Evidently, the Louisiana State Supreme Court woke up one morning and decided to K-O the legal protection for the seal of the confessional.
This legal privilege, which has long protected priests from prosecution for not revealing the things said to them in confession, has been under attack from zealous prosecutors. A few years ago, a prosecutor, who evidently never heard of building a case through the vast investigative powers of the government, decided to bug and record a confession between a prisoner in jail and his priest. When the prosecutor tried to enter this confession into evidence, the Catholic Church took him to court and won.
Now, the family of a young woman in the state of Louisiana has decided that they want a priest to testify as to what the young woman said to him in confession. The family has filed suit to force the priest to testify, so they can pursue a civil suit against the diocese. Since this confession was about the ugly topic of child abuse by an adult man, it raises all sorts of emotions and angers.
The Louisiana State Supreme Court basically ruled that if the person confessing reveals the confession, then the seal is broken and the priest can be forced to testify about the contents of the confession. There is precedent for this viewpoint in the attorney-client privilege. I have seen judges rule that the attorney-client privilege was broken because someone other than the attorney and client were in the room during the discussion, and then force the client to testify in court as to the contents of their conversation with their attorney.
However, the seal of the confessional is different from attorney-client privilege or doctor-patient privilege, or counselor-client privilege because it is a First Amendment right. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion without government interference. This guarantee has kept America out of the religious conflicts which have marred other societies for over 200 years.
The Louisiana State Supreme Court, by attempting to treat the seal of the confessional as any other privileged conversation, put its foot right through the First Amendment. Subsequent to this, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge petitioned the United States Supreme Court to overturn this Louisiana decision.
Now comes the murky part.
The United States Supreme Court sent this whole mess back to the level of the Fifth District Court in order for that court to hear arguments.
Ever since the Supreme Court did this, I’ve been reading that they allowed the Louisiana Court’s decision to “stand.” I’ve read whole news reports saying this as a fact. I honestly thought that was what had happened.
But this is not accurate. The Supreme Court did not say, go home, Louisiana’s Supreme Court was right. They basically said, get back in line.
They sent the case, which is still alive and kicking, back to a lower court to allow both sides to have their say and present their positions. That action does not let the Louisiana State Supreme Court’s decision “stand.” It just lets everybody, on both sides, have their day in court.
I expect this decision of the Louisiana State Supreme Court to be overturned.
However, if it is not, then we are going to have to come back against this violation of our religious liberties, and we’re going to have to come back hard. This is not a parlor game. It is a matter of sending our priests to jail because they will not violate the seal of the confessional. It is a question of whether or not Catholics will be free to access the sacraments of our faith without government intrusion.
Priests will have no choice in this matter. They will have to go to jail rather than break the seal of the confessional. If they don’t, the entire edifice on which the Church is built — the sacraments — will crumble. American Catholics have an absolute right to receive the sacraments without government intrusion. That right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
It is one of the essential building blocks of all our liberties as a free people.
Most of these attacks on the seal of the confessional come from over-zealous prosecutors. This particular claim comes from a family that probably feels guilty because their child was sexually abused and they did not know about it. I understand that and sympathize with it.
What I don’t understand and sympathize with is their attempt to make money off the deal with this civil suit. I also don’t understand why they are so eager to cash in that they are willing to attack one of the bedrock freedoms Americans enjoy and the sanctity of penitents’ encounters with Christ in the confessional.
They appear to be wiling to damage their country and their Church with this lawsuit. That will not heal their grief at having failed to protect their child.
The Fifth Circuit has the case now. We’ll have to wait and see what they do.
I’ve ignored the flap over Pope Francis’ latest airplane interview, mainly because it has no merit.
What I mean is that the carrying-on about the Holy Father’s use of certain phrases has no merit. It seems that Pope Francis affirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. In the process, he said that this teaching doesn’t mean that people need to have babies “like rabbits.”
All he meant was that people can use natural family planning. Big news.
The reaction was predictable.
On the one hand, Margery Egan, over at Crux, came out as a full member of The Pope is Catholic, Egad crowd. She reacted with hurt and outrage because Pope Francis stands by the Church’s teaching that artificial birth control is illicit. Here’s a bit of her reaction:
The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated.
