legislators and voting their consciences, the very most effective thing pro-life Catholic grown-ups can do to oppose the HHS mandate and the pro-choice agenda is to speak first with their own teen and young adult children. These young adults are the most heavily propagandized generation in human history, regularly hearing from,, Rock the Vote, MTV, etc., having hardly ever seen an intact family displayed on television for any length of time, having been carefully led through college’s second and hidden dorm curriculum, and having their own humor and thus thought processes constantly shaped by politicized late-night comedians. The most effective way therefore for pro-life Catholic parents to oppose the pro-choice position is for Catholic parents to personally explain the reasoning behind Catholic pro-life positions first to their own voting children, and then to dialogue with their children about their reaction. Pro-choice politicians absolutely count on the young adult vote, and expect young adults to sit out the HHS controversy. Happily, these young adults are growing more pro-life. Nothing would put pro-choice politicians into a panic more than receiving thousands of e-mails against the HHS mandate from high school and college students and young professionals. Another such panic would ensue if bishops and pastors systematically began to speak personally with high school and college young adult groups against the HHS mandate and enlist such letters on a regular basis.

Fifth, the way to oppose an icon is not to directly attack the icon, but to change the world around the icon so the icon loses its cultural power. This is how the power of culture trumps the power of money and politics. The way to change this world around the icon is to let loose the reasoning behind the pro-life position: the defense of innocent human life. There is no more powerful idea than the defense of the innocent. By unleashing the HHS mandate, the President and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may have inadvertently set this very time for the powerful idea of the defense of innocent human life to come.

Six, by focusing on the reason for religious freedom in this HHS case–the defense of innocent human life–as opposed to simply religious freedom and freedom of conscience in and of themselves, defenses of religious freedom and conscience are then grounded on a doubly strong moral basis: they are not just about the person claiming religious freedom and freedom of conscience, but about the purpose and reason freedom is being exercised: the defense of the innocent unborn. This recalls Benedict XVI’s April 17, 2008 Catholic University of America Address statement to Catholic Educators that “Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in–a participation in Being itself.” The religious freedom we seek is not freedom from, but freedom for–freedom for the good of another, in this case, for the innocent unborn.

Seventh, I wish Jimmy Cagney were around to drive home the point about the objections pro-life Catholics (whose numbers are growing) are making to President Obama: We are both loyal Catholics and loyal Americans, and are exercising our own rights in legitimate defense of others. But Jimmy Cagney has joined, I pray, the Communion of Saints (he did die on screen at least once to save the Dead End Kids in Angels with Dirty Faces), so we’ll have to make this point ourselves.

This is indeed a moment of moral choice for Catholics and for people of good will. I pray that this moment remains a peaceful one, and is resolved through reason and good will.


Further Reading:

Cardinal Francis George’s 2/5/12 letter for parish bulletins on the HHS ruling.

The 2/6/12 Wall Street Journal article by Robert P. George and O. Carter Snead, Planned Parenthood’s Hostages.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Religious Freedom as the Fundamental Freedom; Mary’s Fiat as its Perfect Expression

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Religious freedom is the the “First Freedom” from which other forms of human freedom spring. I return to my essay, “Notre Dame’s Forgotten Freedom“:

Religious freedom is not only recognized by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but it also was one of the first human freedoms, and is closely related to the First Commandment, to “not have other gods besides me” (Exodus 20: 3).

We forget that the Lord commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh to let his people go for a reason, “to worship me” (Exodus 7:26). Each day in the Liturgy of the Hours, Catholics pray the Benedictus of Zechariah (Luke 1: 70-75):

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hand of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

For believers in the Abrahamic traditions, human freedom is inseparable from religious freedom.

Also, those who accept the commonplace belief that the invention of effective artificial birth control and the legalization of abortion established freedom for women are about two thousand years too late, and overlook freedom of both the body and soul for the sake of freedom of the body alone.

This striking truth is buried in the very familiar passage of Luke 1:27-38:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

I am not the first to point out that Mary’s “fiat,” her “Let it be,” mirrored the first “fiat,” the first Word of creation, “Fiat lux–Let there be light” in Genesis 1, and is echoed in a third “fiat” spoken every day by millions, “Fiat voluntas tua–Thy will be done,” from the Our Father. Those who accept the Gospel and pray the Our Father implicitly speak a “fiat” that encompasses all these associated meanings.

Those who on the other hand attempt to hold to the Gospel while accepting abortion shatter the unity of Christian faith itself, the unity of one “fiat” of Creation, one “fiat” of Incarnation, one “fiat” of the Kingdom. They ultimately reject the profound meaning of Mary’s “genoito moi kata to ohma sou–be it done-be it created-to me according to your word.” The Word and all of creation are embodied–incarnated–perfectly in her succinct response.

