Category Archives: CPE

Why was a Pakistani Franciscan Moved from Pakistan to Troy, New York?


We’ve already written an exposé report about the St Anthony of Padua parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, under the pastoral authority of bishop Edward Scharfenberger, but the questions keep coming; no answers, just questions.

Why did Franciscan brother Phillip Hira desert his Pakistani brothers and sisters?

Why did Franciscan brother Phillip Hira desert his Pakistani brothers and sisters?

Our first reportage on that parish was to report the scandal of its pastor, Mario Julian, who in lieu of a homily played a popular Christmas song, “So this is Christmas.” That was a gross violation of Roman Catholic doctrine and teaching with regard the homily. Yes, it was a scandal but we’ve already reported on that scandal so we won’t waste anymore time beating a dead hippo.

Mario Julian allegedly recently had bariatric surgery, stomach reduction surgery, and we hope he has had a good recovery; his parish is likely to have a much slower, less favorable recovery from Julian’s incompetence.

We did read with some interest the biography of Julian’s parish assistant, Franciscan lay brother Philip Hira. Hira was born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1952. Hira received all of his education and religious formation in Pakistan, and spent most of his entire adult life in Pakistan.

Hira came to the United States in 2006.

Julian & Hira

Julian & Hira

According to his biography on the St Anthony of Padua parish website, Hira has completed 4 units (years) of clinical pastoral education (internship of 1 day a week for a year  =  1 CPE unit). This means that Hira has spent at least 4 years at Albany Medical Center as a chaplaincy intern. Clinical pastoral education interns pay about $700 a year to work at the hospital as pastoral care providers to patients while learning the ropes of pastoral care (Yes! The patients are exposed to amateurs). That means that someone is paying $700 a year for Hira’s education at Albany Medical Center, and AMC is receiving those services for nothing!

Reading a bit further, we learn that Hira is serving as a “volunteer”, that is, unpaid, chaplain at Albany Medical Center Hospital and at St Mary’s Hospital in Troy. We find that this unpaid activity at local hospitals is a bit suspicious, considering the fact that Hira is supposed to be serving the St Anthony of Padua parish in Troy, under the questionable supervision of Mario Julian.

Hira expects to be “certified”as a Catholic chaplain, but we don’t see how that’s going to happen in the near future, since that will require continuing education and certification procedures, which, for a chaplain, are totally unnecessary. That sort of activity takes Hira away from his parish duties, if in fact he actually has any.

In a previous article we mentioned that American religious orders have prostituted themselves. This is most clear in the Franciscan order, where Franciscan lay brothers and priests have been farmed out to ailing and understaffed diocesan parishes for years. This has had a very harmful effect on the Franciscan religious communities because when a Franciscan leaves the religious community life, he generally experiences injury to his spirituality. Furthermore, the Franciscans are a religious community with the communal life is an essential part of being Franciscan. Ask yourself what happens to a Franciscan when he lives outside of the community of his Franciscan brothers? Do I have to answer that for you?

 

franciscan missionary union logoFranciscans have traditionally been great missionaries. From the start of the Franciscan order, Franciscans have evangelized the world from Italy to the American West, and from Assisi to, yes, Pakistan.

Pakistan is 96.28 % Muslim, with Christians accounting for 1.59 % of the population, and Hindus 1.60 %. According to the Pew Forum, in the USA Christians represent some 70 % with Catholics representing some 20.8 %. Non-Christian traditions represent a total of a mere 5.9  %, which includes Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews! It would appear that Hira’s best work would be done in Pakistan, not in Troy, New York! So, with such a considerable non-Christian population in Pakistan and giving the evangelization and catechization ministry of the Franciscans, we would have to ask both brother Hira and his superiors Why? on earth was he taken from Pakistan and relocated to the United States?

There’s a lot going on in Pakistan involving Christians if we can believe much of the press coming out of the country like “How Christians Survive in Pakistan’s ‘Land of the Pure‘”, where we read:

“The Catholic minority currently lives in fear because of the recent attacks on churches. Sister Pilar admits, “Our apostolate is that of example … We cannot try to convert people directly.”

“Catholics in Pakistan run schools open to everyone, not just Catholics. There, “they receive a good education.” For Christians, having these schools in Pakistan is “a stimulus for us to know our religion better.”