I had hoped for so much more from this man.
Although he has not lived it himself, I had thought he understood something about good people living real lives in real marriages. I had thought he even understood something about the beauty of sex in marriage, the need for sex in marriage.
Then we have The Pope is Human, Egad crowd, going full tilt, as well. Most of this is showing up on Facebook and in chat rooms. A lot of people like their popes neat and straight-edged. What they want are popes who come out for display, recite Scripture and Church teaching as if they were programmed by a computer and then quietly go back inside to say their Rosaries.
In case you haven’t gotten the news, Pope Francis is not that kind of pope. He’s so completely relaxed in his papal skin that he just says whatever comes into his head. Fortunately for us, nothing that comes into his head is against the Church. Every single time he makes a comment that the press latches onto and tries to massage into a change in Church teaching, they are using an off-the-cuff comment that did no such thing. Misinterpret as they might, Pope Francis is not going to teach modern nihilism instead of the Gospels.
This good man, our Pope Francis, is Catholic. He’s also human. He’s a pastoral pope who loves to forgive sinners and who is using his papacy to say in every way he can that Jesus meant it when He said He came to save lost sinners.
Margery Egan asked if Pope Francis understands the real lives of real people, including the beauty and goodness of marital sex. The answer is yes, he does. That’s where the ‘you don’t have to reproduce like rabbits’ comment came from. All he meant was that Natural Family Planning works and Catholics should feel free to make use of it.
Now what does Bunnygate have to do with January 22? After all, Bunnygate is just Pope Francis, making good copy, and the media, proving once again just how significant the Church really is in today’s world.
If you doubt that, go stand on your front porch and should “reproduce like rabbits.” Do it several times. The only thing that might happen is that your neighbors will have something new to talk about. The New York Times, BBC, NBC, CBS, CNN and all their pals will give your behavior a big pass.
But when the pope uses such phrases, it’s front page news all around the world. Everything he says, every little gesture he makes, is observed, reported and interpreted according to the interpreter’s prejudice in every media outlet going.
Because what he says matters.
Because the Church is not irrelevant.
Because Jesus Christ, despite all the attacks and attempts to destroy faith in Him, is Lord, and billions of people bend their knee to Him.
That’s why Bunnygate is Bunnygate. It’s a big deal because the Church and Jesus are big deals.
How does that apply to January 22?
The early Christians stopped the practice of exposing infants, primarily baby girls, by three methods. First they refused to do it themselves. Second, they went out and rescued these babies, brought them home and raised them as part of their families. Third, they said it was wrong, over and over and over, until the message finally got through.
January 22 is the anniversary of the day when we resurrected the old practice of discarding unwanted children. We went further after that with our rights talk and brought back the Baals in new form as we sacrificed our babies, our elderly, our sick and even our unhappy people to the little g gods of modern convenience.
In our world today, bunnygate matters because it is the Vicar of Christ, however awkwardly he might phrase it, affirming once again that He is Catholic and that this means that he stands for life. The Church did not waver one inch in that airplane interview. The pope just stuck his foot in his mouth a bit. That’s all.
But he said the right things. He just said them in an off-hand and humorous way.
That is the only part of the interview that matters, which is why I haven’t bothered talking about it until now. The pope reiterated Church teaching. He practiced number three of the three things the early Christians did to overturn the practices of human sacrifice and exposing unwanted babies.
We do our version of number three when we go out into the streets today and march for life. We are saying, once again, that the Supreme Court was wrong. We will continue saying it until the message finally gets through.
At the same time, pro life people must also refuse to engage in abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cells research, egg harvesting and the attendant anti-life activities that saturate our world. Our most important testimony for life is living pro life.
That means we take care of other people. We put people ahead of profit and ahead of convenience. If we believe that the right to life is the first and most essential human right, then we have to behave that way in our private lives and our public lives.
We are called to follow Jesus when we are in the shower and when we are on a stage; when we pay our bills and when we go to work. Most important of all, we are called to follow Jesus in our homes and with our families, in how we treat the people closest to us.
