Monthly Archives: January 2012

Abuse of Catholic Conscience

The Antichrist?

In the great civil rights struggle to secure the right to life for all, Archbishop John Roach, testifying on behalf of the Catholic Bishops, expressed the guiding vision: “We are committed to full legal recognition of the right to life of the unborn child, and will not rest in our efforts until society respects the inherent worth and dignity of every member of the human race.” (November 5, 1981 Statement before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution)

Wacha gonna do?

On January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule that virtually all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception. The rule is set to take effect August 1, 2012.

Non-profit religious employers that do not now provide such coverage, and are not exempt under the rule’s extremely narrow definition of religious employer, will be given one year—until August 1, 2013—to comply.

Dolan in "Say Wot?" Mode

Responding to the announcement, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.” Cardinal-designate Dolan continued: “To force Americans to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. . . It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom.” Noting that the Obama administration “has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand,” the Cardinal-designate urged that the HHS mandate be overturned. “The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation.”

WASHINGTON—The Catholic bishops of the United States called “literally unconscionable” a decision by the Obama Administration to continue to demand that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans. Today’s announcement means that this mandate and its very narrow exemption will not change at all; instead there will only be a delay in enforcement against some employers.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Read more at U.S. Bishops Vow to Fight HHS Edict.

Howard Hubbard, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, has written several letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Religious Freedom in the Middle East and a letter to the United States Congress on International Religious Freedom but we could not find a single statement by Hubbard on the subject of Conscience Protection at home in the USA. (USCCB Religious Freedom) [I would be very grateful if anyone knows of such a statement you could provide the link or a copy.]

But Hubbard, Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese of Albany, New York, responded to an op-ed column by Maureen Dowd, “Cooperation in Evil,” (NYT, October 1, 2011), in which Dowd comments: “The church has aggressively meddled in politics on abortion, trying to defeat candidates who support abortion rights and prevent some liberal politicians from receiving Communion. But American bishops have been inconsistent in preaching their values.” In a letter to the editor published by the New York Times on October 4, 2011, Hubbard cites the USCCB document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a [rather lengthy, 45-page book[let]] which he writes is a “statement overwhelmingly adopted by the full body of bishops in 2007, is clear evidence of consistency in ‘preaching their values.’ We condemn abortion, euthanasia, genocide, torture, racism and the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror or war as ‘intrinsically evil.'”

Cooperating with Evil?

Cooperating in Evil? You Decide!

Well, the statement may have been adopted by the “full body of bishops” and may be, at least in Hubbard’s assessment, “clear evidence of consistency in “preaching their values” (I purposefully emphasized the “their“) but “their” does not read in any way, fashion or form to be the Church’s values or the received or held values of the faithful. While I don’t doubt for a moment that Hubbard’s laundry list of condemned evils reflects his own beliefs; any flesh and blood human being is compelled to condemn such abhorrent practices! That said,  Hubbard is noted to be [one of the] most liberal RC bishops in the United States, and has indeed preached his values in the diocese entrusted to his pastoral care (see our post Condoning the Failure Option). And he has been inconsistent in reconciling his own and  representing the Church’s and the majority flock’s beliefs!

In his October 2008 monthly statement, “Voting with a Catholic Conscience,” Hubbard writes: “The Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of a well-formed conscience and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.

“The Catholic call to faithful citizenship affirms the importance of political participation and insists that public service is a worthy vocation.

“As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a particular political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that neglects or denies fundamental Christian values and moral truths.”

Even without commenting on the empty clichés of that statement, the boilerplate statements, we note that the bishop refers several times to the lengthy document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” but very honestly I don’t know of anyone at all who has heard of the document nor where there is any indication of where to get it. (The only reason I have one is because I need it in my writing activities; it’s long and not an easy read for anyone with a real life!).