“In fact, years ago there were many illiterate young people; thanks to these schools, the majority of them now receive an education, so Sister Pilar is hopeful.”

If that article is anything to judge by, Hira’s call would be in Pakistan, not Troy, New York! Wouldn’t you agree? Unless Troy’s Pakistani population has skyrocketed in the last 10 years! We’d  have to check the census data…

Moreover, as a parish assistant and chaplain, Hira is by nature Pakistani! He lived his entire life, or at least 54 years of it in Pakistan (born in 1952 and coming to the USA in 2006  =  54 years). So our question is this: How on Earth can you expect someone so steeped in a culture so alien to that of the United States to minister effectively to such a mixed population. Revisiting the statistics for Pakistan we see that Muslims make up 96.28 % of the population versus 0.9 % in the United States; in Pakistan Christians are 1.59 % versus 70 % in the United States. Now where do you think Christian, Catholic missionary, evangelization, catechization work would be needed more? In Pakistan or India, Pakistan’s nextdoor neighbor, or in the United States? Again, we have to ask Hira’s superiors what they had in mind when removing Hira from Pakistan to the United States. Or is there something more sinister in this history other than just plain bad judgment?

Seems that St Anthony of Padua parish is home to a considerable number of nagging questions that beg for answers. It also seems that St Anthony of Padua parish is just one of a considerable number of parishes with some really weird goings on.

Maybe that’s why we think Pope Francis should pay less attention to American politics and more attention to his ailing church, his maverick American bishops, and the organizational and administrative disorder in the church at large.

Perhaps bishop Scharfenberger can answer these questions, since he would be responsible for what is going on at St Anthony of Padua on his (Scharfenberger’s) watch. What do you think?

Abba Silas, Heresiarch

Abba Silas, Heresiarch, Editor

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How Sick is the Church? An Opportunity to Share Your Inputs


Francis: Rebuild My Church

Rebuild my Church

[But not into an art gallery, disco, or brothel!]

By way of introduction, here are a couple of examples from real life, that you may have experienced:


  • PS, a Roman Catholic priest and RCDA tribunal judge, made the revealing and statement in a moment of resenting sarcasm, “They’ll ordain anything these days!” That raises the questions of “Who?” will ordain and Who are the “anything?” But that’s just one example of the many careless and imprudent public statements that are being made by persons in visible and influential positions in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
  • A Roman Catholic Sister of Saint Joseph (you know, the nuns who seem to have usurped the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Pastoral Center and most administrative and higher teaching  positions) has a favorite innuendo – filled phrase, “Those men in Rome!” The impression made by such insensitive and indifferent statements on auditors of any persuasion can be devastating.
  • A Roman Catholic priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany claiming to be of Ukrainian origin and liaison to the Orthodox churches, refers publicly to the soon-to-be-canonized Pope John Paul II as the “Polack on see of St Peter.”
  • Women chaplain interns under the tutelage of a Calvinist supervisor at a major Albany, New York, hospital, in a Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital chaplaincy) announce that they are disgruntled Catholics, publicly announce their support for women in the priesthood and criticize the Roman Catholic Church openly and publicly; they are then invited to present talks at the so-called Spring Enrichment.
  • Roman Catholic clergy and male religious cow to that same Calvinist supervisor and are degraded by the non-Catholic, mostly women, chaplaincy staff.
  • Women gatekeepers decide who speaks with the bishop, the pastor, etc., and create an environment of exclusionism.
  • Hungry faithful feel unwelcome in God’s house; unwelcome at His table.
  • A well-educated, highly competent,  man in excellent health applies to the diaconate program of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. He is initially welcomed but is later called in by the director of deacon formation and told, “I did not notice your age. The deacon program is 6 years and you must be ordained by age 62. That’s the diocesan policy. You will be 64 in six years so we cannot enroll you in the program. Thank you for your interest.” In the meantime, poorly educated, ailing men are welcomed into the program, some drop out because of health or program leadership.
  • A graduate of St Bernard’s School of Ministry and Theology continues a ministry of pastoral and spiritual care to the faithful who are not affiliated with a Roman Catholic parish; the minister practices a Roman Catholic spiritual discipline with a local male religious community. The minister attempts to place an ad in the official Roman Catholic newspaper offering his services in pastoral care, provides the text of the ad, the ad is accepted by the Evangelist, he pays for the ad. Several days later the female editor of the Evangelist contacts he minister and informs him that the ad will not be printed because he is not associated with a parish.
  • A feminist theologian and member of a women’s lay religious community, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, comes under fire for her heterodox writings on the theology of the Trinity; she lectures to the public at the local Sisters of Saint Joseph Provincial House

Rebuild My Church!

