Regular readers may remember that there was a local parish staff person present at Holy Wisdom Monastery when I went there to deliver testimonies of local parish Catholics on why Catholics shouldn’t support the place. I carefully avoided any identifying info, but reported that I also gave the testimonies to that person. Without any happiness, but with a preparation of prayer, it’s time to tell that story.
His name is Ed Emmenegger, and he is a pastoral associate at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Madison. Parish bulletins describe him as director of RCIA; he also visits the home-bound and those in nursing homes. Ed has an extensive history of service in local parishes; before he began working at Blessed Sacrament in 2001, he was a DRE at Saint Dennis Parish, if I recall correctly what one of his former catechists there told me. He served also for six years as Society of Saint Vincent de Paul District Council President, ending in 2009. Based on his LinkedIn page and other sources, Ed has a priest’s education from Loyola University and the University of Saint Mary of the Lake (Mundelein Seminary) from which he graduated in 1974. Ed is now a married layman, with four grown children. Particularly because he is very oriented toward serving the less fortunate, I know confidently that there are many lovely things about Ed, and things he has done that give him much credit, and I regret that because I do not know him personally I do not have have the details to cite that would humanize the good qualities I know that he possesses.
Blessed Sacrament Parish is staffed by Dominican Friars, and the current pastor, Fr DePorres Durham, OP, is I believe new in town as of last November. There are many very good things to say of Blessed Sacrament, and some have said that it used to be really off-the-rails liberal in the past and has gotten much better in the last few years. Nevertheless, Blessed Sacrament is one of several local parishes which in recent years hosted a variety of programs presented by the members of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters’ HWM-connected Wisdom’s Well Interfaith Spirituality Center, the members of which Bishop Morlino disapproved last year to to be speakers on Catholic premises. Those leading programs at Blessed Sacrament included not only Sr Lynn Lisbeth and Sr Maureen McDonnell, but surprisingly even Beth O’Brien, a Holy Wisdom Monastery Oblate who attends their Sunday Assembly; Beth for instance hosted a Bridges to Contemplative Living course at Blessed Sacrament as recently as fall of 2012.
And if you don’t know what Holy Wisdom Monastery is then none of this will make sense, so have a look at my extensive coverage of that. In short, it used to be a Catholic Benedictine monastery, but the Sisters quite publicly left their vows, left the Church and now host a lay-led invalid “eucharist” called “Sunday Assembly”, as well as various activist dissent groups aimed against various unchangeable Catholic beliefs, that simply function to confuse people and estrange them from the Church. One of the most scandalous aspects of the Holy Wisdom tragedy, to my mind, was that a whole array of religious sisters and monks remained supportive of the former Benefictine sisters as they left the Catholic Faith and took many laity with them. Numerous religious continued to frequently give talks at Holy Wisdom, for instance, including the Wisdom’s Well members and certain other Sinsinawa Dominicans. Religiously-indifferent, morally relativistic dissenters inside the Church are among those helping usher people out of the Faith and away from the saving Sacraments, and to feel comfortable with that choice.
Last November, Ed Emmenegger wrote an article for Holy Wisdom Monastery’s email newsletter, which I took notice of when I was browsing their website in mid December. He describes how he first began coming regularly to Holy Wisdom Monastery to participate in their version of Morning Prayer.
On Thanksgiving weekend 2009, while many were still gratefully celebrating the opening of the sparkling and highly acclaimed monastery building, I decided more prayer in my life would be a good thing for Advent. I wanted to see if I could build on positive experiences of morning prayer I’ve had away on retreat in past years. Though I had often prayed in thanksgiving and wonder while walking the trails of Holy Wisdom for years, I wondered if I might re-awaken the love for a time of shared prayer in the morning.
He kept going there on a regular basis since that time. The enjoyment he had seems to have been been a contrast from how he felt about praying the Liturgy of the Hours in his past–”an experience I avoided and which left me lifeless in an earlier phase when it was an expected part of my daily schedule.” The language of prayer corresponds with beliefs (“lex orandi, lex credendi”), and at Holy Wisdom the beliefs profoundly differ from Catholic ones and so too in turn does their prayer language differ. All liturgy at Holy Wisdom is neutered, for instance: “In the name of the Creator and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier….” In a recent email Abbot Rooney said to me this type of thing “is what happens when one buys into the secular feminist agenda — which is very anti-Catholic, anti-Scriptures, and anti-Tradition.” It is worth noting also, I was recently present at an event at Blessed Sacrament Parish where prayers apparently drawn from the Dominican Sisters’ non-approved Liturgy of the Hours style prayerbook were used, with similarly non-gendered words for God. Two Dominican priests present willingly prayed this as “Evening Prayer,” but some lay people were quick to say this was an anomaly, when I spoke up. May God bless and help faithful lay people!
