Friday, May 11, 2012

Trouble at a Pontifical Academy; Blessing (virtually) Ready for Mother's Day; Threatening the Status Quo

I posted some of my take on this week's news yesterday:
Just like yesterday, today's post involves what some folks 'know, that just ain't so' about the Catholic Church. For starters, as a practicing Catholic, I have to be a good citizen. It's in the rules. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1915, 2238-2243)

If that's not quite what you've heard about the Catholic Church, I'm not surprised. Some very odd notions have oozed through American culture.

(Chick Publications, via, used w/o permission)

Preserving the Status Quo

I think part of the problem some folks have with the Catholic Church is that being a good citizen doesn't necessarily mean preserving the status quo. I'll get back to that.

  1. A Pontifical Academy, Words of Eternal Life, and Playing Mad Scientist
  2. Blessing of a Child in the Womb: Ready For Mother's Day (Virtually)
  3. Helping People, Threatening the Status Quo

3. A Pontifical Academy, Words of Eternal Life, and Playing Mad Scientist

"Controversies prompt call for resignation at Vatican's pro-life academy"
CNA (Catholic News Agency) (May 8, 2012)

"...Members of the Pontifical Academy for Life want its top officials to resign over a series of recent controversial decisions, including a conference described as the 'worst day' in its history....

"...The professor [Josef Seifert] told the academy president that he 'can understand those members - most of whom never before criticized the Pontifical Academy for Life and are very soft-spoken - who told me that the only choice that remains for the Directory Board … is to resign.'

"...Billed as a conference on ethical treatments for infertility, the pontifical academy's Feb. 24 assembly drew criticism from some participants who said it provided a platform for opponents of Church teaching. In Friday's letter, Seifert called it 'the worst day in our history' at the Academy for Life...."
This doesn't shake my faith, and I'm not going to leave the Catholic Church because of a few loose cannons in Rome. I was a historian long before I converted to Catholicism, and one reason the Church fascinated me was its wildly improbable survival. And that's another topic.

The bottom line for me is that we've had rough patches, like the two around 1050-1180 and 1320-1450. But I'm on the same page as Peter, when my Lord asked him if he wanted to leave:
"Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

"We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.' "
(John 6:68-69)
Knowing what I do, deciding to stay or leave is simple. Not necessarily easy: but simple.

(Back to the list of headings)

Cancellation, Explanation, and Pontifical Academies

"...In March, the academy canceled a planned conference on adult stem cells, which was due to feature speakers who also support embryonic research. Conference organizers went on to distance the academy from 'some pro-life activists,' while giving varying explanations for the cancellation.

"Natural family planning expert Mercedes Wilson, an academy member who presented at the February 2012 conference, joined Prof. Seifert in criticizing that event and the academy's recent direction...."
There's a pretty good backgrounder on the Pontifical Academies on Wikipedia's website:
That's "pretty good," not "perfect." The Wikipedia article says there are 10 Pontifical Academies. The Vatican lists 11:
(Back to the list of headings)

A Trivial Error: But Still an Error

Whoever wrote the Wikipedia article thinks the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy isn't a Pontifical Academy, because the Dictionary of Popes and the Papacy, Crossroad Publishing Co. New York, says so.

I got that set of links from, the Holy See's website. I could assume that a regular American outfit like Crossroad Publishing Co. New York, knows more about the Vatican than the Vatican does. But that, in my considered opinion, would be silly.

So What?
  • What some book says about the Catholic Church may not be true
  • The Vatican has a history of being involved in different facets of contemporary life
    • Including science
(Back to the list of headings)

Pro-Life, Not Anti-Science

"...Wilson said she was one of 'only two presenters who offered the audience natural solutions to the problems of infertility,' along with Pope Paul VI Institute founder Dr. Thomas Hilgers.

" 'As His Holiness Benedict XVI read his message to the participants of the assembly, it was obvious that he was not aware that the president and its governing council had invited presenters who are in complete disaccord with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church,' Wilson recounted.