Rebuild My Church!

We have over the past several years received a number of communications complaining of problems perceived in at least the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany but which may be reasonably inferred to be endemic in most of the American Catholic Church. We have listed some below, but instead of a bulleted list, we’ve made it into a survey list that our readers can check off and which can be tallied to get some idea of the range and nature of ecclesiological, pastoral, and magisterial problems the Catholic faithful are experiencing in their dioceses.

We’d like to invite our readers to review the following list and to click on the circle preceding a “problem” if you find that you have experienced such a problem.

At the end of the list, you can tell us whether you are Roman Catholic, Protest and, Jewish, or Other, and after that list you can tell us where you live.

This is all anonymous and for information purposes only. You can see the results up to the current date by simply clicking “view results” at the bottom of each poll box.

Thanks very much for your participation in this interesting undertaking.

American-Idolatry

Ecclesial and Pastoral Pathology List

In the list below, simply check off the list items that most correspond to how you feel. If something is not included in the list, you can enter it in the space at the end of the list or leave a comment to express your thoughts.


 

Religious or Faith Affiliation

This is where you can let us know about your faith tradition. It serves two purposes: (1) it informs us of the percentage of RC readers responding, and (2) it informs us of the percentage of non-RC respondents who have some perception of the problem.


 

Ministry Activity

We’d also like to know about your ministry activity. Are you involved as clergy or as a lay minister? What are your perceptions about these problems.


 

Where Are You Located?

We are discussing the situation in the United States but this doesn’t mean that these problems are unique to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. But it is important for us to know where our respondents are located, and whether the majority of our readers are experiencing these problems in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.


 

Yes, it does come down on the heads of the American bishops; as the saying goes, “The fish rots from the head down.” If the bishops do not recruit to the ranks, the ranks deplete. If the bishops lose the reins of their diocese, the horses run amuck. If the bishops do not take command of the front line troops, they have mutiny on their hands. If the bishops abandon the rudder, the ship of Church runs aground. In the present state of affairs the faithful are angry, confused, depressed, and lost. It’s just such an ecclesiology and pastoral theology at work when Protestant authors note the hemorrhage of the Roman Church and the recourse of the faithful to evangelical, fundamentalist, and Orthodox traditions. The breakdown of Roman ecclesial hierarchical authority has created a festering wound that refuses to heal because it’s not receiving the appropriate attention.

But it’s not only the bishops who are failing us and the Church, its we, too, who as members of that mystical body we call Church, turn our backs on Mater et Magistra, Mother and Teacher, and then point the finger as if we were pure as lilies. Now, during Lent, instead of giving up something, let’s do something. We can start by identifying where the pathology is and then proposing a course of therapy. That’s the whole sense of this survey.

Otherwise, and generally speaking, the Roman Church must return to its origins and principles or it is doomed to mutate into an institution that bears no resemblance to its former self; much is the fault of bishops who have lost control over their dioceses, and much the fault of those who want to be Church but want Church to change according to their parameters. This is a similar situation where some agendas want God to have specific genitalia or be a particular something; in otherwords, anthropomorphizing God, downward theism, if you will. Poor teaching has brought this about; God is pure spirit and doesn’t need a created body! God is perfect and doesn’t need to be made according to creature parameters. God is unmade and cannot be made.

Our culture is overwhelmed by idolatries! Idoltatry is worshipping something created as if it were God. Look around you, what would you give up to be closer to God? If you don’t say everything and anything, then you are an idolater! You are putting something before God or between you and God. In the simplest of terms, that’s idolatry!

But much, too, can be attributed to the ambitions and scandal of those with heterodox agendas acting under the aegis or cover of the Church; these are the most insidious and dangerous pathogens that must be eradicated if the Church and the Tradition is to survive.

 Please leave a comment about this article.

Where are you on this scale?

Where are you on this scale?
Idolatry————————Humility


Pastor or Chaplain, or Both?


Is There a Distinction that Needs to be Drawn Between a Practicioner’s Playing the Role of Pastor or that of Chaplain?

I was a bit bemused by the persistence of the tendency to Bible-thump one’s way through any such discussion

I recently engaged several colleagues on the question of chaplaincy or pastoring. I was a bit bemused by the persistence of the tendency to Bible-thump one’s way through any such discussion, while advocating an interfaith approach as advanced by the adherents of the CPE agenda. I thought I’d share my contribution to the discussion.

listen-with-heartIt is my contention that we should not advance the notion of a “versus” or “as opposed to” when discussing chaplaincy or pastoring. While it is true that some traditions, the Hebrew and Islamic, for example, eschew the notion of “pastor” or “shepherd” for cultural or traditional, even ethical reasons, in the broader sense all chaplains are in fact “pastors,” while all pastors (in the conventional sense) are not necessarily “chaplains” (or critically speaking, even pastors!). In fact, I object in principal to the biased terminology we so frequently use in our vocations, “pastoral care” department, because it tends to be exclusive. I personally prefer spriritual care provider (although in my professional materials I do use pastoral care). Moreover, most people, even those in the vocation, tend to associate pastoral with pastors and thus with some sort of clergy or ordained service provider (usually with no questions asked and we all know about the profanation of ordination); that in itself is a misfortune for all concerned. But the much-touted CPE doesn’t do much to clarify the issues for interns or residents, and we still see chaplains “certified” by the self-proclaimed arbitors of chaplaincy who are just as ignorant after several years of “education” as they were before.

A case in point is taken from the scenario presented by the initiator of the discussion who describes walking into a Jewish patient’s room with a Christian clerical collar, which I characterized as benign “ignorance” but in reality was outright insensitive and would indicate that the “chaplain” in question did not do any initial preparation before launching out on rounds or visitations.clerical collar pc I might fraternally suggest that in future, whether you are a chaplain or a pastoral care associate, to check the chart briefly or dialogue with the nurse assigned to that patient before you visit. The offending chaplain actually says that he was aware that the patient was dying and had no family, so it seems rather odd that the chaplain did not appreciate the patient’s faith tradition and, if it wasn’t in the chart, that he didn’t consult with the immediate caregiver (nurse or LPN).

I also questioned the fact that the visiting chaplain was aware that the man was “Jewish”. Being Jewish immediately identifies one as being associated with a certain cultural, socio-religious tradition, after all, one does not call one’s self “Jewish” except to identify one’s self as a Jew. So this also raises the question of whether the chaplain in question was indifferent to the possibility that this dying man might have welcomed a visit by a rabbi, or that the chaplain did not make or offer to make a referral. Such sensitivity may have been a great comfort to the man, who might have found great refuge in his tradition and prayers. So I identify a boundary issue in this behavior, too; an issue of knowing one’s limits.

This situation also sends up red flags in that it clearly indicates that the institution did not do a spiritual assessment of this patient, much less a spiritual evaluation or history, which also reveals a glaring ignorance of the now widely inaugurated JCAHO and HIPA scoring categories relating to patient spiritual care.

The scenario I describe above should be instructive to us all and I thank the so-called chaplain for the inadvertent teaching/learning moment he has provided.

Finally, in the dying process I don’t feel there’s a heck of a lot of “pastoring” left to be done, unless it’s for the survivors. In my experience, in end-of-life situations I am more of a presence and spiritual guide/companion. While that may arguably be part of pastoring in a general sense, I feel that the actual mission of pastoring contrasts in praxis with the mission of spiritual accompaniment at end-of-life or in an existential crisis.

plant in handIt’s rather like the difference between evangelization and catechesis, if you have that in your tradition. One takes care of the basics and gets the seed started (evangelization), the other (catechesis) ends in the care and nurturing to harvest time.

Listening to hearAnother colleague mentioned in a rather cliché fashion with which we are all familiar when listening to the CPE crowd, that CPE trains one to listen. I disagree with such responses such as “CPE “teaches” one to listen.” I’m not quite sure how that works but in my divinity training and three years of supervised pastoral formation, and my participation in and disappointment with a rather popular CPE program in a large trauma center in Albany, New York, which fell far short of even my minimum aspirations, I don’t think that people can be “taught to listen” they may listen, but they don’t listen deeply. I know that from experience the deep listening skill comes from deep within one’s self, once one is comfortable with one’s self, and can leave one’s self for the time it takes to absorb and process the patient’s narrative. It’s that kind of listening that might be part of qualifying an aspirant to be spiritual care provider but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.