In his article, Ed takes care to specify certain boundaries to his participation at Holy Wisdom:
I don’t make it every morning. Sundays I’m at the Catholic parish where I am on staff as pastoral associate. A couple of other days a week I have early morning commitments, making my average about four times a week. And I only come in the morning — it’s close to home then, and a way to focus my day at work. Admittedly it’s the only time available in my current daily schedule, but dawn and dusk have always seemed the most vivid time to engage the Source of all being, eternal Word and gentle Spirit.
And that’s truly important: he doesn’t go to their “Sunday Assembly,” but to Mass. I also notice what it doesn’t say: he doesn’t even hint that Catholics who go to Sunday Assembly rather than Mass are gravely failing to practice their Faith, and he doesn’t mention his wife, a “disaffected Catholic” participant in the Holy Wisdom Monastery Sunday Assembly, who has helped organize their children’s ministry, served as a reader at their Sunday service, and organized charitable donations. When I greeted Ed at Holy Wisdom on Ash Wednesday, she was seated by his side wearing her Holy Wisdom nametag.
I emailed diocesan Vicar General Monsignor James Bartylla and Blessed Sacrament pastor Fr DePorres Durham. “As someone who prays the Liturgy of the Hours, going to a non Catholic community like Holy Wisdom to pray some version of that is not something that I would do. It seems like their newsletter may be using him to bolster their credibility with Catholics,” I wrote. “Maybe I am totally misunderstanding, if so I very deeply apologize, but his involvement with Holy Wisdom seems like terrible judgement, unless he were more unambiguously there to re-evangelize, to invite people back to Catholic belief and the practice of the Faith.” No reply. I did hear through Bob Bright that Fr DePorres told Ed of my email.
It wasn’t a happy moment for me when I recognized Ed on Ash Wednesday in the Holy Wisdom sanctuary. He also realized who I was as I approached him. I simply handed him the testimonies, in a manila envelope. I saw him open and look at it. After the service he approached me. “Ed, I don’t think you should support this place,” I said quietly. He said he realized that (ie, that I think that) but asked “to discuss the reasons why you think I should not participate at Holy Wisdom.” I indicated the reasons were given in the testimonies, but he nevertheless wanted to meet later, to which I agreed while feeling in over my head, and he gave me his Blessed Sacrament business card.
I prayed, and I emailed him as he wished. I strongly didn’t want to wind up in a situation where he would try to defend continued support of Holy Wisdom at a meeting, and so my email was firm and clear: “I believe that if you do not support Holy Wisdom Monastery and its errors, you need to make that clear and public and act in accord with that, and if you do support them then you must not be on a parish or Catholic organization staff.” I also told him not to expect any confidentiality in regards to our meeting. I included a link to a blog post of my personal conversion story, “Falling off my Horse”–a story that makes clear both my intimate personal understanding of religious progressives, and how decisively I have turned away from the points of view typical of something like Holy Wisdom Monastery, and leaves no room for thinking I could be persuaded that it’s simply okay.
His reply began in this way:
I am concerned that my invitation to talk with you was taken in the wrong way. I don’t have any need to “defend” myself, and I don’t have any reason to be held accountable to defend anything to you. My interest in talking with you was to understand better how God is calling you to take such a forceful role in resolving what you perceive as problems that need to be corrected.
He exercises pastoral skills and says some things that are not unkind toward me. In regards to my conversion story, it helps him to understand me, however “I must confess that I don’t understand why you feel a need to put so much about yourself and others in the public forum.” In regards to the entirely anonymous, non-evaluative mentions of his presence in my post Sister Simone Campbell at Formerly-Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery, “how strange it was to read something on your blog about me, because you really don’t know me, and what you might write about does not really represent the reality of who I am.” Finally, he quoted Tielhard de Chardin via Timothy Dolan’s book Doers of the Word, and wanted us both to pray about the quote which touches on patience and trusting in the slow work of God. Maybe you, dear reader, have as little use for Tielhard as I do, but nevertheless we can all for a moment pray on that. You and I do not change hearts. God’s grace changes hearts.
More recently, a newspaper article (which quoted me pointing out HWM is perhaps best known locally for substantive rejection of the Catholic faith, and that priests and sisters should know they are not sending a good message if they attend events there) and a statement on the diocesan website revealed that in March Bishop Morlino contacted religious from various places, and all his diocesan priests and told them not to attend events at Holy Wisdom Monastery. I am consoled that I was not alone in feeling there were problems that needed to be corrected.