What’s more, the troubling statement comes in a section entitled “Doctrine Counts,” (we agree, but doctrine must be efficaciously taught!) where the bishop writes:

“We must weigh these issues in a fashion that neither treats all issues as moral equivalents (for example, giving abortion and racism the same moral status as the federal standard for the minimum wage or the best policies to combat global warming) nor reduces Catholic social teaching to one or two issues. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil. [But no instruction is given on how to assess the magnitude of the “intrinsic evil,” totally lacking in effective guidance or teaching on how racism differs from a minimum wage standard, which for most is either rhetorical or irrelevant, depending on ones sociocultural status!]

“As Faithful Citizenship teaches, “those who knowingly, willingly and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles coöperate with evil. Voting for candidates who hold such an unacceptable position would be permissible only for grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or position preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” [So this statement would mean that we shouldn’t vote for Mario Cuomo who lives in concubinage and does not oppose abortion but receives communion from the bishop’s hands?]

I recently published an editorial on Schizoid Catholics; it seems I was right on the mark if this HHS debacle is sustained.

We also note that “the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war … and the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act.”

This is where the bishop gets confusing. Hubbard has been taken to task on this blog for “knowingly, willingly, and directly supporting” public figures (Andrew Cuomo, for example, see our page Bad! Bishop Hubbard) who “undermine the fundamental moral principles” of the Catholic Tradition and even some non-Catholic faiths, and yet he refutes, rebuffs, and contests a journalist’s factual remarks pointing out just such “coöperation with evil.”

I find it very odd that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany’s official rag, The Evangelist, does not list a single mention of conscience, contraception, human life, abortion, etc. in its “Top 2011 Headlines” (Kate Blain). Why is this? In fact, the ‘faithful citizenship document” receives but  one single sentence hidden (November 22, 2011) in the voluminous multipart “Rome Diary” series commemorating the bishop’s most recent ad limine visit to Rome (October 2011). One might ask the editor of the Evangelist why this silence is so deafening. We did and the Evangelist promptly answered (see the Addendum, below). The issue of the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment has been around and under intense discussion since at least 2010!

A Tebow Moment!

Bishop at prayer? Maybe. But actually bishop Howard Hubbard is watching a CBA victory over Schenectady in the a championship game at Pepsi Arena. (Luanne M. Ferris / Times Union) Well, we all have our priorities, don’t we?

I'm Catholic and ain't heard nothin'!

I would ask bishop Hubbard when he last addressed a statement to Nancy Pelosi, to Barack Hussein Obama, to Justice Scalia, to Andrew Cuomo or the myriad Catholic politicians and opinion leaders on the bishop’s A-list regarding “coöperation with evil?” Or the last time he refused or instructed denial of sacraments to recalcitrant, obstinate, derelict apostate heretical public figures who, on a routine basis “cooperate with evil!”

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment is dedicated to pursuing this vision. The organization’s objectives include educating citizens, developing pro-life legislative networks, and offering programs in support of pro-life legislation. Among its various activities, NCHLA produces educational and program resources, communicates with leaders about legislative priorities, and presents legislative seminars throughout the year. In a special way, NCHLA assists dioceses, state Catholic conferences, and Catholic lay groups. The Committee also works closely with the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Some Relevant Links
Complete USCCB Conscience Page
National Committee for a Human Life Amendment Fact Sheets
Action Alert: Support Respect for Rights of Conscience Act 


We contacted the Evangelist, the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese  of Albany (New York) as to whether the Evangelist covered this issue of the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department requirement that employers must include contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in health-care coverage, and  Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship with the question: “If the Evangelist has covered either of these subjects in 2010, 2011, or more recently, can you please let me know in which issues?”

The Evangelist promptly wrote back : “We have covered both issues. You’re not finding them in the online archives because for the most part, the stories come from the news service and we do not have the rights to post them online. You may find them at ”

The editor of the Evangelist informs us that the paper will be running “two major stories on the HHS issue” in the February 1st issue of the Evangelist. Whether they will be canned stories from the news services or whether they will be relevant to the Albany Diocese is yet to be seen. We wait with bated breath.



