Thursday, June 4, 2009

No Mass

This week is the presbyteral assembly for all diocesan priests in the Diocese. Mass was canceled at most parishes, and I've been unable to find a daily Mass. Twice I've went to places that didn't say they were canceling, once to be locked out, once to have the deacon lead a communion service. Why don't parishes get religious priests to cover for them?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shoofly Shiraz, 2005

As a graduation gift, I was given a wine of the month club subscription. I received a Shiraz from Shoofly, year 2005. I just had a glass with dinner, left-over chicken parm and ziti from the party yesterday. The wine, very dry, is medium bodied with a bold flavor. I recommend this one.


Wine - Fabiano, Terre Degli Osci (Pinot Grigio) 2007.

I often cannot remember which wines I liked and which ones were...less than spectacular. For that purpose, I have decided to begin recording my wine (and beer) experiments. And since I need it in a place I can access easily whether on vacation or at home, it makes sense to place it online. This isn't some fancy wine website, this is my own personal journey. I'm not out looking for the best, I'm just looking for what tastes good in my price range. So...enjoy.

Today, eating left over cheese and vegetables and dip from yesterday's graduation party, I had a glass of Fabiano, Terre Degli Osci (Pinot Grigio) 2007. I'm not a huge fan of Pinot Grigio, as it is a little bitter for me. This was not as bitter as other Pinots I've had, which made it much more enjoyable. I wouldn't buy this for myself but I would drink it if that's what was being served. It was light, refreshing, and went well with my afternoon on the back deck.

3.5 (out of 5).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Some thoughts on BC

Circulating on the internet is a Youtube video speaking about the growth of Islam in traditionally Western countries and how this threatens the West. Additionally, Christianity is in decline. The second largest religious body in the US is ex-Catholics. What this says about the state of salvation of souls is important. The West needs a New Evangelization just like the first one. How was the First Evangelization of Europe accomplished? Benedictine monasteries spread throughout Europe and preserved knowledge. We see the same spread of monasteries today, with the founding of such new institutions as Clear Creek, the Carmelites of Wyoming, and the new foundation of the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration in the Diocese of Phoenix. We’ve also seen a growth in the teaching orders, who are going to go out and teach a new generation of school children the faith, most notably the two group of Dominican Sisters, one of Nashville, the other of Ann Arbor. At the same time, Boston College can and must join in this effort of the New Evangelization if it wants to succeed in becoming the world’s leading Catholic university. As the document Ex corde Ecclesiae says,

By its very nature, each Catholic University makes an important contribution to the Church's work of evangelization. It is a living institutional witness to Christ and his message, so vitally important in cultures marked by secularism, or where Christ and his message are still virtually unknown. Moreover, all the basic academic activities of a Catholic University are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church: research carried out in the light of the Christian message which puts new human discoveries at the service of individuals and society; education offered in a faith-context that forms men and women capable of rational and critical judgment and conscious of the transcendent dignity of the human person; professional training that incorporates ethical values and a sense of service to individuals and to society; the dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood, and the theological research that translates the faith into contemporary language (49).

The way to become the world’s greatest Catholic university must include two parts: 1) being great 2) being Catholic. To achieve the first, one needs excellent professors and excellent students. To be the second, one needs to follow Ex corde ecclesiae, among other things. Boston College has room to improve in both areas.

First, there are many good things happening in both areas at Boston College. In terms of excellence, the German department is known to be a Fulbright machine. In terms of Catholicity, Boston College has begun once more to place Jesuits in dorms, Mass is offered daily multiple times, many students are undertaking the Spiritual Exercises, and crucifixes have been returned to classrooms. At the same time, it would be good to continue to put more of these young Jesuit priests in dorms.

Additionally, in ECE Pope John Paul II spoke of how the university must be involved in the local Church (27). Boston College is already very involved through its hosting of the Boston Catholic Men’s and Women’s Conferences, along with various workshops for local Catholics, helping local Catholic schools, and commissioning a history of the Archdiocese for its bicentennial. However, some of these workshops are questionable in content, which is sad, is this is one thing that JPII mentions himself as a good the university can offer the local Church (36). Additionally, university campus ministry has done a poor job of advertising monthly events sponsored by the Archdiocese in the North End, including the annual Eucharistic Congress for College Students and Young Adults. Furthermore, at no time in my four years did I ever hear students encouraged to attend the ordinations to the transitional diaconate that take place each year in the Cathedral. I’ve also never heard of any institutional organizing of trips to local Theology on Taps for those who are 21.