In the Annunciation, God respected Mary’s freedom of body and of soul completely. Her whole, free, and complete acceptance of God’s will, “Idou h doulh Xuriou” in Greek, “Behold I am the slave (doula) of the Lord,” softened by the Latin “Ecce ancilla Domini–Behold the maidservant of the Lord” was a complete act of both spiritual and physical freedom, the fundamental and most influential such act in human existence. From Mary’s willing participation in the Incarnation, the Word becoming Flesh, the meaning of human freedom abounds.

One must reflect again and again on the Annunciation to fully reject the flat, limited, one-dimensionality of the post-modern feminist view. The path to rejecting abortion and accepting the Gospel of Life begins with the deepening acceptance of the Annunciation and the Incarnation, which is, in the very words of the angel, tied to the Kingdom.

For further reflections on Mary’s “fiat,” see John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem.

Mary’s “fiat” is the perfect expression of human freedom, and embodies her within both the unity of Creation and the same unity of the Kingdom. By rejecting life, little do people know they are also rejecting Mary’s “Let it be” and unity with the Incarnation of the Savior.

The Christian, by deepening understanding of the unity of the “fiat,” comes to view life and the world in a completely different light: the same first Light and Word of Creation, the same Light that “overshadowed” Mary. This is how those who reject Mary ultimately reject a critical meaning of the Christian message, the Gospel that speaks of Life and the Gospel that speaks of Light. Those who reject Mary’s full role in Salvation thereby walk in the shadows.

No wonder the post-modern mind hates Christmas and Mary’s part in it.

When one does not respect the freedom of the human conscience in religion, one inevitably limits other freedoms.

© Copyright 2009, 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Gratuitousness and Solidarity

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

In a 10/18/11 address to the Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontifice Foundation during its two-day meeting on family and work, Benedict XVI made an important set of distinctions among commutative and distributive justice, and gratuitousness and solidarity:

“In the difficult situation we are experiencing, we are unfortunately witnessing a crisis in work and in the economy, which is accompanied by a crisis in the family: the conflicts of couples, generational conflicts, conflicts occasioned between the times of the family and of work, occupational crises, create a complex situation of unease that influences social living itself.”

“A new harmonious synthesis between the family and work is therefore necessary, and the Social Doctrine of the Church can offer a valuable contribution. In the encyclical Caritas in Veritate I wished to highlight that the family model of the logic of love, of gratitude, and of gift goes together with a universal dimension. Commutative justice — ‘give to have’ — and distributive justice — ‘give to owe’ – are not sufficient in social living. To have true justice it is necessary to arrive at gratuitousness and solidarity. ‘Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State. While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place. (…) Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself’ ([John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio] No. 38).”

“‘The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law. Yet both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift’ (No. 39). It is not the duty of the Church to define the ways to address the present crisis. However, Christians have the duty to denounce evils, to attest to and to keep alive the values on which the dignity of the person is founded, and to promote those ways of solidarity that foster the common good, so that humanity will become the family of God.”

John Paul II’s words quoted above, “The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law,” spring from a profound insight into the role and contribution of the Catholic family to society.

One cannot define the family contribution or family role simply within the bounds of law and economics. The implications of this point are profound in terms of the present debates on the nature and rights of the family.

The gratuitousness of the family implies voluntary acts arising from the human persons at the center of the family. These human persons are manifold, complex, free to give of themselves, and ultimately beyond complete description by law or economics. These persons and their families are best respected in terms of the constitutional freedoms of religion, speech, property, and person–together bound in solidarity for the common good.

Benedict XVI’s complete 10/18/11 address is worth careful review.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Collective Bargaining as a Fundamental Human Right

Friday, February 18th, 2011

US labor unions may have overplayed their hand politically, may have downplayed bread-and-butter wage, benefit, and workplace rights issues for elite radical social agendas that few of their membership actually support, may have advanced anti-life and anti-family positions and denied parents choices in educating their children, may have from time to time supported anti-American politics, may have marched a parade of corrupt politicians into city, county, and state positions nationally because they promised the unions everything they wanted, may have kept incompetent and even dangerous employees on the job, and may have, once upon a time, gotten too close to organized crime, but none of these egregious errors erases the fact that collective bargaining is a fundamental human right that should remain in the body politic.

The moral imperative for collective bargaining was put succinctly in a 2/16/11 statement by the Most Rev. Jerome E. Listecki, Archbishop of Milwaukee and President of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. Archbishop Listecki drew upon section number 25 of Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, and section number 20 of John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens.

Public employee unions face a very powerful narrative-that they have captured the legislative process and turned government into a self-serving tax and spend machine for their own benefit and to the public detriment–early articulated by the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, and recently by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

While public sector unions definitely require limits, checks, and balances, collective bargaining should not be denied to public sector employees. The reason is a basic ethical principle: human beings should be treated as knowing subjects, rather than as objects.

I’m hoping that those public sector unions which survive the angry public onslaught take this opportunity to get back to the bread-and-butter wage, benefit, and workplace rights issues that have made unions a fixture in society.