The serene face of the large Buddha his long wise curvaceous ears at once loving and open to the woes of the world: Compassionate.

The serene face of the Buddha, his long wise curvaceous ears at once loving and open to the woes of the world: Compassionate.

Deep listening is the act of sinking into a serene quiet place, and awakening a receptive awareness of the other. By entering quiet and becoming aware of the other, we move out of and beyond our ego-driven chaos to become open to the divine messages within us and shared with us by the other. Imagine the irony here is that we so often complain of the pain of not having been heard, but we are so guilty ourselves of being deaf to, not hearing the innate wisdom from within ourselves and shared with us by others. When we learn to accept emptiness, when quiet, we instinctively trust in the guidance of sacred voices far more profoundly than what our bullying brains and the busy buzz of life would have us hear. And we listen, respond with silence.

In fact, having examined quite a number of CPE curricula and having developed continuing quality improvement curricula for the healthcare chaplaincy department, I find that the current CPE programs and their associated certification elements serve only to promote a burocratic and very branded form of “pastoral” care, and that branded product falls short of most suffering persons’ real needs. helpingIt’s the proprietary nature and standardization (viz. uniformization, homogenization) of the learning that deals the death blow to an appreciation (1) of the universal truths and values shared by all human beings, (2) the beauty in the diversity of traditions and how to appreciate and be enriched by a certain mutuality, (3) the possible pitfalls of an interfaith approach to faith traditions that may adhere very loyally to their dogmas. There are other reasons I could enumerate but regrettably (or fortunately for the readers) space is limited.

I think that an overwhelming majority, too, of CPE students come with excess baggage and too little self-death–I’ve observed interns, residents, even certified chaplains who have a great potential to do considerable damage…and do. The situation is not unlike seminary, you can do much to scrutinize, to form, to standardize but Whoa! when you turn them loose on the world, watch out! (A Roman Catholic diocesan priest, who also serves in the chancery tribunal, remarked ironically to me one day, “They’ll ordain anybody these days.” Which is probably true given the shortage of priests today.)

The so-called supervisors of the CPE programs almost invariable have their own biases and agendas, and these tend to impair good formation.
In some, not all instances, too, CPE programs have become “pay-to-work” programs in which minimally screened individuals, wet behind the ears and green, are turned loose on the floors to deal with sophisticated staff and human beings in existential crisis. I don’t feel that’s right. And I have also observed that interns are exposed to the same curriculum content for three or four years, and unless they have the academic predisposition to independently advance their armamentarium of experience through narrative and study, many don’t build their foundations. Some interns do not have theology or pastoral studies to help them through the necessary processing, and almost all have a depraved Western bias to their spirituality that tends to act as a speed bump when offering care to Non-western recipients. These programs tend to be “chaplain mills.” CPE does not fit the bill on its own to form professional, well-rounded spiritual care providers, but does excel in churning out multitudes of volunteers for greedy institutions. That may be one of the reasons it has survived this long.

On another level, some practitioners involved in the discussion advocated that the “Gospel” or, by extension, holy scriptures, has no firm place in chaplaincy. I do differ in that the fundamental ethics of the “Gospel” (not as understood principally by the evangelicals or fundamentalist among us) is a major part of chaplaincy. servant leadershipI cite particularly the beatitudes and the teaching of discipleship and servant leadership (chaplaincy is certainly not limited to the sick and dying but to the suffering generally). While I abhor the notion, and even more so the practice of proselytizing to captive audiences, and would hasten to emphasize that evangelization and catechization is not a fundamental role of the chaplain, ethics, discipleship, and servant leadership all play a special role in the myriad activities of the professional chaplain. (Note also that I do distinguish between the “professional chaplain”, the pastoral/spiritual care associate, and the visitor providing spiritual support.) To advocate that the truths and values espoused by the “Gospel”, the holy scriptures of any faith or spiritual tradition might have no place in chaplaincy is to advocate a position, I believe, of a chaplaincy practice devoid of ethics (and religion) (I do realize that this is a particularly “Christian” approach and my Judaic, Islamic and Buddhist colleagues may not necessarily agree with the religion-ethics statement, but I make the statement here somewhat loosely for convenience sake).