I never received any responses from Father DePorres in regards to this, either at that time or more recently when, in preparation for this blog article, I inquired to him again by email, nor did Ed respond to a similar recent inquiry, with any further comment. I did not release Ed’s name as part of my February blog coverage of this topic, out of respect for Ed’s long and in many ways extremely positive service in the Church, and hope that this could get clarified and get better discreetly. But I am not aware of anything being better, and remain concerned and dismayed that Ed turned down every opportunity he had to clarify to me or to mutual friend Bob Bright (a great Blessed Sacrament parishioner, Saint Vincent de Paul member, and former Holy Wisdom board member who wrote the first of the “testimonies“), whether he disgrees with the errors of Holy Wisdom. In particular it’s because he’s a pastoral associate and director of RCIA for a parish that I decided to write this.
As I wrote in one of my unanswered messages to Fr. DePorres:
I both believe this whole thing with HWM is a considerably serious situation, and have prayed a good deal for everyone’s good. Father, I do not know Ed personally, as he accurately says in his own email. And it is not to me that he is accountable, as he also rightly says. We are all of course accountable to Jesus, present Body, Blood Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament.
There was an article recently on the website of the National Catholic Register that I found myself clicking back to multiple times.
If Catholicism is true, why isn’t everything we do ordered around this Truth?
The incongruity between what we claim to believe and the lives we live is revealing. Any honest outsider can surely tell that we can’t possibly believe what we say we believe. Not only is our religion a fraud, but so are we Christians.
That’s what Catholics as a whole communicate about Catholicism.
This is for all of us.
[UPDATE: the following is my response to an email from a person whose startled concern some other readers might share. I heartily forgive anyone who finds this very unpleasant, because it's extremely unpleasant to me too. On the other hand, the most common response people have made is thanking me, though I am not looking for that either--please pray to Holy Spirit our advocate and helper.]
If I understand correctly, you feel I’ve committed the sin of detraction, which has to do with revealing another’s sins without just and proportionate cause. Detraction is a very real sin, but when there is in fact just cause to reveal something someone has done, and particularly when there is the potential for correcting a problem, then revealing what someone has done can be the right thing to do and is not in that case the sin of detraction… like the IRS whistleblowers, to give a current secular example. I acted with care not to sin by detraction–and knowing some people would interpret it that way anyway and I might even lose friends, because of some people not seeing the matter as serious as it truly is, or needing correction.
[...] If I had made his involvement there public immediately it would have been less surprising to people than doing a post specifically about him, but instead I tried to go about it entirely discreetly hoping there would NOT be a reason to make it public, and brought it into public only after there was, very surprisingly to me, absolutely no acknowledgement from Ed that HWM is problematic, no response from the pastor, and after much prayer.
Graces of the Holy Spirit to you on this Pentecost, please pray for me,
I’ve talked many times on my blog about my volunteer job with the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul homeless program Vinnie’s Lockers. The people who come to us have all manner of troubles and ailments. Some are obvious, some non obvious.
“William” first joined a couple years ago, with an unavoidably obvious one. He is in his 30s and is good-natured and likeable. He has long hair in a ponytail and has generally worn female clothing when he comes to see us. In a conversation about this one time, he told me that this was something he decided to do when he was a teenager; according to him, female identity was something he had chosen. It is said that some men do this because they are same sex attracted, others because they are attracted to the idea of themselves as female; William seems to me to be one of the latter type. Either way their relationships are deeply affected and they present a false face; they are unable to live out what Pope John Paul II called “the nuptial meaning of the body”. William was diagnosed as having “gender identity disorder”, which these days is often “treated” mainly by helping the person to live contentedly as their preferred gender. He has long been in regular psychotherapy, and was prescribed female hormones that would make him grow breast tissue, softer skin and finer hair. He has sought for some while to change his legal identity and name to female, and in the past claimed someone from the Salvation Army was helping him with that.
It is not charity to cooperate with someone’s illness of this type. To do so is to cooperate in their self-deception and unchastity. God Who made him a man continues to look on him as a man, and this man is a son to his mother and father, brother to his siblings and father to his children, if he has any–and we should have the courage to witness to the goodness of all this. I consider very firmly that one has to be truly and unfailingly charitable and kind to such a person, but to have the right kind of compassion toward them as someone who has suffered because of sexual confusion and been incredibly ill served by others who cooperated with it. I have known and cared about several people with similar problems, including an uncle, the now ex-husband of my aunt and father of my two cousins, who decided after many years of marriage to live as a woman, which broke up the family–who were Unitarian Universalists, whose “religious” training formed them to support him in that.
