Sparks and Stubble is a fine blog written by a fine priest

Here he is exhorting us and his fellow clergy to get to work challenging a dark time for the Church in the West.

By the way, I just got back on Saturday from a big archdiocesan conference in Denver and I was very heartened by it. In addition to the fun stuff (i.e. getting to meet Jen Fulwiler, hanging out with Kevin Knight of the New Advent site, and getting to chew the fat with Dr. Mary Healy, Chris Stefanick, and Patrick Coffin) I had the honor of getting to chat with Bp. James Conley, who gave a barn-burner of a homily that confirmed my growing conviction that the American bishops are actually willing to go to jail, if necessary, to defy the God-King’s tyrannical mandate. I had a chance to thank him, and he expressed similar confidence that the bishops are really determined on this matter.

It will be interesting to see how this all turns out. I am persuaded that there is more-than-human evil at work here and I suspect that much rests on the quality of our prayers and repentance. I suck at prayers and repentance, but I’m hoping I will be less lousy at it.

PS. Patrick Coffin, in addition to being the host of Catholic Answers Live, is a professional magician. He entertained Chris Stefanick, Chris’ wife, and me for a couple of hours after the speakers’ dinner on Friday night with a series of card tricks that were dazzling. I don’t think I will ever forgot the “barfing up a deck of cards” prestidigitation. If only he could do it on radio. Amazing stuff. Hire him for your bar mitzvah.

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  • Susan

    Hi Mark,
    Is Bp Conley’s homily available anywhere on line? Wd love to read it.

    • Susan: Bishop Conley hasn’t published his homilies lately (probably because he’s so busy), but most of the conference talks were recorded, possibly also the homily – AND Mark’s talks, of course! You can ask about recordings at this link:

  • “It will be interesting to see how this all turns out. I am persuaded that there is more-than-human evil at work here and I suspect that much rests on the quality of our prayers and repentance. I suck at prayers and repentance, but I’m hoping I will be less lousy at it.”

    For all of us who suck at prayer and repentance and just generally leading the life of a devoted disciple… thanks. I hope to join you in not sucking as badly.

  • Mark, you’re such a shameless name-dropper. 😉 It was nice to see you at the conference, and get caught up! Yes, Bishop Conley rocked the house, and did so again at the Cathedral last night. We don’t know who our new Archbishop will be, now that Chaput has moved to Philly, but we wouldn’t mind having Conley at all, he’s great!

    BTW, your Patheos blog looks nice!

    • Mark Shea

      If it isn’t the famous Aimee Cooper, who I also hung out with in Denver! Here’s her awesome blog!: The woman is brilliant and focused! Look out world!

      • aw, shucks . . . thanks . . . Come back to Denver soon!

  • keddaw

    Even if the mandate is unconstitutional (I’m not sure it is, but that’s a different discussion) the fact is there are secular* laws in place that any non-purely religious organisation wishing to partake in has to abide by. If the Church wants to compete in market X but doesn’t like rule A, which ALL businesses have to abide by, then it can’t compete in market X – there is no freedom of religion argument here. No-one is stopping the Church from doing religion, the rules simply make the Church uncomfortable being in non-religious scenarios where they have to follow secular rules and can’t be granted special exemptions.

    Imagine a hospital that didn’t offer blood transfusions. Imagine an asbestos manufacturer who had a moral objection to lung disease and respiratory illness so those were exempted from his employees healthcare.

    Churches are acting as businesses and claiming exemptions from business rules and regulations because of their other incarnation as a religious organisation. That won’t fly. Do your religious stuff as a Church, not as a business.

    * Secular, in this instance (if not all instances), simply means with no regards to any particular religion. It treats all people of all faiths equally.

    • Mark Shea

      The Church competed just fine in offering the works of mercy. Nobody does it more or better. This is not “competition”. This is the state coming in and trying to force the Church to do something it doesn’t believe it should do. Comparisons to blood transfusions are bullshit. A blood transfusion saves lives. Contraception and abortion save no lives. Pregnancy is not a disease and babies are not tumors.

      • Ted Seeber

        In fact, I’d say the real problem is that we’re trying to compete. Making money off of misery is a fine old American Tradition now, but when these hospitals were started, most doctors in the United States were paid by barter, not by insurance companies.

      • keddaw

        You are completely off-base in trying to separate out blood transfusions. It is a strongly held religious view of some people that blood transfusions are wrong in the strongest possible terms. That you and I disagree simply lets you understand how the rest of us feel about contraception (which has NO logical path to be considered wrong) and abortion (which does).

        However, the easiest, best and correct solution is to separate out healthcare from employment. This is the source of so many problems in the US, it forces people to stay in jobs they hate/are no good at/are treated appallingly in simply because not only their health insurance is dependant upon employment, but their dependants too. Whether this is by a general taxation/insurance scheme, by mandate of individuals, or by choice is a political decision, but stop employers providing (subsidising) health insurance, please.

    • godescalc

      “If the Church wants to compete in market X but doesn’t like rule A, which ALL businesses have to abide by, then it can’t compete in market X.”

      The Church is not trying to enter market and demand a different set of rules. The Church is trying to continue its old businesses – running hospitals and universities – and is complaining that government is imposing a different set of rules.

      Also, doing “religious stuff” as something other than a nominally for-profit business will do little to solve these problems. A hospital can be run as a non-profit, but is still an employer and will still be subject to employment regulations as a result.

      • Ted Seeber

        Then maybe what we need is segregation.

  • Time for a reality check, Mark. On Saturday, you approached me and timidly asked to borrow five dollars to buy “a meal or two comic books”. So I gave it to you.

    Then you began pressing me for advice on blogging, dental hygiene, and social skills. Which I granted. Noblesse oblige.

    Finally you asked if you could stand next to me for a photograph, which I naturally refused. And as I walked away, you followed me all the way to my car, dashing from one light post to another. (Yes, I knew you were back there the entire time.)

    “Hanging out together?” Is that what it’s called in Seattle?

    • Mark Shea

      I am so sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Knight. It’s just that I’m your Number One Fan! I… want your life. It’s not fair that you have your life and I don’t.

  • I almost wet myself, Kevin, but the first time I met Mark he practically forced me to eat a Turkey sandwich before being led to a basement where they were shooting film of an old man ina dress, lying in bed.

    Needless to say, I bolted!

  • Mark,
    Thanks for the kind words and mention. My sister called me this morning: “You’re famous! Mark Shea linked your blog!”
    A blessed lent to you.

    Fr. Seamus

    • Margaret

      Father– just a heads up– LOVED your essay, thought it was spot on, but you might want to fix “pears” (about midway through) to “peers.” 🙂

      • Uggg… spelling – another soft spot of us JPIIs who have grown up with spell check? Thanks for the heads up!

        • Margaret

          I’ve had a change of heart, Father Seamus. We should be more tolerant of diversity in spelling, and not be so harsh and rigid in our judgments of what is or is not spelled “correctly.” 😉

  • Tell us more about that magician. Sounds amaaaaazing.

  • Joe Fulwiler

    So, that’s why you guys kept applauding! We were at the table next to you and we thought you were just applauding each other’s (or Mark Shea’s) witty dinner remarks.

  • Hey Everyone! I saw this comment thread in my Google Alerts! I wanted you all to know that the Archdiocese of Denver has finally published Bishop Conley’s March 3 homily from the 2012 Living the Catholic Faith Conference at Right now, we only have audio files posted but we’re working to have the text up by early next week!