Pope John Paul II encouraged (34) the promotion of justice. This takes place at BC through the Arrupe groups, the Pro-Life Club, 4Boston, PULSE, and the Appalacia service program. Sadly, the attendance at this is low for BC students because the University does not formally give student’s the day off. As it is during add-drop, there is no penalty for going, but most students want formal permission to go. It should be granted and Father Leahy, along with many members of the Jesuit community, and administrators should all attend.

One of the criteria given in ECE is that the majority of the faculty be Catholic. “In order not to endanger the Catholic identity of the University or Institute of Higher Studies, the number of non-Catholic teachers should not be allowed to constitute a majority within the Institution, which is and must remain Catholic.” (Article 4.4) Currently, Boston College does not ask whether those being interviewed are Catholic, and so BC has no way of knowing the proportion of Catholics at the university. BC must begin asking this question, and should allow tenured faculty who desire to seek the magis, to do more than necessary, to take an oath of obedience to the Magisterium like some Catholic universities do. This allows student to know what type of professor they are studying with. Alumni can establish chairs in each department for these Catholics who have done more to advance Catholic identity, donating with such a stipulation. In the same way, in theology, professors should be encouraged to get the mandate to teach theology. After the end of Father Ken Himes time as chair, and Frank Kilcoyne’s time as undergraduate chair, the chairs of the department should be chosen only from among those who have the mandatum, and all those seeking to teach Catholic theology who are new hires should be required to get it before they can be tenured. Boston College should establish positions in theology in each of the world’s religions, Buddhism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. These professors would not be required to get the mandate, but all others, those who teach Catholic theology, should. Alumni can establish chairs for only those who have the mandate in theology as well. The faculty can advance the theology and philosophical debate within the Church, as JP II called for (29) but always in union with the Magisterium.
In conformity with ECE, Boston College should never honor pro-abortion politicians. “If need be, a Catholic University must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society” (32). Boston College should invite them to speak only at academic lectures, and BC should get involved politically by allowing its property to be used to electoral debates. Boston College should do this for both parties, as having a pro-life Democrat candidate is something that all Catholics should want.
Moreover, Boston College should make every effort to implement Vatican II’s decrees on the liturgy by having at least one Sunday Mass in conformity with the rubrics, including those on music. This creates a dialogue with the culture (37) and maybe could even include the commissioning of polyphony for the Mass, contributing to the culture’s growth. Boston College should have Eucharistic and Marian processions like Notre Dame does. One day a week, all students, faculty, administrators should try and get to Mass together, as a sign of unity. This could take place at the Wednesday noon or some other day of the week. Eucharistic adoration should happen more than two days a week on campus. Holy Hours for vocations or other important intentions could take place once a month. Lastly, BC should have, at least once a month, the extraordinary form offered for students to experience.

Lastly, Boston College should seek to lower the cost of tuition, so that the brightest students, no matter how much money they have, can always come to BC.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I experienced my conversion in high school, where I self-appropriated my faith and decided that I wanted to live a holy life. And while I consistently failed to live it in many areas, I thought that I knew where I still had to grow, but as the Psalms say, “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults” (19:12). When I arrived at college, I met a priest whose love was so great that I realized what love really meant. I had never imagined how unloving I had been. I thought, though, that I finally knew everything wrong with my action.

Last summer, more than a full five years after my commitment to live a holy life, I once again discovered I had more room for growth. While reading Sacred Scripture, I found in Ephesians an admonition to not speak of certain things. How could I have missed this? I discovered it at a time when I was being very proud, horrified at the behavior of some of my younger peers who had problems with behavior related to alcohol and didn’t see how their behavior was sinful when I spoke to them about it. How could they not see it? The same way I couldn’t see my own sins. A few months later, some of them did see.

In the middle of this past academic year, one young man, the year below me, was shocked at the language of the freshman. How could this be coming out of the mouth of Catholics? When he told them about it, some tried to reform, and others said there was nothing wrong with it. How could they not see? The list goes on and on.
It reminds me of when the president of the Gay Leadership Council wrote to The Heights in defense of homosexual relations. He said that normative human experience is one way of knowing how to live. A theologian at Boston College, Father Imbelli, questioned whether this was a clear guide, writing in response, “Now, of course, what constitutes ‘normative human experience’ is precisely what is at issue. Appeals to ‘my experience’ abound. But the Christian, instructed by Christ's call to conversion, will always seriously raise the question: Is my experience, the self I am, the meanings and values I espouse, being called to conversion?”

This is a very good way to think about mentanoia, conversion. It is something we are always seriously asking ourselves about. Where else do we need to grow? Every person, even the holiest among us, needs to ask it. It’s the related to the attitude which President Obama espoused recently at Notre Dame. While our President calls for respectful dialogue, and this is something we should all support, on ways how to lessen the number of abortions, on how to protect the environment, on how to help the poor, and on how to balance the budget, he is not truly interested in dialoguing on abortion, if he meant the words he himself used at Notre Dame. Because if, he admits, we have irreconcilable differences, then what is the purpose of dialogue?

I do think our President is treated poorly in Catholic circles, that he is demonized. I think we all know that he really does think he is helping people by letting women murder children. He’s wrong, but not evil. We need to pray for him daily, not just that he convert but for his family, his health, and other things. But one thing we can be certain about, he should not have been honored with a degree at Notre Dame. He just doesn’t get it when it comes to making laws respecting life. He is sincere, but sincerely wrong, and a sincerely bad lawmaker. His sincerity is not worthy of an honorary law degree. Hopefully, he, like all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic, can ask ourselves, “Where am I still being called to conversion?”

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What the Governor Sebelius Dispute Has Taught Us About Voting

I submitted the following piece one Catholic website and was told it was too long. I should remove all the parts about charity. Then I sent it to Campus Magazine Online on March 26 and was told it would put online shortly. I have been waiting to see it appear and it has not. I was told they were just slow on getting things online, but more recent news has made it to their website, and so I have decided to post this here. I hope you all enjoy it.

What the Governor Sebelius Dispute Has Taught Us About Voting


"Woe to me if I say: 'I believe' and feel safe in that belief. For then I am already in danger of losing it (see Cor 10:12). Woe to me if I say: 'I am a Christian'---possibly with a side-glance at others who in my opinion are not, or at an age that is not, or at a cultural tendency flowing in the opposite direction. Then my so-called Christianity threatens to become nothing but a religious form of self-affirmation. I 'am' not a Christian; I am on the way to becoming one---if God will give me the strength. Christianity is nothing one can 'have'; nor is it a platform from which to judge others. It is movement. I can become a Christian only as long as I am conscious of the possibility of falling away. The gravest danger is not failure of the will to accomplish a certain thing; with God's help I can always pull myself together and begin again. The real danger is that of becoming within myself unchristian, and it is greatest when my will is most sure of itself. I have absolutely no guarantee that I shall be privileged to remain a follower of Christ save in the manner of beginning, of being en route, of becoming, trusting, hoping, and praying" (The Lord, Romano Guardini).

There has been much ado over the recent letter from 26 prominent Catholic, many of whom are theologians, who came out in reaction to those who were being critical of Gov. Sebelius. Their document, “Catholic Citizens Defend Sebelius,” was co-signed by three members of the Boston College faculty: Dr. Lisa Cahill and Rev. David Hollenbach SJ of the theology department and Rev. Thomas Massaro SJ of the School of Theology and Ministry. As a student at Boston College, although I do not know any of them very well, I am familiar with all three.

Professor Cahill and I met for coffee last semester. Professor Cahill struck me as a very nice woman, I was impressed with her great love of her family and her desire to lead students to God, asking me what I, as a young Catholic, thought would be helpful for others. Since then, she has e-mailed me to tell me about campus events that I would find interesting.

Similarly, I have had an e-mail exchange with Fr. Massaro, and I was impressed with his profound charity and wisdom. My peer and friend Max Bindernagel quoted Fr. Massaro in the March 17, 2009 issue of The Observer: “Abortion is seriously wrong, as it ends a human life. As the church teaches, procuring or performing an abortion is a grave sin. Nobody should choose abortion, and it is unfortunate and tragic that our nation's laws do not protect unborn life…I am sad when I read opinion polls reporting that less than half of Catholics reject abortion in all circumstances. I wish we could count on 100% consensus against abortion in our faith community.” There can be no doubt that even if Father Massaro and other Catholics disagree on Gov. Sebelius’ appointment, he cares about the life issues.

Furthermore, Father Hollenbach I have the privilege of attending Mass with sometimes. It is so wonderful that we as Catholics can come together to worship God from all our different places in life: rich, poor, white, black, saint, sinner, young, old, cleric, lay, conservative, liberal. I say this about the three of them to make it very clear: I have much respect for all of them.

The buzz surrounding the nomination of Gov. Sebelius has at times been loud, uncharitable, and not very fruitful. Catholics deserve a serious discussion about the matter, one which takes the time to listen to the other before shouting responses down each other’s throats. This listening must take place. What if one is merely saying that Gov. Sebelius is the best appointment we can expect from President Obama? This would be a reasonable position, and I think most people know this already. If his appointee was not a Catholic, there might be such an uproar in the Catholic community. Catholics aren’t upset at the appointment of someone who holds her views; they expected this. They are upset that it is a Catholic, who should know better, who holds these views.

Let us return to the quote from Guardini: I am not a Christian. I am en route. Although I have no problem saying to a fellow Christian that, as a friend, brother, (and in this case, son) I see something wrong with the way he or she is acting, I am not comfortable playing the “I’m more Catholic than you” game. When this act is public and confuses others, it may required a public response. I do not offer this response as a bishop with authority and I don’t like calling people “Catholics in name only” because of their views or sins. That’s outside my competency.

The statement put forward by the 26 Catholics is very different from support coming from other Catholics. For example, Senator Sam Brownback also endorsed the nomination of Gov. Sebelius. Senator Brownback listed his reasons for endorsing her, being that it is good for Kansas to have someone from Kansas close to the President. He also said that there are disagreements with the Administration on issues. This was not a blanket endorsement. The statement was very nuanced, and those who saw this as a betrayal of the pro-life movement read into the statement things that were simply not there. Additionally, for Senator Brownback, he may be happy that he can now run for governor more easily and not have to worry about Governor Sebelius seeking his seat, if this is what he really does when his current term in the senate expires.

The statement from the 26 prominent Catholics did not contain the same nuance. In fact, it was at times simply false. The statement asserts that the groups opposing Gov. Sebelius solely pick on Democrats. “They politely ignore pro-choice Catholic Republicans like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.” While it is true that pro-abortion rights Democrats come under more fire often, it is because there are simply more of them than Republicans. When there are pro-abortion rights Republicans, they are criticized as well. The signers have forgotten about the American Life League and their "Deadly Dozen" campaign, which targeted people on both sides of the aisle for being both Catholic and pro-abortion rights. In addition, during our Holy Father’s visit to the United States, Cardinal Egan of New York criticized Mayor Rudy Giuliani for receiving the Eucharist. INSERT LINK

Additionally, on May 3, 2007, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, RI wrote, “Without a Doubt: My R.S.V.P to Rudy Giuliani” in which after clearly stating he is not a Republican, he proceeds to blast Mayor Giuliani for his position on abortion and his logic to justify it. At the end, he mentions that this is an issue for both Republicans and Democrats. As for Gov. Schwarzenegger, I don’t think his bishop has criticized Democrats for their position either, so it’s a moot point that he hasn’t been criticized. Clearly, this isn’t partisan politics.

The statement also claims that Gov. Sebelius is pro-life. This is very hard to reconcile with her statement from 1989 when she said, “There are certain inalienable rights established for a person, but those are not applied in utero.” It is not merely enough for a Catholic lawmaker to never have an abortion; she must also fight to protect life. This is what justice demands and to what the Church calls Catholics. If Democrats want to convince Catholics that their method of reducing abortion works better than the Republican one, we should have that discussion while still trying to outlaw abortion. To argue that Democrats have the right means (providing for women) while they have the wrong ends in mind (reduction of abortions to a number other than zero) is not acceptable. However, this does not mean that the members of the pro-life movement want to pass laws which throw women into prison for having abortions. Women are normally the second-victim in an abortion. When those who are pro-abortion rights say this, they are using a red-herring. Gov. Sebelius’ record on abortion from her entire career can be found easily enough by Google. It’s not as glorious as these signers would have us think. The rate at which abortion went down under her tenure was not much more than the national average, and she has more to explain than just one gubernatorial veto. It is not my place to get into that here. I’ll leave that to the confirmation hearings, but I will quote again from the aforementioned article by Max Bindernagel, “For example, even though abortion has declined at least 7% since 2003 during her terms as governor, Michael J. New of the University of Alabama noted that such a decline is consistent with a 6% decrease in abortions from 1999 to 2003, before her election. In Sebelius’s own gubernatorial online column, she noted that those who go without health care insurance has increased in Kansas for three consecutive years as of 2008 (column dated Oct. 22, 2008).”

Additionally, in that same article by Bindernagel, Prof. Cahill said, “There seems to be a priority given to abortion as the number one issue Catholics are interested in….People think Catholics are about abortion and that’s it….It’s not right to me for the focus to be on abortion. It has a priority as an issue that it should not have… [giving it that priority] is not what the bishops, or the pope, have said.” This can be seen as in line with the original statement signed by Cahill which said, “Finally, contrary to the right-wing blogosphere, abortion is not the only issue of concern to Catholics.”

