Friday, June 04, 2010

The Ukraine

Latin-Rite Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Lviv, Ukraine (Former Lwow, Poland)

George Weigel, in his recent column, and others, have noted the new fears that are rising in Ukraine. For example, Rev. Borys Gudziak, the rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, has reported harrassment and possible surveillance on the part of the Ukrainian state police. What it his "suspicious activity?" Presumably, he is being watched because he is the head of the university from which many students participated in the Orange Revolution--the peaceful revolution that promised sweeping democratic reforms five years ago.

I had an opportunity to visit Lviv in 2006, just after the Orange Revolution, and was impressed byt he new found freedom--especially the increasing ability of the Greek Catholic Church (in the Ukraine) to express itself freely and without fear. For over fifty years, the five million members of this Church found themselves as members of the largest illegal religious body int he world--and faced great persecution from the Soveit regime.

Unfortunately, under the new government of the Ukraine, many of the changes brought about by the Orange Revolution are slowly disappearing, with a new state crackdown on religious liberty.

Let's all pray for the triumph of freedom and civil rights in the Ukraine. I think of my friends whom I met there, who struggle with the hardships of daily life in this former Soviet republic, now coupled with the struggles of trying to live out their faith freely and without fear or intimidation. Yuriy, if you are reading this, know that you are in my prayers.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Unfair Journalism

Here's what I have to say to the Park Record article from last Wednesday:

As a native Parkite, and one who hopes to return one day to our beautiful mountain town, I continue to follow news, articles, and events in Park City when the time allows. I was dismayed recently to find the article entitled, “Park City Priest Slams Catholic Church.” The editorial choice for the title of the article was very poor. Fr. Bussen’s comments do not “slam” the Catholic Church, and the title is an insincere attempt to perpetuate the false images of the Roman Catholic Church as some international institution of organized sexual immorality and crime (as Christopher Hitchens has recently suggested).

Admittedly, the Catholic Church has faced many difficulties in recent times. Most shameful of these are the recurring revelations of sexual abuse of both boys and girls by a minority of Catholic clergymen along with their accomplice and enabling bishops, who for too many years had turned a blind eye to the crimes, rather than dismissing pedophile priests from their ministry and convicting them to prison. What the US Catholic Church went through in 2002 beginning with the revelations of sexual abuse in Boston has now occurred in European countries, and has provided much fodder for the international press, such as the New York Times, which is often all too eager to portray that Catholic Church as an outdated, unprogressive, morally hypocritical and power-driven organization.

Facts, however, cannot be changed. The sexual abuse of minors is not a “Catholic” phenomenon, and especially not a result of the priestly requirement of celibacy for Latin-rite Catholic priests. It is a global scourge affecting all sectors of society, socio-economic classes, religious denominations and races. It is estimated that as many as thirty nine million Americans are victims of childhood sexual abuse, and that upwards of sixty percent of perpetrators are relatives. Only about two percent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are identified as Catholic priests, and most of these cases occurred between thirty and fifty years ago, a time of poor seminary training and massive changes within the Church. According to the 2009 United States Catholic bishops’ audit, there were six cases of priestly abuse within the nearly 65,000,000 member U.S. Catholic Church. The scourge of sexual abuse is a societal phenomenon, the causes of which can be attributed to a complex variety of factors ranging from the prevalence of pornography and sexually promiscuous materials in the media, to the breakdown of the nuclear family. In reality, the Catholic Church today is one of the safest environments for a child today.

The scandal of sexual abuse among Catholic clergy is rightly just that—a scandal. People expect holy and virtuous behavior on the part of the leaders of a Church. While a minority of priests and bishops have committed sins that cry out to heaven by perpetrating crimes and covering them up, the vast majority of leaders of the Catholic Church, beginning with Pope Benedict XVI, have exhibited the prudence and justice needed to purge the Church of pedophile priests. Pope Benedict, since the 1980’s, has shown a resolved commitment in the Church to root out pedophile priests—through the expansion of the process of applying canonical penalties, to priestly dismissals and harsh words, such as those to the Irish bishops in a March 20th letter: “You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals.”