" 'There were presentations on in vitro fertilization, and other medical procedures that are forbidden by the teachings of the Church. This became a public scandal in an academy that was formed specifically to defend life and protect the teachings of Holy Mother Church.'..."
The notion that science disproves religion, and that Christianity is anti-science, is fairly new. Also crazy. (March 14, 2012) I've said what I think of it before. (January 18, 2012, March 20, 2009)

(Back to the list of headings)

Insisting that Human Beings are People

The problem with in vitreo fertilization isn't that it's 'scientific.' As a practicing Catholic, I'm not allowed to drop human ova and sperm in a bowl, decide to use some of the "biological material" that results for experiments, let others grow until it's illegal to kill them in America, and throw away the rest.

The Catholic Church is fine with science. It's folks who want to play 'mad scientist' who don't seem to like our rules. Here's part of what the Catholic Church has to say, about respecting human life.
I think the problem the Church has, in 'getting along' with America's self-described best and brightest, is that the Church insists that human beings are people. All human beings, even ones who are:
  • Young
  • Old
  • Sick
  • 'Useless'
(Back to the list of headings)

4. Blessing of a Child in the Womb: Ready For Mother's Day (Virtually)

This is a sort of follow-up on part of a post from April 13, 2012:
"Blessing of a Child in the Womb - NEW!!!"
Pro-Life Blessings, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (May, 2012)

The new 'Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb' was crafted 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 may be offered within the context of the Mass as well as outside of Mass...."
Mother's Day is this Sunday. It's also the first weekend of fishing season here in Minnesota, and that's still another topic. Since this blessing is very appropriate for Mother's Day - and there's no way that the "43-page bi-lingual booklet/s" could get delivered in time for Mother's Day - I archived a copy of the .pdf/Acrobat version of the booklet:
(Back to the list of headings)

"Coming Soon," and a Download Option for Mother's Day

As of Thursday evening, the non-virtual version of this booklet wasn't available:
"...Coming Soon: Order your 43-page bi-lingual booklet/s through USCCB Publishing (Item #7-316)...."
Item #7-316 hasn't been printed yet. The product description page says it should be ready for shipping on June 19, 2012. At least that was the case late on May 5, 2012. Again, a link to the USCCB Publishing's product page:
(Back to the list of headings)

"For Parishes Planning to Use the Blessing this Mothers's Day"

If you want to get the pdf/Acrobat version of the new booklet direct from the USCCB, more links:
"...For parishes planning to use the blessing this Mother's Day, the color PDF may also be downloaded...."
(USCCB Publishing)

"...Rite of Blessing for a Child in the Womb / Rito de benedición de una criatura en el vientre materno..."(.pdf/Acrobat format)
("Pro-Life Blessings," Pro Life Activities, USCCB)
(Back to the list of headings)

Blessing a Child in the Womb: How It Started, What It's For

The latest United States Conference of Catholic Bishops news release about the new blessing gives a little background on how it got started, and what it's for:
"Text Of Blessing Of A Child In The Womb Now Available In English And Spanish For Use In United States"
USCCB News Release (May 8, 2012)

"Following Vatican approval, the 'Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb' is now available for use by dioceses in the United States. The text of the blessing is posted online and is being published as a booklet addendum to the Book of Blessings/Bendicional. The blessing will be included in future editions of those liturgical volumes.

" 'We hope the use of this blessing will provide not only support and God’s blessing for expectant parents and their child in the womb, but also another effective witness to the sanctity of human life from the first moment of conception,” said Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

"The blessing can be offered within the context of the Mass as well as outside of Mass.

"Parishes planning to use the blessing this Mother’s Day can download the text at The blessing may be ordered through USCCB Publishing as a 43-page bi-lingual booklet at

"The blessing originated at the request of then-Bishop Joseph Kurtz of Knoxville, Tennessee (now archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky) to the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The committee prepared and submitted a text to the USCCB's Divine Worship committee in March of 2008. It was approved by the U.S. bishops in November 2008, and then sent to Rome for editing and final approval."
If the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wasn't Catholic, we could have had that prayer back in 2008. I'm an American, so I like to get things done promptly. But I'm also a Catholic: and a convert.

(Back to the list of headings)

Enthusiasm isn't Everything

I know what it's like for a church to be more enthusiastic than careful. And I remember the 'liturgical two-step' a few decades back, and the weirdly warped prayers.

I won't criticize the enthusiasm some folks showed. On the other hand, I converted to Catholicism, and that's yet another topic.

Getting back to that "Blessing of a Child in the Womb," the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is Catholic, so they did their job by the numbers. After reviewing the proposed blessing, and determining that it seemed quite acceptable, they sent the blessing and their findings to Rome.

This time, Rome approved, and we've got a rather nice addition to our armory of prayers.

Considering some of the alternatives, I don't mind waiting while some nifty new idea gets vetted by folks who aren't emotionally involved.

(Back to the list of headings)

5. Helping People, Threatening the Status Quo

"Vandals strike historic Santa Cruz church"
Kevin J. Jones, CNA (Catholic News Agency) ()

Graffiti on the wall of Siena House at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Santa Cruz, California. Photographer unknown, via CNA, used w/o permission."The parishioners of Holy Cross Church and the Diocese of Monterey, Calif. are 'shocked and saddened' after a Sunday vandalism spree damaged irreplaceable items like a baptismal font that the famous missionary Bl. Junipero Serra brought to the area in 1791.

" 'The Diocese of Monterey is deeply saddened by the apparent hate crime committed against Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz last weekend,' diocese spokesman Deacon Warren Hoy told CNA May 8.

"Damage affected the church, the attached Mission Santa Cruz Museum and the parish's ministry and outreach building Siena House....

"...The garden's baptismal font was so badly damaged and spray painted that the diocese is not sure whether it can be repaired....
Sadly, this isn't an isolated event. Crimes against churches are on the rise. All churches, not just Catholic ones. I don't know why, but I've got some opinions. (May 4, 2012)

The news item I wrote about last week focused on theft. What happened Holy Cross Catholic Church is vandalism. Whether or not it's a "hate crime" has more to do with legal process and semantics, than fact, I think. Any sort of vandalism could be defined as a 'hate crime,' in my opinion, and that's yet again another topic. Topics.

Whoever vandalized Holy Cross Catholic Church was thorough. Someone even climbed on the roof, to spray the bell tower.

(Back to the list of headings)

"Heathen Blood," Broken Windows, and Spray Paint

"...The windows were broken with rocks, while the doors and walls were spray painted with 'multiple anti-church slogans and symbols,' the Santa Cruz Police Department report on the incident said.

"Besides the damage to the baptismal font, other statues were broken or spray painted.

"Statues of Junipero Serra and the Virgin Mary had paint poured on them.

"The police report describes the crime as felony vandalism.

"The graffiti included words like 'we all have heathen blood' and a cross encircled by a 'no' symbol. One phrase said 'This Ohlone land,' an apparent reference to the Ohlone native American tribe....
No rant about whatever this month's politically-correct term is for folks who were in North America when Brendan the Navigator, Leif Erickson, and some fellow from Genoa, arrived.

For starters, writing "This Ohlone land," means that whoever wrote it knows how to spell "Ohlone." The person or persons might be no more Ohlone than the folks at the 'Boston Tea Party were Mohawks.

Besides, it wasn't all that long ago that my ancestors were routinely conducting human sacrifice. (Footnote 1 (January 19, 2010)) I'm not ashamed of my ancestry, but I know too much about my forebears to get uppity about it, either.

(Back to the list of headings)

"We Pray that God Will Ease Their Obvious Pain...."

Whoever did that exercise in self-expression at Holy Cross Catholic Church, and whatever the person or persons' motivations, folks in that parish have a mess to clean up:
"...Parishioners and parish staff have scrubbed off most of the graffiti, but it is still visible. The damaged statues will require professional restoration.

"Deacon Hoy said the attack shocked the area's Catholics.

" 'Holy Cross Church is an active member of the Santa Cruz community, with numerous social justice ministries helping people throughout the city, and we can't understand what would have provoked such a vicious attack,' he said....

"...'We pray that God will ease their obvious pain and lead them to repent of this terrible crime,' Deacon Hoy said.

" 'We will continue to work to build up God's Kingdom here on Earth, and to serve him by serving his people. Mindless acts of vandalism won't deter us from our mission.' "
(CNA) [emphasis mine]
That call for prayer does assume that breaking statues and windows in a church isn't right. But saying that something is wrong isn't as 'hateful' as it may seem to some Americans.

As a practicing Catholic, I'm expected to recognize that some actions are good, some aren't: and that it's possible to tell the difference. Which is not the same as saying that God hates everybody who doesn't agree with me:
"...although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1861)
Forgiveness is also important. (Catechism, 976-983) Then there's what my Lord said. (Luke 23:34) I've been over this before. (September 11, 2010, July 23, 2009)

(Back to the list of headings)

"Helping People" - No Wonder They Got Hit

I sympathize with the feelings expressed by this man:
"...'Holy Cross Church is an active member of the Santa Cruz community, with numerous social justice ministries helping people throughout the city, and we can't understand what would have provoked such a vicious attack'....
On the other hand, I'm not surprised that folks who help others got hit. One problem with being serious about social justice is that folks who benefit from social injustice don't like it.

I don't relish the idea of having a parish church vandalized, and hope that never happens here. On the other hand, taking a line through John 15:18-19, I tend to see the sort of attention that Holy Cross Church got as an indication that they're doing their job.

Like I've said before: I've been identified as a conservative, but that's not accurate. Depending on what issue is in play, I'm 'obviously' conservative; or 'obviously' liberal. Fact is, I'm Catholic, and I've posted about that before. (November 3, 2008)

(Back to the list of headings)

Social Justice?

"Social justice" is often supposed to be a 'liberal' thing. The term may be fairly new, but the Church has been working for "social justice" for two millennia. It's implicit in 'love God, love your neighbor,' and 'everybody's your neighbor.' (Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825)

The Church has spelled out just what 'social justice' means. Catechism, 1928-1942 gives a pretty good overview.

Basically, as far as I can tell, it's a matter of "respecting the transcendent dignity of man." (Catechism, 1929)

That's not the same as 'I love mankind: it's people I can't stand.' I've got to respect individuals. (Catechism, 1931) Then there's recognizing equality and difference: and that's yet one more another topic. (Catechism, 1934)

(Back to the list of headings)

Bloated Capitalists, Carpetbaggers: Oh, Wait, What Century is This?

The 'Brains,' Boss Tweed depicted by Thomas Nast in a wood engraving published in Harper's Weekly, October 21, 1871, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission. This image might not be in the public domain outside of the United States; this especially applies in the countries and areas that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works, such as Canada, Mainland China (not Hong Kong or Macao), Germany, Mexico, and Switzerland. The creator and year of publication are essential information and must be provided. See Wikipedia:Public domain and Wikipedia:Copyrights for more details.In 1871, when Thomas Nast drew that cartoon, America had social justice issues. Serious ones.

Carpetbaggers and boated capitalists of the Boss Tweed variety were current problems just after the War Between the States.

About 1.4 centuries later, we've still got problems: but they're a little different.

For example, National sovereignty isn't what it used to be: which isn't entirely bad news. My opinion. Folks in America and elsewhere are dealing, or failing to deal, with superdevelopment.

Quite a bit has happened in the last 50 years, I suspect that some folks didn't get the memo, and that's - what else? - another topic.

Related posts:


Brigid said...

The images aren't showing up. Links work, though.

Extra word: "it's a matter of respecting "respecting the transcendent dignity of man.""

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Images issue seems to have been resolved: and fixed the extra word. Thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.