Disposing of Old Missals

It’s a perennial question: How do I properly dispose of blessed items?

“There is relatively little written about exactly what to do with liturgical books which have been replaced by updated or revised editions, but some related writings, as well as some common sense, can provide some context. The Book of Blessings, no. 1343, indicates that the Sacramentary, the Lectionary, and other liturgical books are counted among those articles used in the Sacred Liturgy which ought to be blessed using the rite provided for that purpose, the Order for the Blessing of Articles for Liturgical Use (nos. 1341-1359). The Latin De Benedictionibus, editio typica, however, does not explicitly mention the Missale among the articles that are properly blessed.

Read more or download the article at disposing of old missals and sacramentaries.


Liturgy Source of Life, Prayer and Catechesis

Numbers 1071-1075 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) treat sacred liturgy as source of life, as well as its relationship with prayer and catechesis. The liturgy is source of life first of all because it is the work of Christ  (CCC, 1071). In the second place, because it is also an action of his Church  (Ibid.). But, which is the  reeminent of these two aspects? Moreover, what does the word life  mean in this context?

Vatican Council II responds: From the liturgy, hence, and particularly from the Eucharist, grace flows in us as from a source, and obtained with the greatest efficacy is the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all the other activities of the Church tend as to their end  (Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC], 10). Understood thus is that, when the liturgy is called source of life, from it grace flows.

Already answered here is the first question: the liturgy is source of life primarily because it is the work of Christ, Author of grace.

Read more or download the entire article at Liturgy Source of Life, Prayer and Catechesis.

Pope Addresses the Vatican Rota

VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2012 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the dean, judges, promoters of justice, defenders of the bond, officials and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, for the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.

Benedict XVI focused his remarks on a fundamental aspect of judicial ministry: the interpretation of canon law with a view to its correct application. The hermeneutic of canon law “is closely associated with the very concept of Law in the Church”, the Pope explained, and he went on to define two forms of interpretation which lead to impoverishment of the law: “The identification of canon law with the system of canonical legislation”, which effectively means overlooking “natural law, divine positive law and the vital relationship of all law with the communion and mission of the Church”. In the second form of interpretation, “the specific situation becomes a decisive factor in determining the authentic meaning of a legal precept in a particular case”; but in this way “it is human interpretation that decides what is juridical, and a sense of objective law is lacking”.

 “But there is another way”, said the Holy Father, “in which a correct understanding of canon law leads to its being interpreted as part of a search for the truth about law and justice in the Church. … Authentic law is inseparable from justice. Obviously, this principle also holds true for canon law, in the sense that it cannot remain closed in a merely human system of norms but must be associated with a just ordering of the Church in which a higher law holds sway. In this perspective, human positive legislation loses its primacy … and can no longer simply be identified as the Law. Nonetheless human legislation is an important expression of justice, first and foremost for what it declares to be divine law, but also for what it identifies as being the legitimate ambit of human law.

 “In this way”, Benedict XVI added, “it becomes possible to apply a legal hermeneutic that is authentically juridical, in the sense that, in keeping with the meaning of the law, we can raise the crucial question of what is just in each particular case. … Human rules must be interpreted in the light of the situations with which they deal. These situations always contain a core of natural law and of divine positive law, with which all norms must be in harmony if they are to be rational and truly juridical.

 “From this realistic standpoint, the sometimes arduous task of interpretation acquires a meaning and a goal. … It is revitalised by an authentic contact with the overall situation of the Church, which facilitates access to the true meaning of the law”.

 “It follows that the interpretation of canon law must take place within the Church. … ‘Sentire cum Ecclesia’ also applies to discipline, because of the doctrinal foundations which are always present and operative in the Church’s legal norms. Thus the hermeneutic of renewal in continuity, about which I have spoken with reference to Vatican Council II (which is so closely associated with current canonical legislation), must also be applied to canon law”.