I’m not judging colleagues in chaplaincy or Clinical Pastoral Education too severely at all. In fact, I’m simply sharing my own observations and opinions based on personal experience. I am not a bit surprised when some readers tend to take these observations personally, as if they were meant to make an ad hominem stab at the straw[wo]men of CPE; I usually anticipate that persons in our line of work have a bit more self-awareness not to take every facially severe remark as a lancet thrust to the heart, however.

Rather than play an offended person’s role, perhaps we all would benefit by admitting that we may have learnt something about one’s self as through another’s eyes.

We Respond, We don't React.

We Respond, We don’t React.

Our role is to humbly respond, not to knee-jerk react. After all, to paraphrase the prophet Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘We are all wrapped in the same cloth…when we directly hurt another we indirectly hurt ourselves.” (I do hope I did that statement justice!). So, when one party to the conversation called such a response arrogant, and a failure to simply accept some responsibility in relationship to colleagues’ responses, I merely responded, “My point indeed. The mouth loves the feel of words.” Instead we minimize, rationalize and justify our behavior, making certain to protect one’s self. This particular correspondent insists that “our patients have thick enough skins to handle a collar.”panda overload My response was tantamount to the fact that I don’t think that we have any right to expect patients to have “thick skins.” Some practitioners in pastoral care seem to admit patients’ strengths but underestimate their sensitivity and vulnerability. Many of the patients I see have lost their thick skins and in fact are pretty bruised in terms of dignity, autonomy, fortitude, patience, etc. I see no reason to add another straw to the pile. And Yes! It’s not about us, it’s about patient-centered, family-focused, inter- and multi-disciplinary care.

bedside prayerWhen we adopt such an approach we appreciate that, whereas many of our colleagues practice their spiritual care ministry in acute care settings or in crisis settings, many colleagues may find themselves–particularly in the scenario of the long-term care setting–in the position of playing both the role of chaplain and pastor to some residents in those longer-term care facilities. Regrettably, many of these residents lived their lives unchurched or churched with infrequent interaction with their faith community; more regrettably, some faith communities have disappeared or simply no longer continue a ministry of visitation of the sick and homebound who were once part of their faith community. It’s in such situations that the chaplain may very well become the pastor, and have to function in both roles. I don’t feel that this should be a major stumbling block nor even a concern to the well-formed spiritual care provider, who is responding to a true call to spiritual care ministry.

We're all wrapped in the same cloth...

We’re all wrapped in the same cloth…


Pastoral Care Debacle…


As A Pastoral Care Provider and As A Consumer of Pastoral Care Services in Hospitals and Nursing Homes We Have An Obligation to Be More Critical and Ask More Questions. We Must Have A Voice.

We Must Ask Critical Questions!

Over the years I have done a great deal of reading, research, and critical thinking about pastoral care, spiritual support, chaplaincy and have come to some conclusions. Some of these conclusions are disturbing, others are illuminating, some are constructive, others are serious wake-up calls. So let me throw a couple of them out and get some feedback from my pastoral care colleagues and from some of our readers who may be on the receiving end of our well-meant efforts.

Pastoral care used to be the ministry of the clergy or at least the pious religious, usually in monasteries or in hospitals run by religious orders. The theory was basically to perform acts of mercy, to provide spiritual encouragement and guidance, to attempt to alleviate suffering, and to make the transition from life here to life in the hereafter somewhat easier. Not much has changed from say the 13th century to the 21st century, despite the fact that we’ve had more than 800 years to re-evaluate and update our operations.
From my perspective, pastoral care continues to be a ministry but more than that it is a vocation, a calling. True, we in professional chaplaincy have professional degrees in theological studies, pastoral studies or have even gone through studies leading to the advanced degrees of master of divinity or a doctorate in ministry. Some have succumbed to the lobbying and the arrogance of the 20th century’s panacaea, its answer to everything: certification. But this notion of lobbying and influence peddling, of certification, though well-intentioned enough, has gone awry and has become merely another MBA scheme. Far from its original intention of benefitting the recipient of pastoral care it has become yet another way to promote questionable ideologies, to form cliques, to push political agendas, to become esclusive in too many ways. In fact, by virtue of the numbers, the whole system of certification of pastoral care providers has become almost fraudulent; indeed, many of those certified have forgotten the humility and discipleship that underscores the authentic pastoral care provider and have become mini-celebs, or the divine’s personal liaison to the suffering.

This problem, and a problem it is, is not primally that of the novice who enters the tutelage of a so-called “certified supervisor” in a “certified clinical pastoral education” program, but is created and perpetuated by individuals with an agenda and a mission: that of notoriety and recognition, of being the one who has made pastoral care a bonum fides entity in holistic healthcare delivery. Half-baked didactics, half-hearted supervision, checking the text messages and emails, rushing off to this or that committee meeting, Oops! off to a conference, politicking for that grant or those funds, prettying up the place for the site visit, etc. forms the day-to-day routine of the “certified supervisor.” The intern is left pretty much on his or her own after having paid up to about $700 just to be an intern! What’s worse, the hospital gets reimbursed for the services performed!

In this entire process, however, something is missing. Sure there’s structure. Of course there’s “standards.” And yes, there is the opportunity to learn a great deal on the floors and about one’s self but little thought is actually given to the effects on the recipients of the pastoral care being delivered–and that pastoral care, if we can throw that term about somewhat carelessly, does vary enormously depending on the intern’s background, faith tradition, education, and experience.

All too frequently, as in any hierarchical, corporate organization you’ll go far in terms of the certification process if you don’t buck the supervisor, if you don’t question his or her doctrines and dogmas, if you don’t have any thoughts of your own, if you prostrate yourself before the supervisor, and your don’t ask too many questions–and you’ll fare much, much better if you keep your mouth shut and play stupid. Just be corporate and know your “boundaries.”
Hospitals and nursing homes, despite what we read in the professional journals, play loosey-goosey with pastoral care. Most have no clue what a professional pastoral care minister is and they’re happy in their ignorance. Ask around, if you’re curious or looking for placement or even looking for a care facility for yourself or a loved one and you’ll be shocked to find that pastoral, religious, spiritual care is tucked away between personal laundry services and janitorial services, or is included in the activities department with ballroom limping and paper flower making, or is simply relegated to the volunteer department. In other words, one of the most important aspects of the suffering person’s pilgrimage through bereavement, pain, illness, his or her anxiety and existential questions are largely ignored in favor of things to pass the time and beautician services. In other words, much of what is done takes on a cold technical-scientific aspect or is window-dressing to make the facility as marketable and pretty as possible, not for the patient-resident, but to sell the place to the family and keep the bottom line in the black. That’s at the administrative level, of course.

We cannot do enough justice to the dedicated and committed souls on the floors, in the trenches as it were, those with direct patient-resident contact, the living saints: the nursing staff and the nursing aids and therapists who serve in a vocation on a par with that of the professional chaplain. But we must be clear that the spiritual, the religious, the emotional aspect of the patient-resident, an eminently important part of the healing of the wounds of the suffering, is largely treated with a bandaid.

Turf Wars Are Not Uncommon

There are turf and territory concerns, too. I know of no so-called director of pastoral care or a director of volunteer services who would admit that he or she is unqualified for the job of overseeing and coordinating pastoral care to patients and residents. Regrettably, most are ignorant and most take advantage of their position to be self-important in the institution. The standard is generally “good enough” to get under the wire.

Pastoral care is a healthcare specialty and the professional chaplain is a healthcare profession who makes valuable contributions to patient-resident care on the inter- and multi-disciplinary healthcare team. A local clergy person plucked from the community and providing monthly liturgy or worship ritual or popping in to visit patients or residents affiliated with his or her faith tradition is not a chaplain. Most local volunteer clergy have little or no training in clinical pastoral care, little or no knowledge of hospital or medical technology or procedures, many have their own issues, and most are pitifully overworked and distracted by the demands of their parish or congregation. Local volunteer clergy are poor substitutes for dedicated pastoral care professionals.

Most volunteer coordinators and most directors of pastoral care in our hospitals and nursing homes are unaware of the fact that federal and state laws apply to pastoral care and the Joint Commission for Accreditaion of Hospital Organizations, the people who inspect and accredit hospitals and other healthcare facilities, require pastoral care services, and have scoring categories that apply to how the pastoral care is delivered. Do most hospitals and nursing homes comply? Absolutely not!

I’m Here To Stay…I’m Not Budging!

In fact, the era of the denominational hospital is past! There will be no more “Catholic,” “Lutheran,” etc. hospitals run by denominations and adhering to the denomination’s philosophies, ethical tenets, doctrines, etc. Not if they want to continue receiving federal and state administered funds! The age of the interfaith institution is nigh. No more bedside evangelization and proselytizing is out. You even have to ask permission to pray now! Sure we have some prehistoric remnants, fossils remaining on the staffs and boards, even running the pastoral care departments. These are mostly nuns who are making money for their communities and who defend their turf with a religious fervor. There are also priests and ministers who serve part time as pastors and play pastoral care director or chaplain the rest of the time. In an age when parishes and congregations are starving for pastoral leadership, I cannot understand why religious and clergy are allowed to take secular jobs but Hey! there’s hypocrisy everywhere. But this is definitely a conflict of interests considering the constraints and needs, not to mention competency questions.


Most hospitals and nursing homes drag their feet, put up smoke screens, lie on their websites and in their marketing literature, or do just enough to make an impression, and fail in most of the more critical aspects of pastoral care services to their patients and residents.
This article will be continued…


Continuing Debate: Same-Sex Marriage


Does Same-Sex Marriage or Civil Union Really Pose a Threat to the Family? I Mean, Really?

 Based on some intensive research I’d done recently in exploring the role of theology in the 21st century, I chose to look at same-sex unions from the ancients’ attitudes to more recent movements. The results were eye-opening. It led me to reconsider how much of a threat same-sex unions are to the “family,” especially in view of what family has become today in our culture. This article looks for a definition of marriage; perhaps we should re-examine our definition of family while we’re at it.

The number of states went up to eight, when on March 1, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. It will not go into effect, however, until 2013 and opponents are collecting signatures to force a popular vote on the issue, the Washington Post reported on March 14.

Since 1998, 31 states have had ballot measures related to same-sex marriage, and opponents have prevailed in every state, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

Advocates for same-sex marriage have not been able to give an answer to the question “What is marriage?” that does not result in the complete collapse of the institution, wrote Matthew J. Franck, Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, for Public Discourse last December 15.

“That is to say, if men can marry men, and women marry women, we no longer know what the institution is, or what it is for, or what its boundaries are, or who is to be ruled in and who is to be ruled out as eligible to participate in it,” he commented. If same-sex marriage is allowed then the door is open for polygamy, polyamory and incest, he added.

Read or download the entire article at Same-Sex Marriage. Read what the English government is doing about redefining marriage: English Government Seeks New Definition Of Marriage.


Blessing of a Child in the Womb


Vatican Approves English and Spanish Texts for ‘Blessing of a Child in the Womb’

WASHINGTON (March 26, 2012) —The Vatican has approved the publication of the “Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb,” which will be printed in English and Spanish in a combined booklet and should be available for parishes by Mothers’ Day. The U.S. bishops who collaborated on the development of the blessing welcomed the announcement of the recognitio, or approval, by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome.

“I’m impressed with the beauty of this blessing for human life in the womb,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “I can think of no better day to announce this news than on the feast of the Annunciation, when we remember Mary’s ‘yes’ to God and the incarnation of that child in her the womb that saved the world.”

“We wanted to make this announcement as soon as possible so that parishes might begin to look at how this blessing might be woven into the fabric of parish life,” said Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship. “Eventually the new blessing will be included in the Book of Blessings whenthat text is revised.”

The blessing was prepared to support parents awaiting the birth of their child, to encourage parish prayers for and recognition of the precious gift of the child in the womb, and to foster respect for human life within society. It can be offered within the context of the Mass as well as outside of Mass.

The blessing originated when then-Bishop Joseph Kurtz of Knoxville, Tennessee (now archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky) asked the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities to see if a blessing existed for a child in the womb. When none was found, the committee prepared a text and submitted it to the USCCB’s Divine Worship committee in March of 2008. It was approved by the full body of bishops in November 2008, and then sent to Rome for editing and final approval.

Read or download the Zenit release at Vatican Approves Blessing For Child In The Womb


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.


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