The social radicals have weakened the labor movement. The number of states about to outlaw public sector collective bargaining present an historic loss, and the biggest rebuke to the unions in decades. Labor’s social radicals bear the bulk of the responsibility for this disaster because of their overreach, but they, as they have done forever, will blame everyone but themselves. St. Thomas Aquinas had a term for this kind of denial: invincible ignorance.

I agree with Archbishop Listecki: labor unions, even public sector labor unions, are an essential component of a civilized, free society.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Daniel Henninger on Popes, Atheists, and Freedom

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Worth reading:

Daniel Henninger’s 12/30/10 Wall Street Journal article, “Popes, Atheists, and Freedom, Secularists should recognize that the pope’s fight is their fight,” which draws from George Weigel’s new book, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II, The Victory of Freedom, The Last Years, The Legacy.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Our Lady and the Public Way

Monday, July 19th, 2010

During September of 2009, the statue of Our Lady of the New Millennium was displayed on the road outside the John Paul II Newman Center in Chicago.

Source: John Paul II Newman Center

This 33 foot tall, 8,400 pound stainless steel statue was commissioned by the late Carl Demma, designed by sculptor Charles Parks, and travels on a flatbed truck equipped with specialized hydraulics to raise the statue. In 1999 in St. Louis, Pope John Paul II blessed this statue, which circulates in Chicago and other areas during visits to hundreds of parishes and religious communities.

An interesting phenomenon sometimes occurs when the statue is present, in that people, especially older people, may bring out their lawn chairs, arrange them in rows, and then sit to contemplate the statue and pray the Rosary. Flowers and candles are often placed at the base of the statue.

During the period in which the statue was displayed in September, 2009, the Director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago adjacent to the John Paul II Newman Center raised objections on separation of church and state grounds against the statue being displayed in a public street, and made a complaint to local government authorities.

Below is my response to the university community, dated 9/16/09–

Re: Religious Statue on Morgan Street


In a free society, the public way, is just that, the public way.

What may not be widely known is that the public way in Chicago extends from the center of the roadway, across parkways and beyond the sidewalk, and usually a few inches into the front lawns of most properties. The public way is maintained at public expense for the benefit of all citizens.

On Morgan St. between Taylor St. and Vernon Park Place the road and sidewalk is maintained, at public expense, up to the boundaries of two religious-affiliated institutions, the John Paul II Center and the Levine Hillel Center.

In the constitutionally-protected free practice of their religions, participants at both of these two centers engage in activities which take them into the public way before, during, and after the practice of their religions.

Religious freedom implies public expression of religion. Public expression implies that this expression occurs where it can be seen and heard. Inevitably, in a free society, public expression of religion will take place in the public way, and the law has recognized the right of citizens to use the public way, within reasonable boundaries, for the purpose of religious expression.

From time to time, citizens can request a permit to close down a street for a party, or for a religious observance. The law respects the right of citizens both to congregate peaceably and to congregate for the purpose of the expression of their religion. Cities allow the temporary reservation of public space as consistent with both the right to congregate, and with the right to freely express religious belief.

There are some who would argue against the public expression of religion in any public space whatsoever, and who would reduce religious freedom, which implies the public expression of same, to the status of religious tolerance, which can imply the practice of religion, but religion kept out of the public way entirely.

The US Constitution guarantees religious freedom, not simply religious tolerance. Religious freedom, like other freedoms, inevitably is exercised in public space. As long as the practice of religion does not pose a continuing public nuisance that disturbs the rights of others to freely enjoy the tranquil use of their property, practitioners of religion are within their rights to step from time to time into the public way within the boundaries of the law to express their religion.

To deny the use of any public street under any circumstances by religious practitioners is to deny the practice of religious freedom.

Religious freedom is one of the foundations of this Republic, both in an intellectual and in a social sense. Such freedom drew and continues to draw citizens to our shores, and its very idea draws us together in diversity in a nation, because such freedom is mutually beneficial to a population in which there are substantial differences.

The establishment of religious freedom in America was an advance for humankind. It is essential for the diversity we have achieved as a nation. But religious freedom can only endure as it is continually practiced. One way to support religious freedom is to respect the rights of others who practice a belief that is different from our own. Such an act of respect provides a foundation for diversity.

If UIC truly respects diversity, then we will continue to respect the rights of others to publicly–and peaceably–express their beliefs in public space–even if this expression involves the transportation and display of a large statue for a limited time within the public way.

Universities have been for centuries the defenders of human freedom. It is therefore very contradictory for some at a university to argue against an essential human freedom.

I can’t very well advocate and work for diversity within the University, but to then take offense at the practice of diversity when it appears across the street.


Albert Schorsch, III

I add today, 7/19/10, that those who wish to reduce the American right to freedom of religion, which implies religion in public places, to the more restricted freedom of worship, which may not, are proposing to reduce an essential human freedom. Freedom of religion implies free public expression of religion.

© Copyright 2009, 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved