Saturday, July 27, 2013

Archbishop Broglio Discusses Challenges for Catholics in the Armed Forces

The head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services reiterates his concern for greater conscience protection.

07/26/2013 Comments (1)
Archbishop Timothy Broglio
Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services is the spiritual leader of 1.8 million Catholics.
During a July 25 interview with Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond, he discusses emerging challenges to the religious freedom of Catholics in uniform in the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
Archbishop Broglio notes that Catholic chaplains may not be able to hold marriage retreats in the future, and he endorsed Louisiana Rep. John Fleming’s amendment that would strengthen conscience protections for military personnel.
Amid a serious shortage of Catholic chaplains — just 250 to serve Catholics on military bases at home and abroad — he notes that some evangelical groups are drawing Catholics into their churches.

Are Catholic chaplains and service members facing challenges to the practice of their faith right now?
The challenges are twofold. One is the preservation of their own freedom of conscience, which is well guaranteed by the First Amendment. I don’t think any Catholic chaplain will be asked to do anything against his conscience. But the military has ways to deal with those they want to reprimand, and that can come through promotions and assignments.
Second, some chaplains charged with the pastoral care of Catholics in the military are asking, “Are these orders I am asked to fulfill, with regard to people in same-gendered unions, a responsibility I must meet?” That is a more difficult question, and we are still wrestling with it so we can give good guidance.

In late April and early May, several statements were issued by the Department of Defense and the Air Force on the subject of religious proselytization, and critics argued that the Pentagon was suppressing religious speech. But on May 2, DOD issued a clarifying statement, “Service members can share their faith (evangelize) but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization).” Are you satisfied with that statement?
Basically, we are dealing with a situation in which publicity was created in order to call attention to a given organization, which had requested a meeting at the Pentagon. The clarification is there for anyone who might be concerned about previous statements.

How is proselytization defined?
You are asking them if they have been saved and inviting them to your services in a demanding way. Chaplains are officers and exert a certain influence

What issues could become problematic, now that the Defense of Marriage Act has been overturned?
A Catholic chaplain will certainly not be required to witness any ceremony contrary to his religious beliefs. Even if he is called to counsel two people in this situation, he could send them to someone who might be able to help them. Obviously, that is where we begin to get into issues where there may be difficulties.
Chaplains hold marriage retreats — “Strong Bonds” retreats. Probably Catholic priests will not be able to conduct retreats if there are same-gendered unions.

Last week, Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Conference’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told The Washington Post, “I’m worried about the silencing of various voices in order to have a generic civil religion we can all agree on.” Is that a danger?
That is a danger. We have already seen that happen with various Protestant groups. If you go to a military base, you don’t see a marquee on the chapel announcing when the Methodists or Presbyterians are meeting. You will see “Traditional Protestant” service, “Gospel” service and, perhaps, “Contemporary Protestant” service. In a certain sense, the military has already amalgamated groups into something like generic Protestants.
We wouldn’t want to see that go any farther. Any attempt to melt the Catholic Church into a generic civil religion would effectively deny the freedom of conscience the First Amendment guarantees.
This has been tried in the past — if you look at Nazi Germany and some of the conniving attempts of Stalin.
A chaplain is on a base so he can provide for religious education and formation for his people. If they can’t do that, then we shouldn’t have chaplains in the military.

What is the role of a military chaplain, and how could that role change in the future?
He has a defined religious role, according to his faith tradition.
He is also a counselor. He is the one person on the base that any member of the military or a child or spouse can talk to — and he does not have to report what they talked about. That is confidential and is well defined in the military.
As a command chaplain, he has the responsibility to advise the commander about the tenor of morale on the installation. The chaplain can also go to the commander and present situations and needs. He has access. As an officer, he has responsibility for keeping himself fit and participating in the life of the community.

You have endorsed Rep. John Fleming’s amendment to strengthen religious freedom, which was included in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate Armed Services Committee passed a similar amendment on a bipartisan vote, though President Obama has vowed to veto Fleming’s amendment.
It is certainly needed, because we have to ensure that the rights guaranteed under the Constitution are reaffirmed and expressed positively as it applied to the military. The reaction it has provoked shows that is indeed necessary.
It will reiterate and reinforce the conscience rights of all believers, especially as there are attempts to cast aspersions on those beliefs by calling them “hate speech.”
In a certain sense, those who oppose conscience protections are the same ones who want to define what a religion is and is not, and that is exactly what the Constitution does not permit.