William had been gone for almost a year, and when he returned today I learned he’d been in prison again. I asked why,–then stopped myself and assured him that in no way need he tell me. But he is a talkative person who tends to reveal too much. He was convicted of possessing child porn on a computer several years back, he said. “I’d already stopped using it, but it was still on the computer” he said. This meant, in addition to prison time, getting put on a sex offender registry. That was years back. This time the imprisonment was because he was illegally using his preferred female alias that was not the name on the registry.
You know how I felt? I felt a lot of compassion for him. I have steadfastly never cooperated with William’s self-presentation as female, and at this point he apparently accepts that–and knows I care about him. Let us set aside the child porn and whoever made it and put it on the internet, which is the thing everyone knows is heinous. What kind of MALICE did that psychologist, or that “helpful” Salvation Army person who allegedly wanted to help him change his name, or any of the others who cooperated with his disorder, have toward poor William? Their evil “NICENESS” and “HUMAN RESPECT” (that accepts sin and disrespects God) encouraged and helped him not only to act in a way undignified, disordered, and unmanly, sadden and distress his mother, and stay homeless, but land back in prison again. He says he is supposed to dress in gender neutral clothing now–which was gray sweats today, and I said I thought that is good. He is not supposed to shop for conspicuously female clothes, particularly not bras, though he can get a plain sports bra if he must because of the effects of the hormones… which because of the malice of the psychologists, they apparently cannot stop him from taking.
“Don’t use any porn,” I told him, “not only not child porn, not any, it will mess with your head.” He doesn’t now, he said. But it already did its awful work on William. No one chooses the road he went down except they are following their fantasies and completely enslaved by them.
He had some lattice-straps black stiletto high heeled shoes which he was taking out of storage today. I said I didn’t think he needed those, or that anyone needed those. “They make me feel sexy,” he said.
They make me feel heartbroken.
Be unfailingly kind. Never cooperate with disordered sexuality. Love people and pray for them.
Bishop Morlino contacted diocesan priests, and also religious, presumably including head “Nun on the Bus” Sister Simone Campbell, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, and the Saint John’s Abbey monks, and asked them to stop going to events at the formerly Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery. I was quoted in a newspaper article today that highlights the bishop’s letter to priests on this topic.
Wisconsin State Journal reporter Doug Erickson was aware of and had posted on his blog back in February about my project of bringing lay people’s testimonies to visiting political celebrity Sister Simone Campbell and the two former Benedictine sisters on Ash Wednesday, this February 13th, about why Catholics shouldn’t support Holy Wisdom Monastery. I also, of course, blogged the rather dramatic story. The reporter also revealed at that time that at least one Catholic priest was there at HWM the next day (the 14th) attending a political event that involved Sister Simone. Doug has a considerable history with the story of Holy Wisdom Monastery, in fact the official information the Diocese supplies about HWM is addressed to him, in response to inquiries for a story he wrote at the beginning of last year.
When Doug contacted me for the story that ran today, and told me that Bishop Morlino had written a letter to priests in early March letting them know that they (priests) are forbidden to attend events at HWM, I told him I was aware Bishop Morlino sent around a letter, because two priests had told me in March that there was such a thing. However the priests didn’t tell me the content of it, because it was marked Confidential,–and out of respect for confidentiality I didn’t attempt to find out what was in it. I told him I don’t agree with leaks. But I gave him my comments on the situation.
His Sunday column is up this morning, and pretty good–except for the omission of the arguably more newsworthy information about the steady stream of religious that had been going there and giving talks, being asked to stop that. The article says:
“Holy Wisdom Monastery is perhaps best known among local Catholics for substantive rejection of the Catholic faith, so I would think priests or sisters should know they are not sending a good message if they attend events there,” said Elizabeth Durack of Madison, who attends the Cathedral Parish in Downtown Madison and has been vocal in encouraging “faithful Catholics” not to attend activities at the monastery.
The monastery’s worship services, while attended by people from many Christian backgrounds, have become particularly popular among liberal Catholics and those displeased with Morlino.
Morlino, in his letter to priests, said it was his duty “to protect the integrity and unity of the faith.” There “is a grave potential for scandal and confusion among the faithful, owing to Holy Wisdom Monastery’s status as a former Catholic monastery,” he wrote.
Diocesan spokesman Brent King said no single incident or priest precipitated the bishop’s decree; however, King said, publicity surrounding Campbell’s Feb. 14 appearance at the monastery “brought more attention to a Catholic giving an address at a former Catholic monastery” and “added to the ongoing confusion.”
The Diocese of Madison has also posted a new statement, which includes this:
Given their former status, there is a natural sense of confusion among some as to Holy Wisdom’s standing with regard to the Catholic Church. In order to lessen confusion as much as possible, the leadership at Holy Wisdom agreed with Bishop Morlino’s request in 2006 that the Catholic Mass not be celebrated at the new center and that the Blessed Sacrament no longer be reserved there.
Nonetheless, in recent years and months priests and religious from both inside and outside the diocese have participated openly in Holy Wisdom events, offering talks and the like. The clear presence and occasional publicity of such participation by priests and religious has leant itself to continued confusion among Catholic faithful, as to whether Holy Wisdom has regained some sort of recognition from the Catholic Church. To be clear, it has not.
The diocesan chancery has thus been in communication with outside priests and religious communities asking them to assist us with reducing further confusion and avoiding scandal, by refraining from formal engagements at Holy Wisdom. The confidential letter which was shared with the Wisconsin State Journal, was an attempt at requiring the same from the priests in the diocese, so as to avoid scandal and avert further confusion and was not intended as any public slight to Holy Wisdom.
Very interesting. What I am reading between the lines here is that Sister Simone, the various Saint John’s Abbey Benedictine monks who used to visit there, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters who used to visit there, and various other religious, were also contacted by the diocese and asked not to be part of any official events there. The Sinsinawa Dominicans who were going there included (but were not limited to) the “Wisdom’s Well” ones who raised such a ruckus that Bishop Morlino was being baffling and unfair by not allowing them to also give talks in Catholic parishes. I hope the diocese also reached out (as I did, by mail) to the other Federation of Saint Gertrude Benedictine Sisters’ communities that had continued to keep Holy Wisdom and another former member monastery on in an “affiliate member” status even after they not only left religious life but left the Church.
That the diocese followed through in this way is a big relief. My concern is that, with the situation of religious indifferentism in certain sectors of religious life as severe as it is, there was severe danger of scandal not only to the lay faithful but to some of the more radical religious.”Scandal” means leading someone else into sin. Others could see that Holy Wisdom continued to receive support of fellow religious; the danger was that if they were tempted to do the same thing HWM did, the tragedy could get repeated.
My prayer is that religious will help each other to stay faithful, stay on board the Barque of Peter, the Church, participating in her mission, following Jesus ever more closely, growing in holiness. The Holy Wisdom tragedy probably wouldn’t have happened without other religious supporting them doing that. We love Sisters and want them as holy examples to us, supporting us in our own faithfulness.
A member of Juventutem Michigan, an organization of young Catholics interested in the Traditional Latin Mass (which, he explained to me once via facebook, is “not the youth group of the most conservative pastor in town” but a group run by young adults, who organize Traditional Latin Masses and social gatherings at various parishes, celebrated usually by one of the younger diocesan priests), requested me to post this item. “Sursum Corda” sounds like a very good opportunity, and an unusual one since I’ve not been aware of any traditional-type event for younger Catholics, this near to Madison, and I hear Mundelein (in northern Illinois) is beautiful.
The program includes daily Mass, prayer in common and opportunity for confession, faith formation classes and discussions, and other social activities for the young men and women.
I have not personally had any experience of the Institute of Christ the King. They are a Society of Apostolic Life with a missionary spirit (apparently founded in the jungle in Gabon, Africa, they continue to maintain missions there) and a love for beautiful celebration of the older form of the Mass.
Recognizing the importance of a deep harmony between faith, liturgy, life, and the power of beauty in attracting the human senses to the things above, an integral part of the Institute’s charism is the use of the traditional Latin Liturgy of 1962 for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the other sacraments. Great care for a solemn liturgy, complete fidelity to the doctrine of the Church and the Holy Father, and awareness of the central role of Grace, especially Charity – these are essential elements of the Institute’s spirituality, which is drawn from its three co-patrons, St. Benedict, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Francis de Sales.
I am also informed that Cardinal Burke will be celebrating Mass at St Mary’s Oratory in Wausau, WI, at 4pm on May 31st. The April 28 St Mary’s Oratory Bulletin (pdf) confirms this, as well as giving a few more details on Sursum Corda.
Some months back I saw a video (above) that showed one African-American woman’s sad and astonishing internalization of racism and specifically of the Planned Parenthood style of eugenics and of reducing the welfare rolls. The woman was at a rally supporting reelection of the first black President of the United States, when she made a tirade against a (white) Presidential candidate she didn’t support, which was captured in a YouTube video: “They want to get rid of, they want to make abortion illegal. That don’t make sense m—–f——. What, we gonna have all these ugly ass, nappy headed kids running around here hungry?” No one could watch this without being heartbroken; and the way she felt about children implies something about how negatively she thought about herself.
A couple of Saturdays ago, the first beautiful spring Saturday after the long winter, I came to the bus shelter on the island at the mouth of Monroe Street, across from Camp Randall Stadium, where there were three women: a white female college student, a white woman with hair in cornrows who was the friend of a black woman, heavily pregnant with preschool aged twin boys. The boys were evidently driving their mom nuts making noise and roaming around, and both she and the woman in cornrows had really lost their cool; the mom threatened along the lines of, “you need to stop, you want the policeman come and put you in the police car and arrest you and take you away? You not going to like that.” This specially pained me, because she was not the first black mom I’d heard threatening her son in just this way, and how does that teach the kids to see themselves? The “reprobates” continued being normal small boys, and their mom asked, “You going to act like this when the baby comes?”
“No,” said a sweet little voice.
One boy sat down on the bus bench and began pointing in random directions and asking “who that?” The college girl tried telling him there was no one there. He pointed up, toward the plexiglas roof of the shelter. “Who that?” he said. Wondering if he’d know what I was talking about, I said, “God is there. God is everywhere.” His mom was standing just outside the shelter, and she looked at me with a thoughtful expression.
The college girl asked his name. She asked a couple times, while he glanced at her shyly. Finally he said, and without any ironic tone, “Garbage.”
Everyone in the bus shelter was a little stunned. “Nobody’s name is Garbage,” I said. “Nobody at all. Your name is Precious and Loveable.”
“How can you say that in front of strangers?!” said the mother, flustered. “Tell your name.” He didn’t. It almost wasn’t clear whether he understood or remembered what to say. Now, small children can be contrary and that was probably what was going on, but she had to supply their names.
“Your children are very charming,” I told the woman. I meant: relax, they are not bothering us, we like them, and miraculously it was like she heaved a sigh of relief. What I was also thinking: this is a poor woman who chose life for her twins and not the garbage can, and then chose life again rather than the garbage can, for another little one soon to be born.
The bus came soon after, we climbed aboard, and the college student and other people were talking to the little boys on the bus. Their mom had relaxed and had a look of relief and peace while people enjoyed her kids.
Yesterday I got on the bus at the West Transfer Point and a typical, boisterous group of 4 or 5 black high school boys and girls got on the bus with a big stroller. In the stroller was a small girl about the same age as those twins, which is to say, notably older than babies are normally in strollers. The boy in charge of her was the oldest in the group, I wouldn’t say he was more than 15 or 16. The others headed for the back of the bus; you had to go up a couple stairs to get to the back section and it was impossible to bring the stroller. He protested to them a little; they must have suggested that he have her come back there with him.
“She can’t walk”, I heard him say to one of them. She was sitting entirely quietly, alert but unconcerned, which surprised me a little, since most children that age would be distressed if their carers walked away.
The bus was about to leave the the transfer point and I got up and pointed out to the boy, “hey, if you are not going to stand with the stroller, have the driver secure it there.” There are retractable straps with hooks at the end, meant for wheelchairs, so they don’t shift around. I worried for a moment that he would be testy, since he wanted to be with his friends, but this kid didn’t hesitate a moment more, but went and unbuckled her, scooped her up and carried her to the back of the bus. I liked him and had a sense of his even temper. “My baby has Down Syndrome” I heard someone say matter-of-factly.
They talked animatedly. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but the idea of this group of adolescents or young teens having a good time, and showing no sign of seeing the disabled baby as a drag or a burden, and the little girl getting to be with these cheerful kids, moved me deeply. When I rose to get off downtown, I glanced at the back of the bus and there was the little girl sitting contentedly in the middle of the back bench. She had a beautiful face, and did not particularly look like a Down Syndrome child. Monsignor Holmes said a while back, in a homily: disabled people can seem useless, they seemingly contribute nothing. But, he said, the nicest, kindest, most unselfish young people he’d ever known were those who had a seriously disabled sibling.
In a sense the stories I am telling have little (or pretty much nothing) to do with race, which is an accidental element. But knowing that black women are three times more likely to have an abortion definitely affected how I experienced these situations. To be frank, it really makes you grateful to see a black child! And it’s almost painful to think people might need to be reminded, but there are some people who need to be reminded, and need to know through our actions, probably moreso than words, that we think so: it’s very good to be born, and it’s very good to be born black.
At one of the Stand Up For Religious Freedom rallies someone had a lot of copies of a documentary movie MAAFA 21: Black Genocide in America which is about Planned Parenthood and how it is, let us say, not the friend of African Americans. My DVD player was out of commission at that time and for a long time after, so I never have watched the film, but I think I will, and I have several copies of this DVD that I was told I should take home and distribute somehow. If anyone reading would like one or knows someone who should have a copy, please leave a comment, I am happy to mail it to you free. It can also be viewed online.
As I noted a while back, my posts are going to be more infrequent for a few months. I wanted to post at least a few good news items!
