Viewpoints

Joyful priesthood one of family, brotherhood

My call to priesthood came in October 1962. I was in the eighth grade, serving Mass for a novena of prayer in my parish, St. Louise de Marillac in Jennings, in preparation for the Second Vatican Council.

When I told Father Jack Burke I was planning to apply to St. Louis University High School, he suggested that I consider the seminary high school. I did and was accepted. I graduated in 1967, then attended Cardinal Glennon College. I was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1975. Clearly my parish priest was instrumental in my priestly vocation.

My call developed in various phases: When I was in high school I wanted to be a priest because I saw my parish priest as a model; when I was in college I was attracted to the Church’s role in bringing about improvements in society in terms of service to the poor, race relations and promoting justice; when I was in the School of Theology I saw my priestly vocation as who I was called to be according to the plan of God.

The fallacy behind same-sex “marriage”

With several states now having legalized same-sex “marriage,” we are faced by a constant stream of media publicity designed to persuade us that this revolutionary change in our ethical and social norms, and in the whole legally recognized nature of family life, is both morally imperative and historically inevitable.

A rhetorical weapon currently being wielded in this campaign is a comparison to the legalization of interracial marriage in the earlier civil rights struggle. We are being bombarded with propaganda to the effect that opposition to gay marriage is a form of outrageous bigotry as bad as racism. In a decision several years ago that prompted California’s Proposition 8 referendum last year, the California Supreme Court reasoned that just as that state’s prohibition of black-white marriage was ruled discriminatory and unconstitutional back in 1948, the prohibition of same-sex marriage should be overturned for the same reason.

Benedict XVI and the truth about charity

Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate [Charity in Truth], is a complex and occasionally obscure document, replete with possible implications for the future development of Catholic social doctrine. Sorting those implications out will take much time and even more careful reflection. Along the information superhighway, however, careful reflection hit a few potholes in the early going, as sundry partisans sought to capture Caritas in Veritate as a weapon with which to bolster the Obama administration’s economic, health care and social welfare policies.

Thus in the days immediately following the encyclical’s July 7 release, we were treated to the amusing, if somewhat ironic, spectacle of self-consciously progressive Catholic magazines, bloggers, and free-lancers, many of whom would have preferred to eat ground glass rather than see Joseph Ratzinger as Bishop of Rome, blasting those who dared raise questions about the encyclical’s intellectual provenance and some of its formulations.

Twenty Something: Grace is sufficient when dollars are short

Baited by the prospect of $1 million, she turned down $172,000 and then wound up with $5.

“You know, Howie, money doesn’t make me happy,” the defeated contestant told the host of NBC’s Deal or No Deal. The audience cringed and clapped.

Whenever I catch a rerun of this retired reality show, I cannot flip the switch until the final briefcase is opened and the verdict revealed.

I am fascinated by the quick calculus of risk and reward. Does the chance of luxury override the certainty of comfort? Does the possibility of a mansion trump the elimination of a mortgage? For many contestants, yes.

They are prodded by the deafening chorus, “No deal!” Even the parents and spouses — the ones you expect to inject a little common sense, the ones who actually will be affected by the outcome — join the mob. 

“I’m the most conservative person when it comes to this game,” a husband donned in khakis and an argyle sweater tells his pregnant wife, given the final offer of $561,000. “But I have to agree with your mom on this rare occasion and say ‘no deal.’”

When the queasy contestant cooperates, the audience voices its approval, cheering on the audacity and the lunacy.

On the Priesthood: My time in priesthood has brought love, happiness

“Priests who like being priests are among the happiest men in the world.” Those words of Father Andrew Greeley lifted me out of my chair when I read them. “Andy, you’re right!” I e-mailed him: “I can confirm that from my own experience.” 

Why would any man in his right mind want to be a Catholic priest today? At the height of the sexual abuse crisis in 2002, retired Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco answered this question:

“I believe that this is the best time in the history of the Church to be a priest, because it is a time when there can be only one reason for being a priest or for remaining a priest — that is to ‘be with’ Christ. It is not for perks or applause or respect or position or money or any other worldly gain or advantage. Those things either no longer exist or are swiftly passing. The priest of today is forced to choose whether he wants to give himself to the real Christ, who embraced poverty, including the poverty of the commonplace, rejection, misrepresentation — the real Christ of the Gospels — or whether, with the mistaken throngs of Jesus’ time, he wants an earthly, worldly messiah for whom success follows upon success.”

I have yet to encounter rejection. On the contrary, I have experienced love and support from those we were ordained to serve, far beyond anything we deserve. On Holy Thursday in 2002, St. Louis priests gathered for the Chrism Mass at which priests all over the world renew our priestly commitment, and the bishop consecrates the Holy Oils to be used in the ensuing year. As we walked into our cathedral, more than 200 strong, we passed through ranks of applauding laypeople holding signs which said: “We support our priests.” “We love our priests.” I cannot have been the only priest whose eyes were moist.  

Where do we stand after President Obama's Notre Dame speech?

Where do things stand, two months after the University of Notre Dame defied the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend and some 80 of his fellow-bishops by awarding an honorary doctorate of laws to the university’s 2009 commencement speaker, the president of the United States?

From the administration’s point of view, President Obama’s Notre Dame speech was an unmitigated success. The president was eloquent, high-minded, and decent-spirited. He also did something no previous president had ever done—he injected himself into the ongoing debate among U.S. Catholics over Catholic identity, by suggesting that the “real” Catholics were those who, like Notre Dame, welcomed him for “dialogue.” This storyline—that the Notre Dame controversy was about openness and dialogue, on the one hand, versus narrow-mindedness and fanaticism, on the other—was successfully sold to the national media by the administration, aided and abetted by the president’s Catholic intellectual acolytes. That, in the process of fostering “dialogue,” the administration was playing wedge politics, dividing a significant number of the Catholic bishops of the United States from their people, went largely unremarked.

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