 “This basic approach is applicable to all forms of interpretation: from academic research on canon law … to the daily search for just solutions in the lives of the faithful and their communities. Meekness is necessary in order to accept the laws, seeking to study … the juridical tradition of the Church in order to identify with that tradition and with the legal dispositions issued by pastors, especially pontifical laws and Magisterium on canonical issues, which are binding in their teachings on the law”.

 All this has particular importance “as regards laws on the act of Marriage and its consummation, and Holy Orders. … Particular care must be taken to apply all juridically binding measures which tend to ensure coherence in the interpretation and application of laws, as required by justice. These measures include the Pontifical Magisterium in this field, contained above all in addresses to the Roman Rota; the jurisprudence of the Rota itself, … and the norms and declarations issued by other dicasteries of the Roman Curia”.

The Holy Father continued: “This hermeneutical unity in the essentials in no way prejudices the function of local tribunals, which are called to face the complex real situations that arise in all cultural contexts. Each of them must proceed with a sense of reverence towards the truth of law, applying judicial and administrative norms so as to achieve exemplary communion in discipline, this being an essential aspect of Church unity”.

 Finally Pope Benedict turned his attention to the recent transfer to the Roman Rota of an office dealing with the procedures for dispensation from unconsummated marriage and causes for the nullity of priestly ordination. “I am sure”, he said, “that there will be a generous response to this new ecclesial task”.


Why the Liturgy?

Liturgical Ministry

There is an intrinsic relationship between faith and liturgy; both are intimately united. In reality, without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would not be efficacious, as it would lack the grace that sustains Christians’ witness. “On the other hand, the liturgical action can never be considered generically, prescinding from the mystery of faith. Our faith and the eucharistic liturgy both have their source in the same event: Christ’s gift of himself in the Paschal Mystery.” (Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 34).

Read or download more on the Why the Liturgy-What Does Liturgy Meanis.

Facts about the Death Penalty

Some Facts About the Death Penalty


The drop in executions is an indication that the world is moving in the direction urged by the UN.

The approval by the UN General Assembly in December 2007 of the Resolution for a Universal Moratorium against Capital Punishment was a fundamental step forward not only for the anti-death penalty campaign but also for the affirmation of the rule of law and of those natural rights historically won and often written into national law but not always respected.

After the vote, the usual practitioners of realpolitik tried to diminish its import, saying if would serve no purpose. It is true that the UN cannot force any member country to abolish the death penalty, but the moral force and political message sent by the resolution are undeniable. For the first time ever, the United Nations established that capital punishment is a matter of individual rights and not simply an internal question for national judicial systems. It also sent the message that the elimination of capital punishment would constitute a significant advance for the system of human rights.

  • 34 states have the death penalty; 16 do not.
  • Recent Supreme Court decisions have limited the use of the death penalty by declaring it unconstitutional to execute persons with mental retardation and juveniles under the age of 18, or to impose the death penalty when no murder occurred or was intended. The court has also ruled that defendants are entitled to have a jury decide whether to impose the death penalty.
  • Approximately 3,261 inmates are on death row in 37 state, military, and federal prisons.
  • Since 1973, there have been 138 exonerations of death row inmates.
  • Since 1976, there have been a total of 1,246 executions in the United States, including 12 in the first few months of 2011.
  • The California death penalty system costs taxpayers $114 million per year beyond the costs of keeping convicts locked up for life (L.A. Times, March 6, 2005).  

*Source: Death Penalty Information Center

Most Catholics and almost all fundamentalists have a misconceived notion of what Scripture says about the death penalty.

In A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, the bishops explain the scriptural roots of Catholic teaching on the death penalty. This begins with the story of creation which teaches “that every life is a precious gift from God (see Gn 2:7, 21-23). This gift must be respected and protected. We are created in God‟s image and redeemed by Jesus Christ, who himself was crucified.”