Recently, some voices in the debate over religious freedom have argued that the threat to conscience rights comes from aggressive evangelical groups that have sought to convert Catholic service members. They have asked the Pentagon to clamp down on such efforts to proselytize. Has the Archdiocese for the Military Services received such reports, and would you describe it as a serious problem?
It is a problem. We have had evidence. I have heard of people baptized as Catholics who were then later converted to other Protestant denominations because of this presence.
I don’t want to color this as a malicious thing. They are much more numerous than we are. Catholic priests are at a premium in the military. This is a concern of the archdiocese and one reason why we have tried to strengthen our catechetical outreach and help Catholics deepen their understanding and appreciation for the faith.
If there was a clear issue of proselytization, I would bring it to the attention of the chief of chaplains.

Pope Francis on the "Culture of Encounter": the Truth who is Christ, ever to be proclaimed

Called to promote the "Culture of Encounter"

"Unfortunately, in many places, generally in this economic humanism that prevails in the world, the culture of exclusion, of rejection, is spreading. There is no place for the elderly or for the unwanted child; there is no time for that poor person on the edge of the street. At times, it seems that for some people, human relations are regulated by two modern “dogmas”: efficiency and pragmatism. Dear Bishops, priests, religious and you, seminarians who are preparing for ministry: have the courage to go against the tide. Let us not reject this gift of God which is the one family of his children. Encountering and welcoming everyone, solidarity... this is a word that in this culture is being hidden away, as if it was a swear word... solidarity and fraternity: these are what make our society truly human.

"Be servants of communion and of the culture of encounter! Permit me to say that we must be almost obsessive in this matter. We do not want to be presumptuous, imposing “our truths”. What must guide us is the humble yet joyful certainty of those who have been found, touched and transformed by the Truth who is Christ, ever to be proclaimed (cf. Lk 24:13-35)."

- Pope Francis, Message to clergy, religious and seminarians in Rio

Full text:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Finding God by losing your religion?

I would not be too surprised to find that the people who "lose their religion" in order to "find God" are the same ones who redefine marriage in the name of "equality".

I overheard some oil baron types talking about religion and the Catholic Fath in an Anchorage hotel lobby so I stepped up and joined them.  After finding out I am a priest one of them was quick to share about a woman he knows who is so happy that she "lost her religion and found God".  A cute slogan, that, and very effective also in intimidating someone who may be moved to disagree.

If we are talking about paganism or non-revealed religions such an approach might work very well.  I suspect though, that nearly everyone who boasts of "losing their religion" would be just as forthright in also declaring themselves Christians.  In that case, the clever-sounding catch-phrase is too cute to be true: Christianity is a revealed religion, that is, not made up by us but taught and led only by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is very clear that He intended to found a Church, so those who absolve themselves of the task of finding out which is the true Church,among the very many ecclesial bodies which today claim that name, are copping out.

Archbishop Chaput warned recently about the danger of adopting slogans like "marriage equality" that sound compassionate but serve only to mask a lie.  His counsel is good for all of us as we dedicate ourselves to the witness of the New Evangelization.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mertarvik, Alaska

View from the chapel toward Moses' house and the construction site of the new shelter completed by the Seabees and Marines in these weeks.

Moses, fourth from left, next to his wife, Marie, their daughter with her husband and three children joined us for Mass on a brilliantly sunny July 7 at 5 pm in the new chapel location in a SWA hut on the top of the hill at Mertarvki near his home.

Preparing for holy Mass in "The Little Chapel on the Tundra"

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Leaving the ninety-nine": Evangelizing beyond the church doors

Most priests and Catholics meet other Catholics only because tbey show up for Mass on Sundays.  Military chaplains, by contrast, more often meet those Catholics who choose not to practice, as they enjoy the privilege of extended periods of unparalleled access to the most underrepresented group in our churches today: twenty- and thirty-something uncommitted singles.

As an active-duty chaplain for years I lived and worked with this particular age group every day on shipboard and on bases in the United States and Italy.  Now a Reserve chaplain, I spend one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer eating, working, training and sometimes praying with them.

Members of this group, in contrast to previous generations, have less in common with each other based on faith background as opposed to values learned outside of church and beyond practicing Catholic families. They are more likely to oppose Church teaching in matters of marriage, human life, and sexuality and to question the need for worship, sacraments or anything specifically Catholic.  They do believe in God and will on occasion pray with others.  in other words, they are proof that the catechetical emergency is real being as they are the fruit of fifty years of Catholic deconstruction.