Blaming the pope for covering up abuse without checking the facts, and setting up a “pope” versus “local church” dichotomy that has been enhanced through the recent Park Record article, does not help an honest reader come to a reasonably informed decision, but seeks to manipulate her into accepting a pre-conceived and false opinion. Such journalism is repugnant, dishonest, and simply unfair.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Jason Evert Coming

For anybody who is in the Fort Wayne or South Bend areas, please consider the following, with which I will pretty much be busy with during the next week:

sexYOUality: Valuing the Gift
an evening for teens and young adults
May 5th, 7:00 p.m., Holy Cross College (Pfeil Center), South Bend
May 6th, 7:00 p.m., University of Saint Francis (North Campus Auditorium), Fort Wayne

Jason is a staff apologist with Catholic Answers, a non-profit organization
dedicated to promoting the Catholic faith through all forms of media.
He speaks to over 100,000 teens and young adults around the world each
year, presenting the truth and power of the gift of human sexuality in an
honest and direct way, challenging teens to live authentic chastity.

High school teens and parents won’t want to miss this.

Co-Sponsored by the Offices of Family Life & Youth MInistry 260.422.4611

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

+ Lech Kaczynski + and Pope Benedict XVI

This morning began with a sad phone call from my mother, informing me that the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and the top officials of the Polish government were tragically killed in a plan crash near Smolensk, Russia. They were on their way to pay their respects to the 20,000+ Polish officers, clergymen, and intelligentsia who were killed by the Soviet army in 1940 near Katyn.

Among those who died in Katyn in 1940 were two of my great uncles, as well as my great grandfather, who was killed earlier by the Bolsheviks near the same area. Now, Poland has suffered another tragedy, and Katyn will forever be associated with dark times in the history of the Polish nation. president Kaczynski has paid the ultimate tribute, having given his very life, in memory of those who died in honor of their country and who died as patriots to defend Poland against the tyranny of Soviet domination. [A fact usually unknown and completely ignored by the West]

Kaczynski was a noble man, a just man, and a true patriotic president, who lived out his Roman Catholic faith through the political commitments he made. A staunch supporter of a free and democratic, modern Poland, he was nevertheless opposed to achieving this goal if it meant bowing down to the secularism of the European Union or the expansionist aims of the mob politics of Putin's Russia. He recognized that Poland finds itself in a very fragile situation, on the borderlands (as it has always been) between Russia and the West, and therefore needs to maintain a strong democratic presence of its own in it region.

Kaczynski often made public pilgrimages to major shrines, such as to the Black Madonna in Czestochowa, and was not ashamed of being seen praying in public, and asking for the guidance of Our Lady, who is the Queen of Poland. He has the occasion to meet multiple times with Pope Benedict, who encouraged him to keep the faith in the public square, as Poland seeks to navigate a delicate path, being a member of the EU, while seeking to be faithful to its own cultural heritage (which the rest of Europe has long forsaken).

For these reasons, his death is a great loss to the future of Poland--the Civic Platform party, a pro-Russian, pro-EU party to which the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk belongs, will probably only gain ground, as it has now lost one of its fiercest and most vocal critics. We can only pray that Kaczynski's death might inspire a new wave of patriotism in Poland, and encourage young Poles, especially politicians, to follow the example of Kaczynski, knowing that it is, indeed, possible to be a good Catholic and a good politician, and that sometimes this requires taking the hits, sacrificing, and yes...even paying with your life.

We can take consolation, knowing that it is the Feast of Divine Mercy, and on the eve of this feast, we can beg Our Lord to accept the soul of President Kaczynski, his wife, and the 94 other passengers of the airplane (including two bishops and four priests) into their eternal rewards.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Ora Pro Nobis

Today marks the five year anniversary of the passing of our beloved Holy Father, John Paul the Great. How fitting it is that this anniversary also falls on Good Friday!

I will never forget John Paul's last celebration of Good Friday--too sick and unable to move to be able to personally celebrate the via crucis. So he sat in his chapel, clinging to the crucifix, and participating via live feed--but more importantly, he participated by uniting his own burden, his own way of the cross, to the salvific and redemptive act of Christ on the cross. It was in these final moments of his life that we saw the man unvelied--a man whose busy, active life was always sustained by and given to the service of the glorious cross of Christ Jesus.

May we always have the courage to cling to this cross, and follow the motto of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the order that runs my alma mater--ave crux, spes unica.

May this Good Friday and Paschal Triduum lead us through the cross to the resurrection, and help us to daily live this mystery in our own lives.

Friday, January 15, 2010