The bishops also explain “some argue that biblical statements about „life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth‟ (see Ex 21:23-25, Lv 24:17 , Dt 19:21) require that the death penalty be used for certain crimes. A correct interpretation of these passages indicates, however, that the principal intent of such laws was to limit the retribution that could be exacted for an offense, not to require a minimum punishment. Furthermore, it is important to read individual passages in the context of Sacred Scripture as a whole. While the Old Testament includes some passages about taking the life of one who kills, the Old Testament and the teaching of Christ in the New Testament call us to protect life, practice mercy, and reject vengeance.”

Read or download Vatican report on Death Penalty on Decline in United States.

Say NO! to Judicial Murder!

Candles During the Gospel (continuation)

In a Follow-up: Lighted Candles at the Lectern

Some interesting questions emerged from our piece on ambo candles.

A Massachusettsreader asked: “I have attended a liturgy where the altar servers carried two candles in procession and placed them at the ambo. The candles were then brought to the altar upon the conclusion of the homily or Prayers of the Faithful. In my church, the candles are already lit at the ambo and then blown out after the Prayers of the Faithful so as to focus on the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Is this correct?”

The candles on or near the altar are usually lit before Mass, and thus the processional candles accompanying the Gospel during the entrance procession and proclamation should normally be distinct from the altar candles. The processional candles are usually left on the credence table or another convenient place in the sanctuary while not in use.

However, some places do have the custom of placing the processional candles on or near the altar after the entrance procession, and, provided they are not the only candles present, it does not appear to go against the liturgical norms. All the same, the use of distinct processional candles seems liturgically preferable and avoids awkward movements near the altar.

Likewise, the torches that accompany the thurifer while incensing the Sacred Species during the consecration should, in principle, be different from the processional candles. These latter may, however, accompany the thurifer in smaller parishes with fewer ministers.

The question regarding blowing out the candles after the Liturgy of the Word is somewhat moot, for, as we mentioned in our previous column, the practice of permanent candles at the ambo, lit or unlit, does not correspond to Catholic liturgical tradition.

While liturgical inventiveness still abounds, we need to remember that the most pastorally effective use of symbols remains that foreseen in the liturgical books. Arbitrarily changing the symbols, even with the best of intentions, inevitably conveys a different message to that desired by the universal Church.

Regarding the ambo in general, aTennesseecorrespondent asked: “Can we read announcements from the ambo at the end of Mass?” AKansasreader asked for comments on the following practice: “In our parish lectors have been instructed to approach and make a profound bow to the ambo before proclaiming the word. Further, upon concluding the readings we are instructed to make another profound bow to the ambo and return to our pew. We have been specifically instructed not to acknowledge or genuflect in the direction of the tabernacle which is recessed to the left rear of the ambo.”

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), No. 309, states: “From the ambo only the readings, the responsorial Psalm, and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) are to be proclaimed; it may be used also for giving the homily and for announcing the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. The dignity of the ambo requires that only a minister of the word should go up to it.”

Thus all other commentaries, announcements and similar activities should be carried out from another suitable place.

The indication of not making a genuflection or other gesture toward the tabernacle during the celebration of Mass is correct and in conformity with GIRM 274: “If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.”

The bows toward the ambo — or in other places toward the altar or even toward the celebrant — at the beginning and end of the reading are not prescribed in the liturgical books. They probably arise from a sense of natural courtesy and reverence, especially when the lectors enter from the pews or do not participate in the entrance procession.

AWinnipeg,Manitoba, reader asked about the origin of the word “ambo.”

According to one authoritative dictionary it appears that the word is of medieval Latin origin and probably derives from the Greek “ambon” — a raised rim, or pulpit. It thus referred to either of the two raised pulpits from which the Gospels and epistles were read in early Christian churches.

Special thanks to
ZENIT International News Agency
Via della Stazione di Ottavia, 95
00165 Rome, Italy
for these contributions.

Read or download a recent follow-up On this subject:

 Candles at the Gospel Reading.

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