It is certainly correct to say that abortion is not the only issue of concern to Catholics, but it is also correct to say it is the primary concern in the United States today, as it is one which involves life and death. Has Prof. Cahill become used to the status quo and forgotten what is at stake here?

As the bishops of Kansas wrote in a joint pastoral letter in 2008, “A properly formed conscience must give such issues priority even over other matters with important moral dimensions.” When he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI said in a letter to the US Bishops, “When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” The Kansas bishops say that no such proportionate reason existed in the last election cycle. A proportionate reason would have to be another life-and-death matter, not merely health care. The Kansas bishops were not alone in their understanding, with many bishops issuing statements clarifying on how Catholics should form their consciences before voting.

It is ironic that Professor Cahill would say that the bishops have not said that abortion gets priority before. She must have forgotten that just a few months earlier in National Catholic Reporter, she published a piece titled “U.S. Bishops damaging rich Catholic faith tradition.” In it, she argued that the bishops were abusing their power by saying that the life-issue gets priority. Either Prof. Cahill was imagining statements from the bishops which never came out when she wrote her first piece has since realized this, or she is wrong now and forgotten that they had issued these earlier statements that so bothered her.

However, the greatest problem with the statement from the 26 Catholics is that it confuses the faithful. While it may be that Gov. Sebelius is the most qualified person that a rabidly pro-abortion rights president such as the current one would ever appoint, all Catholics should be in agreement that a 100% pro-life version of Gov. Sebelius would be preferable. Where will we find such a person? Well, ideally, it would come to the point in our nation where every elected Republican and Democrat was in line with the Catholic Church on these matters. One would think that with so many Catholics and other pro-life people we could have achieved this by now. However, Catholics are confused on how to vote for two reasons. One, they are often told not to worry about the pro-life issue at the lowest levels of voting, such as their town mayor, who will not really affect abortion policy. This is true, but someday Mayor Abortion-Rights is going to run for senate, and then his position on abortion will matter. At the same time, theologians (on both sides) say things such as, “If it came down to Mayor Giuliani and Senator Clinton for president in 2008, it would have been morally acceptable to vote for Mayor Giuliani since he would have been more likely to appoint a conservative justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade.” Maybe this is true. However, such compromises do not need to be made at the local level, where a Catholic write-in campaign could have a chance of electing a representative to the state house without compromise. Catholic theologians need to say that there is at times a moral obligation that when there is no pro-life candidate running for local office, some Catholic step-up and do it. Such a campaign is not a viable option for higher offices, but without ever taking advantage of this option locally, there is never going to be a day when the only members of both party who could run for president are pro-life because the only people who are currently qualified office-holders are already pro-life.

Catholic theologians need to stop justifying compromise, confusing the lay faithful with vague documents that do not do a justice to the full body of Catholic thought, and uncritically stating false facts about politicians. At the same time, the Catholic discussion on who is right on the negotiable issues like tax-structure or how to provide health care needs to take place. Our entire discussion cannot be about whether we can compromise on the non-negotiable issues like abortion in order to get health-care, since we haven’t even discussed whether we want health-care. It makes no sense. Finally, Catholic theologians must explain to the lay faithful that compromising when it is not necessary is not a moral option. It’s time to take back our state houses one district at a time so that fifteen years from now we aren’t in the same place we are now: a radical pro-abortion rights president that Catholics elected because both candidates were lousy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I apologize for the lack of posting. It's been a busy semester.

A priest I know used to tell me that there is no such thing as a coincidence, only God-cidences. I call it providence.

Tonight, the Sons of St. Patrick, as part of its in world, working retreat, had planned a walking rosary for 7 PM. I mistakenly thought it was at 7:30. I showed up at 7:31 and no one was at the meeting place. I had the right place, but the wrong time. One of my friends, not participating in the retreat, walks out of the building where we were supposed to meet. He is one of my favorite people at Boston College and one of the people I would like to know more but he is very busy. He reminds me of me when I was his age, but he's far more loving.

He had been on a retreat this past weekend, and he wanted to talk about it with me. On the retreat, he asked about how one knows whether or not he is called to diocesan priesthood, and he explained what he was feeling inside of him. He's explained it to me before in the past, and I've told him, "That's your sign. You are being called." I have only ever thought this about three people and he's the only one I've said it to. I don't throw it around often. Many times I have no idea what advice to give people about discernment. With a few, it's blatantly obvious. However, some aren't ready to hear how God is calling them because of various reasons. Back to him: he was told the same thing on the retreat. He wanted to talk about it.

It turns out I was at the right place at the right time after all.