Father Eric Sternberg has announced on his blog that he’s leaving the associate pastor and Director of Student Ministries post at St Paul’s University Catholic Center. He’s headed to Rome to study for a doctorate in liturgical theology at one of the pontifical universities. This is a wonderful young priest the same age as me–he’s 34. Father Sternberg has done a lot to bring tradition and beauty to St Paul’s Masses, is so dedicated to the confessional and spiritual guidance of students.
The Wisconsin State Journal had a particularly good article by Doug Erickson, that ran on the front page on Easter Sunday morning, featuring the individuals entering the Catholic Church at the Cathedral Parish’s Easter Vigil Mass. Kudos, Doug.
Scott Jablonski was ordained a transitional deacon this past Sunday the 14th, at St Joseph Church in Baraboo, where Scott has been serving a Pastoral Year. Scott is a convert to the Catholic Faith and he is going to be the guest on the popular and long-running EWTN show The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi, Monday, April 29th at 7pm (central).
I often substitute-teach the 2nd grade catechism class. Today, Palm Sunday, we drew pictures of Jesus as King, and then on the back side pictures of Jesus “ecce Homo” during His Passion, crowned with thorns. I really liked their pictures!
I told the children that one of the soldiers put his red army cloak on Jesus because they wanted to pretend-dress Him as a king to mock Him, even though He really is our King. The boy who drew the one above explained that he also dressed Jesus in camo under the cloak. Paging Father Rick! Another very intelligent boy drew a picture of Jesus during His Passion, in which Jesus was saying “No! Don’t do this to me!” I told him that was a highly reasonable comment under the circumstances, but explained why it wasn’t what Jesus said. He erased and had Jesus, all sorrowful and crowned with thorns, saying “Yes, I will do it.” It is too bad I didn’t get a picture of that one, cause it grabbed you by the heart.
At Mass: Bishop Morlino, about to douse us and our palms with Holy Water!:
[The following post is by Ben Yanke from his excellent blog and reproduced here in its entirety, with his kind permission, because I liked it so much. He is not a parishioner of St Mary's by the way!]
I have to say, St. Mary’s in Pine Bluff is the Catholic Disneyland of the Diocese of Madison. It is an absolutely amazing parish. They are starting an amazing new program for their families, but first, just a small selection of the good things they have going for them:
What now? They are offering scholarships for families who are members of the parish, and homeschool their kids.
That’s right. Parish based scholarships for homeschoolers.
Hear it straight from the Father Heilman:
I am happy to announce that the Parish Council at St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff has decided to offer the registered and practicing members of our parish a $250 per child (age 6 to Senior High) annual scholarship for families choosing to homeschool their children. We appreciate the sacrifices these families are making, and we want to offer our support and encouragement for this courageous choice you have made to do what you feel is best for your children.
And don’t forget, you read it here first. [second. This article appeared first on Ben Yanke's own blog]
Do you remember Ruth Kolpack, the “Call to Action” dissent group member whom Bishop Morlino had removed from a parish staff position due to her support for “women’s ordination” and “gay marriage”? Infuriated, Call to Action “community organized” protests, and launched into media noisemaking. Recently I found two videos on YouTube that suggest Ruth Kolpack may be about to surface again in a film on the theme of “church workers’ rights”. The YouTube videos, which state they are “part of a work in progress about Ruth Kolpack’s dismissal”, misrepresent the reasons for Kolpack’s firing, in fact they present it as being about almost anything but the real reasons, which are explained well in the Diocese of Madison’s Frequently Asked Questions document on the case (to read about the reasons, scroll to p. 7 of the document, which also makes clear that someone who holds these beliefs is not in good standing in the Church). The maker of the video suggests she is the victim of a “conservative smear campaign”. Does Ruth Kolpack or the filmmaker contest the fact that she is a Call to Action activist dissent group member who stands for “gay marriage” and “women’s ordination” and opposes Catholic belief on those matters? In fact the YouTube videos do not mention that.
In the “Case for Ruth” video, I noticed just after the scene of the flier which faithful Catholics used to draw attention to Kolpack giving scandal, the film cuts to an interview with an unidentified man in the sanctuary of the formerly-Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery., which dramatically left the Church. I can identify the place with great certainty since I have a photo with that organ in the background, that I took there myself when I went there to bring them testimonies from local lay Catholics on why Catholics shouldn’t support the place. And yes, Holy Wisdom is strongly connected with Call to Action (and “women’s ordination” and active homosexuality). The man interviewed in the Holy Wisdom sanctuary identifies himself as “a reporter and a concerned member of the diocese”.