January 22 and Bunnygate go together because they are of a whole. The United States Supreme Court unwittingly called forth Christians to witness to the sanctity of human life. The Holy Father has affirmed that the Church does not back down from this call.
Today is a special day for each of us to re-affirm to ourselves and to others that we stand for life and that we will continue to stand for life in our homes, on our jobs and on the streets until the world finally gets the message.
The newest issue of Charlie Hebdo makes fun of the Pope.
I doubt that the editorial staff is worried about a violent response to this. After all, they’ve already printed quite a number of issues mocking and otherwise attacking the Catholic Church.
I found this clip from the movie The Robe. It dramatizes the way that Christians respond to these things. The Robe is fiction, but the fact of Christian faithfulness, even to death, is how the message of the cross has spread around the world and is growing today.
Pope Francis’ Flying Zucchetto
Hurricane Haiyan: When I saw from Rome that catastrophe, I decided I have to be hear. Jesus is Lord, and He never lets us down. Many of you have asked the Lord, Why Lord, and Christ responds from His heart, on the cross. Let us look to Christ. He is the Lord. He understands us, he understands us because he underwent all the trials that we — you — have experienced.
Pope to Filipino Authorities: Protect the Inalienable Right to Life, Beginning with the Unborn and Extending to the Frail and Elderly
The Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ … see things in a new light and and thus respond with honestly and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality … Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent … be present to those who living in a society burdened by poverty and corruption are tempted to give up.
As a family we have to be very clear, prepared and strong to these attempts to the ideological colonization that wants to destroy the family.
Pope Francis breaks away from official itinerary to meet with street kids of Manila.
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka
Pope Francis’ Best Quotes in Sri Lanka
We’ve recently had a dust-up here on Public Catholic because I had the temerity to (1) disagree rather strongly with Cardinal Burke, and (2) come out in support of altar girls.
You would think that I had barbecued a kitten.
I deleted a ton of hate-women comments in the course of this discussion. I also deleted another ton of hate-Rebecca comments. According to a good number of commenters, I’ve got myself a ticket to a first-class seat in that proverbial hand bucket headed to hell, all because I think we should have altar girls.
I had to delete that claptrap. If I had let it through, any self-respecting woman would have walked away wondering why she, or any other female person, would want to be part of the Catholic Church. At the same time, someone who didn’t actually go to mass on a regular basis might think that we’re running a carny show, complete with clown suits and balloons, behind the altars of our churches.
Of course, both assumptions would be off the mark. I’m going to set aside the woman question for a moment. That will give time for all those folks who dislike the fair sex so very much to draw a breath and gather themselves for the next attack.
I am instead going to stick my head into the liturgy hay bailer.
My question is simply this: Is the liturgy really that bad?
I mean, I go to mass on a regular basis and Jesus Christ the Lord is there every single time. You can count on it. He is there.
I remember wandering back into the sanctuary after Holy Thursday service one Tridium; after we’d stripped the altar, removed the Host and doused the flame. The difference was stark. That sanctuary, which had always held a warm Presence every time I entered it, had been transformed into an empty, echoey room. There was no Jesus in that place, and the lack thereof was palpable.
So now we have a Cardinal, a prince of the Church, telling us that the liturgy is all messed up and driving men away from the Church because it has been “feminized.” Evidently, there are a lot of people out there who agree with him.
Public Catholic was deluged with angry commenters, swooping in to announce that the liturgy at our masses — the same liturgy that soothes my soul and brings me in direct contact with my Lord — is straight from the infernal regions. It makes me wonder if they and I are members of the same Catholic Church.
As I’ve already said, and will be happy to say again at any time, I think the Cardinal is playing the blame game. I think that for a Catholic Cardinal to blame anything about the liturgy on women, is, well, almost comical. He is the cardinal. If there is a problem with the liturgy, it’s his responsibility, not that of the womenfolk who sit at the back of the hierarchical bus.
Now, I’m going to take on those poor sad Catholics who seem to live to criticize our Church and its liturgy. As I said, I go to mass on a regular basis. I’ve also gone to mass in a number of places. I’ve never attended mass on the East Coast of the United States, so maybe that’s where the priests in clown suits and tap-dancing altar servers show up to do their do. I don’t know.
All I know is that I’ve never seen it. I have gone to mass in (gasp!) San Francisco, and (another gasp!) Seattle. What I encountered there was the same mass — about half of whose attendees were male, btw — that I saw at various points around the globe, as well as here in God’s country, otherwise known as Oklahoma.
Every mass has had some sort of fumble or titter from the pews. Sometimes a cell phone rings and is then hastily silenced. Babies cry, babies crow, little old ladies belch, the priest gets the words slightly wrong, or the altar server stumbles. I’ve seen people drop the Host and people keel over in a faint and priests trip.
I’ve seen priests who couldn’t stand, sit throughout their homilies and then totter to the altar and, ever so shakily, consecrate the Host and barely lift it up.
I’ve heard applause, and seen people hold hands during the Our Father, and other people get all sniffy about holding hands during the Our Father and transsexuals looking downright odd in their wigs and lipstick and truck driver arms and tattoos. I’ve seen women in saris and men in golfing shorts, and knelt in pews beside folks who needed a bath. I’ve heard mass in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and English. I’ve attended quick daily masses that took about 20 minutes, and full-on masses that lasted for an hour and a half or more.
Every liturgy I ever attended was unworthy of Christ the Lord. I know that every liturgy I ever attend will be unworthy of Him, as well. What I have never seen, not once, was a liturgy that was unworthy of me.
I’ve attended mass in living rooms, hotel basements, and once, on a mountaintop with the ocean spread in a 360 degree arc at its base. Every place I’ve gone, every mass I attended, I encountered Christ the Lord.
I didn’t encounter a Django Jesus, standing beside the altar with a baseball bat, ready to smack down the unworthies who try to approach Him. The Jesus I meet in the Eucharist of every Catholic mass is the Good Shepherd, the Jesus of the Cross, Who lays down His life for His sheep.
I have never walked away from the Eucharist feeling condemned. In fact, that encounter with Christ washes away the self-condemnation I so often bring with me when I approach it. I reach out and touch the living Christ, hiding in a wafer, and I walk away feeling accepted and loved.
Considering what sinful people we all are, I don’t see how anyone can approach God with hearts seething with condemnation of the people around them. Do these folks really go to mass and sit there, pick, pick, picking away at the priest, the liturgy, the music?
That is a horrible thought to me. Do you folks of the liturgy cops really, truly enter the Presence of the Lord with hearts full of rage and condemnation?
Don’t you know that you can not enter into the Presence of the Lord that way?
That, and not whether or not people hold hands during the Our Father, or the mass is in Latin or English, or if the people around you are properly reverent, is what can separate you from God.
I feel sorry for these people who spend all their time gnashing their teeth and getting all lathered up over what they see as the terrible liturgy. They are not only missing their blessing, they are taking their blessing and throwing it back into Jesus’ face.
I thank God that we have priests who bring us Jesus at every mass, who consent to be conduits of grace. I have no desire to pick at them over how high they lift the chalice, if they allow applause and whether or not they pray the liturgy with the “proper” amount of gravitas.
I don’t go to mass to find fault. I go to find Jesus.
The truth of life is that no matter what the situation, the occasion, or the event, if you want to sit back and find fault with it, you always can. If you want to go to mass and sit there, ready to carp and complain and pick away at the seams of the thing, you can do it. But if you do that, Jesus Christ will pass right by you and you won’t see Him.
On the other hand, if you go to mass to find Jesus, you will find Him. Because He is there.
My question is this: If Christ the Lord deigns to come to these imperfect masses and give Himself away to the even more imperfect people who worship there, then who are we to criticize?
If the mass and the liturgy are good enough for Jesus to be there, if we, with all our imperfections, are good enough for Him to love us and share Himself with us, then what’s our complaint?
I go to mass to find Jesus, and — this is the miracle — I find Him.
Every mass is a miracle. It is not a miracle of silk, lace and candles. It is a miracle wrought in suffering and blood.
Before we get too worked up about the particulars of the mass, we need to remember that Our Lord uses the most common things to do His work. He began with spit and dirt.