Members of this age group who are committed to the Faith are more likely to value Latin, traditional worship and customs and to enthusiastically defend Church moral teaching as if the last fifty years never happened.  A much smaller group within their age cohort, the task of evangelizing their peers will largely fall to them.

Recently on deployment I spoke to a young Mormon Marine who married a Catholic of Mexican background. They have formed a Mormon home together in dramatic contrast to what would have happened fifty years ago: the Catholic party with the support of her priest and family behind her would have insisted on continuing to practice the Catholic Faith.

I also surveyed baptized Catholics who now often refer to themselves more frequently as having been "raised Catholic".  This description could range in meaning from a gentle way of saying that someone has "moved away" from Church or simply to indicate the non-committal approach typical of many young adults. Family break-up through divorce has a decisive effect on whether young people practice their Faith into adulthood.

All of this means that evangelization in the years ahead will require working to preserve access to young people beyond conventional Church functions, approaching, dialoguing and building relationships with young people outside of Mass and other conventional Catholic events and much prayer and patience born of Christ's saving love for them.

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The Mass Appeals to Those Who Obey God

By Father Kevin M. Cusick

Ex-Catholics do not always go on only to affiliating with some other ecclesial organization.  Sometimes they also take up a “ministry” of proselytizing Catholics.  One such character who plies his trade on Facebook is John Farina and one of his techniques involves claiming that some Mass-attending Catholics are “secretly bored” and to whom he then offers to reach out with an offer of “help”.

An large ecclesial organization near my church In Maryland is heavily invested in entertainment, evidently in agreement with John that one of the capital sins in religious services is to risk the boredom of the congregants.  They offer meals, movies and other perks to keep people “interested” and active.

Catholics have just as much capacity for fun as anyone else, to include going to movies, having meals and visiting with each other.  Some do it so well that they are accused of taking it to excess.  But why do Catholics not place first priority upon entertainment in our religious services?  Why does the Catholic Mass, when viewed from a certain perspective, seem to knowingly leave worshipers at risk of boredom, relying as it does on repeated texts, music and other elements of the liturgy?

A look at Zechariah chapters 12 and 13 and the way his prophecies are fulfilled in the worship of the Mass as practiced by faithful Catholics can give us some insight.

“Thus says the LORD: I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition.”  First comes the work of the Spirit, for we cannot give what we do not have.  The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon the Church, beginning at Pentecost.  Worship of God, knowing and loving God must be done in the Spirit and when one does what the Church does one always does it in the Spirit, to include Sunday worship.  As well, the Scriptures teach that the Spirit is given to those who obey God.  When we obey the commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy and do so together with the other baptized members of the Body of Christ at our local parish we are given the gift of God’s Spirit.

“  … and they shall look on him whom they have pierced”  You may have noticed that wherever the Mass is celebrated the crucifix is displayed.  That is, an image of the Lord on the Cross is given a place of prominence within the assembly.  When we proclaim God’s Word in Scripture together as His Church and approach His altar of sacrifice we remember that His self-giving is the source of our life.  As well, when the priest holds aloft the consecrated Host during the liturgy of the Eucharist within the Mass we also look on Him who we have pierced but who now lives, having risen from the tomb.  The Eucharistic Christ we behold in the hands of the priest is the Easter Christ, having conquered sin and eath and who offers us a share in His victory.  Christ Himself commanded that we celebrate the Mass as the memorial of His death until he comes.

“ … and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.”  Zechariah is quite right that the natural reaction to the death of a loved one is to mourn.  Grace builds on nature: when we approach His Cross in order to share in His resurrection we never do so without a measure of sorrow for the suffering the Lord had to endure for our sins.  Thus the Mass always ahs about it a measure of the solemn and the serious, making the idea of entertainment  somewhat ludicrous.  There was nothing entertaining about Calvary.

“On that day there shall be open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.”  Most wonderfully, the living Christ whom we really and truly receive in the Eucharist is that fountain, for it is from His pierced side as He hung upon the Cross that the living stream of Zechariah’s prophecy flows through the Church throughout history and into each of our lives.  Christ purifies from sin and uncleanness through the power of His mercy.  A sublime joy through which we “lift up our hearts” is the right and proper disposition for such a moment above all others and thus for the celebration of Holy Mass.

These reasons, just some of the many, are why we celebrate holy Mass above all on the Lord’s Day: “It is right and just.”

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Kamsahamnida, Dziekuje, Terima kasih, Doh je, Grazie, Tesekur, Gracias, Dank u, Shukran

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