The filmmaker is identified by name at the end of the “Ruth’s Story” video (the one on top). He supplies his email address and asks for “any relevant information about Ruth’s firing”. His LinkedIn profile indicates he is a “Director/Cameraman at Chicago Film Works.” I cannot help but wonder if he was hired by Call to Action of Madison, of which Kolpack is a member.
Churches and religious schools have a very solidly established constitutional right to employ staff on the basis of their beliefs; this dispenses churches from some aspects of labor law that apply to other groups, so is referred to as as the ministerial exception. It protects the First Amendment right of religious freedom. To put it straightforwardly, Call to Action is making efforts to invent a “right” (in opposition to religious groups’ constitutional right) for activists against Catholic teaching to work for the Church, without being subject to dismissal. Read on and I will show how they hope to do that.
Call to Action is one of the best known groups of anti-Catholic “Catholics”. This remarkably destructive group exists for the purpose of activism against Catholic teachings and against legitimate Church authority, and they seem not to mind if they destroy people’s relationship with the Church and tear parishes apart in the pursuit of this. While some see this as an effort to change the Church (even in matters that the Church has no authority whatsoever to change) some are frank that they think the Church needs to be destroyed in order to start a new church, organized democratically and embodying radical feminism and the values of the sexual revolution, and a marxist-type “liberation theology” approach to helping the poor.
Locally in our diocese, Call to Action was apparently responsible for fomenting rebellion and organizing a “recall” petition and media campaign against the parish priests of St Mary in Platteville, which tore the parish up and resulted in the closing of the parish school due to people withholding donations. There was nothing wrong with the priests, they were and are more liturgically traditional including celebrating not only Mass in English but also the Traditional Latin Mass, they made sick calls themselves rather than delegate that to lay people, and they were and are clear and faithful on doctrine and morals. But Call to Action decided they weren’t going to put up with that kind of normal Catholic parish climate wherein dissent activity was unwelcome, and they tried to force the priests’ removal. Bishop Morlino praiseworthily backed up the priests, and that courage paid off hugely, both in protecting the Faith, and in an increase of seminarians, and good priests transferring here from other places.
A case in 2002 involved four parish workers who unionized at Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen, Texas (and who unionized them? A CCHD grantee), which happened to be “the seat of dissident Call to Action activity in the diocese”. When a new pastor arrived, he completely appropriately dismissed them, because they were Call to Action members! These individuals were “anti-Catholic” and “not in good standing with the Church”, the priest explained. “Immediately after the firings, the local Call to Action chapter had 300 people meeting at a local community center, and calling for the bishop’s resignation.” The national CTA organization mobilized, too. It was messy. Did I mention, this is a very destructive organization.
PASTORS, KEEP CALL TO ACTION AWAY FROM YOUR PARISH AND PREACH AGAINST MEMBERSHIP IN DISSENT GROUPS. THIS ORGANIZATION WILL HARM YOUR PARISH, IF IT IS PRESENT.
Back to the present day: recently CTA was among those actively objecting to Bishop Vasa of Santa Rosa, CA asking all Catholic school teachers to accept a contract addendum stating that they are a ministerial agent of the bishop, and that they assent to basic moral beliefs of the sort that have sadly become contentious in our society. This is exactly the right thing to do on Bishop Vasa’s part, and is nothing new or unusual. The incomprehension of some teachers and parents in the schools recently led Bishop Vasa to wait a couple years to enforce this strictly and in the meantime apply himself to getting everyone’s knowledge of Catholic teaching up to level. CTA is rejoicing on Facebook as if the requirement had been revoked. Certainly not!
They don’t seem to be planning on letting go of this bone, but will doubtless continue to work on media efforts, unionizing schemes and the like to pressure and harass Catholic churches and schools to keep dissenters on staff. The week of March 12-19 Call to Action designated as a special “Church Worker Justice Week”, for instance posting several graphics of this sort on their Facebook page:
Another such image quotes a 1986 USCCB document in an effort to assert that the Church supports an unlimited right to unionize. Another warns that the 75% of Catholic school teachers who are lay women could be fired for “personal reproductive decisions”. As Bishop Vasa determined, first there’s a need to actually communicate the moral teaching and the reasoned explanation for it to the teachers. But, if only more Catholic schools did have the integrity and courage to not employ teachers who live at odds with the good morals they should be teaching the kids. The schools and churches have a constitutional right.
Catholic churches or Catholic schools should not employ Call to Action members, and have a First Amendment right not to. The purpose of the CTA organization is to oppose various Catholic beliefs and promote an idea that Catholic teaching should be decided democratically.
Proving that one need not have a degree in theology to understand the flaw in that notion, outspoken atheist Penn Jillette recently refuted it handily: