Pope Francis: Pray for Bishops and Priests

At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus:
“Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock
of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers,
in which you tend the Church of God
that he acquired with his own Blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you,
and they will not spare the flock.
And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth
to draw the disciples away after them.
So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day,
I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.
I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
You know well that these very hands
have served my needs and my companions.
In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort
we must help the weak,
and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

When he had finished speaking
he knelt down and prayed with them all.
They were all weeping loudly
as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him,
for they were deeply distressed that he had said
that they would never see his face again.
Then they escorted him to the ship.

Acts: 20: 28-38

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Princes, Human Beings and Doing the Things We Hate

 

John Corapi shook people’s faith.

The bishops who repeatedly transferred child-abusing priests shook people’s faith.

I tremble to think of it, but I imagine that if I fell into some deep disgrace, that would shake a few people’s faith.

I can’t speak for other people, but I want everyone who knows me to understand that I fall flat on my spiritual face on a pretty regular basis. Don’t look to me for salvation, or even a good example. If you look to me for anything, it should be proof that God’s love is greater than all our sins and weaknesses, that the only thing we have to fear is living by our own understanding rather than His.

Despite the love and forgiveness God has showered on me, I still sin. I will always sin until I go home to Him.

St Paul said it best: “I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate.”  

That’s one of the greatest saints talking. If he couldn’t manage to live sinlessly, why should I expect that of myself? How can I expect it of anyone else?

I am not asking anyone to “forgive” these failed priests and bishops. I am offering an admonition, a plea, for people to stop confusing them with Christ the Lord.

“Do not put your faith in princes and human beings, who cannot save.” the Psalmist tells us.

Do not worship your spiritual leaders or expect them to be more than the fallen human beings they are. Priests and bishops are our spiritual leaders. They are our teachers. They are men who have consented to be conduits of God’s grace by way of the sacraments. They bring us Jesus in the Eucharist, which makes them precious to us. God can and does reach through them and into us to deliver healing and help.

But they are also made of dust, just like the rest of us. They can and will betray you and hurt you and, yes, betray and dishonor the vows they’ve taken and the trust people place in them. They can do this. And they will. They will, because that is our common human fate as co-inheritors of original sin. Yes, we are also co-inheritors of eternal life in Christ. Yes, we are forgiven this blight on our souls, washed clean of its eternal smear by the blood of Calvary. But so long as we live in this fallen world and eat of its fruits we will be subject to our own fallen natures.

“I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate.”  

That’s all of us, including these fallen priests and bishops who have betrayed themselves and their own souls along with the great trust that was placed in them. That is why we should never confuse these men with the God they serve.

I try to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church because I know they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. I respect the work that priests do because I know that they, however weak they may be as men, are conduits of grace in the sacraments, and that this grace is freely available to all of us through them. But I do not worship them or expect them to be anything other than the ordinary people they are.

When they fail, I do not doubt Christ because of it for the simple reason that they are not Christ. I know whom I have believed, and He is not them.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me,” Jesus told us.

Trust in me,” He said.

Not John Corapi. Not any bishop or priest.

Do not forfeit your eternal salvation over the weaknesses of other fallen human beings, no matter how exalted they have become in your eyes. Trust in Jesus and Him alone and no matter how you fail, or how others fail you, you will never lose your way.

 

Three Ways to Betray Jesus, Excommunication and the Power of Elections

Historically and scripturally there have been two ways that most people betray Jesus:

1. The St Peter and all the apostles except John Way. This is the deny-Him-under-duress, run-away-from-threats-and-then-repent-later method of betrayal. I would wager that in some form or another every single one of us has done a bit of this. I know I have. I’ve hemmed and hawed; ducked and covered, trying to keep all my old friends from my life Before Christ. Trouble was, they all found out. Eventually. And I ended up taking down a big dose of shame along with the grief of losing them. You can’t hide your love of Christ from your BC friends; at least not forever.

2. The Judas Iscariot way. This involves betraying Him for money or gain and then, when you realize that what you got is not anywhere near as good as what you paid for it, you just hang in there and don’t go back to say you’re sorry. No repentance, no homecoming, no fatted calf for you; just the stale bread of exile from God for life.

Those are the two ways that most people have gone about betraying their Savior. But there is a third way.

This third way has usually been reserved for kings and popes and other powerful folk; people who bathed in and drank from the hubris cup morning and night. Henry VIII is one of history’s most famous practitioners of this method of God betrayal. It isn’t all that complicated intellectually. All it requires is an ego and sense of entitlement that will allow you to tell God that He’s wrong and you’re right, announce this to the whole wide world and stick with it right down to the gates of your own eternal damnation.

This particular form of hubris-powered Jesus betrayal has been around since Christianity made its way out of the Catacombs and into the halls of power. What is different today is not the method or the thinking that goes into it, but how widespread and universal it has become.

Telling God to sit down and do as He’s told was once the province of powerful men made mad by over-privileged existences. Now, it appears that it’s the chant and cant of millions. These people hold God and not themselves to task for human depravity. They claim that wretched sinfulness of every stripe is, in fact, a positive good. They feed their children and old people to the flames of their self-succor and then berate God when anyone tries to tell them this is wrong.

Last, but certainly not least, are those who refuse to leave the Churches they despise, who will not walk away from the pretense of “following” a God they say needs their tutelage. First among these are the Catholic politicians who attend mass, take communion and then go out and vote for, support and sponsor every new trend in killing, immorality and social unwinding around.

Most people are blind to the “normal” folks who flaunt God in their daily lives, but they zone in on these politicians. It outrages and enrages them to see photos of an elected official who is well-known to support abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, war and torture walk up to the head of the communion line and accept the host.

They rail at the Church for not “doing something” about it. It it very popular in certain circles to call for this or that politician to be summarily excommunicated for his or her support for things that are 180 degrees off Church teaching. In fact, one of the sorrier spectacles of every campaign season is various political groups pointing fingers at each other’s “sins.”

Many people get white-hot angry with the bishops because they don’t drum these obvious miscreants out of the Church. They want them, if not burned at the stake, at least escorted to the church doors and told not to come back.

There are days when I get worked up over some of the things I see and feel like joining them. But it never lasts long. The reason is simple. It isn’t my job to kick people out of the Church. What’s more, I don’t want that job. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m just grateful they let me in.

The latest kerfluffle has been over Governor Cuomo of New York and his over-the-top legislative advocacy for abortion at all times, for any reason. This evidently follows quick on the heels of his support for gay marriage. In spite of all this, the governor continues to attend mass and take communion.

My personal reaction is that he’s a fraud and a phony every time he goes to mass. He appears to think that his personal moral understanding is superior to 2,000 years of Christian teaching and morality. My reaction to that is, fine on him. If he doesn’t believe that the Catholic Church teaches Truth and he has no intention of even attempting to follow the teachings of the Gospels as interpreted by that Church, that’s his call.

But, if that’s what he believes, I don’t see any honesty at all in going to mass and taking communion.

I have to be careful here, because my own sins are ever before me when I write things like this. Can I — can any of us — withstand the judgement I am meting out here? I sin. I do things I hope nobody ever finds out. I am not God’s best work. I assume that everyone reading this falls into the same sinful basket.

That’s why we need Jesus. It’s why we need the Church. It’s why our own understanding of right and wrong will always lead us down a destructive path if we adhere to it too closely. That is what, I think, has happened to Governor Cuomo. He’s been following his own understanding, and that has led him to advocating terrible things.

It always does, you know. Always. Every time. For each of us.

The only way to follow Christ is to actually follow Christ. The single best way I know to do that is to simply stop all the yammering and just accept that the Catholic Church really is the Church and that all you have to do is follow its teachings. When you fail in this — as you will — go to confession, get cleaned up and start over.

We have quite a number of politicians out there who basically spit raspberries at Christ by defying serious moral teachings concerning the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage (among other things) and then showing up at mass to take communion as if they were a bunch of nuns. We have an even larger number of Catholics who endanger their own souls by focusing on these sins of other people and letting their anger make them bitter and vicious.

My personal solution for this one is really quite simple. I don’t have to decide if these political birds will be excommunicated or not. In fact, I can’t make that decision. It’s just not my job. I don’t have the power to keep them out of church. And I don’t want that power. Do. Not. Want. It.

On the other hand, as an American citizen, I have the power to work and vote to keep them out of office. Maybe that’s where those of us in the laity should focus our energies. If I lived in New York, I think that working to help Governor Cuomo find a new vocation as a private citizen would be my focus; that, and praying for his soul.

What I wouldn’t do is berate my bishop or cardinal. I’d just let them do their jobs. After all, if they mess up, they’ve got someone a lot more important than me that they have to answer to, and in the final analysis, they — along with Governor Cuomo and you and me — will do exactly that.

The Catholic Vote and Following Christ.

One in four American voters is Catholic. That makes us an important block of votes.

The Church has consistently been nuanced and honest in its teaching about elections and civic responsibility. Despite pressure from more-Catholic-than-the-Popes on one side and holier-than-Christs on the other, the Church has refused to repudiate any part of the Gospels of Christ.

Social Justice Catholics and Pro Life Catholics are both right in advocating for their causes. They are both wrong, grievously so, in claiming that it is holy to ignore the plain call of Christ to support life AND social justice, not one or the other. These ridiculous assertions are nothing more than attempts at self-justification and dishonest claims of righteousness vis a vis their political opponents.

Those who claim that Jesus loves the poor and supports killing innocent people are liars. Those who claim that Jesus opposes killing the unborn but supports corporatism and the economic enslavement of whole populations are liars. They are both trying to re-create Jesus in their own image. They are demanding that the Lord follow them, rather than following Him.

One message of Public Catholic is that we should follow Jesus Christ, not the phony christs of public manipulation.

The easiest way to do that is to follow the teachings of the Church. Our great Church suffers the slings and arrows of both sides of this political divide and steadfastly continues to call us to the totality of the Gospels and the true holiness of following Christ. The Church asks us to choose Christ, and Him alone in the face of partisan pressures.

I am proud of my Church. I am proud of our bishops. I support them absolutely in their fight for religious freedom, to save the family, protect the sanctity of human life and work for a human-being-supporting economy. Unlike a lot of Catholics, I have already taken my turn at trying to decide for myself what is right and wrong. I laid waste my own conscience in the process.

I urge everyone to follow the Church, stand with Jesus and to lean not on your own understanding with these great moral issues. I know from experience that being your own god only leads to regret.

One downside of a Church that teaches the whole Gospel rather than a cherry-picked version of the gospels that has been trimmed to fit a partisan pattern is that the Church does not give us a cooking-recipe set of instructions on how to vote. Even though we follow Christ, believe His Church and try to adhere to her teachings, we still have to think for ourselves.

God gave us minds as well as souls and it our responsibility before God to use them for the elevation of humankind. That’s a tough bogie when we are confronted with candidates who each have such deep, deep flaws. I have felt all along that what we have is a choice between bad and worse.

I originally thought that I would not vote in the presidential election. I planned to confine my choices to further down the ballot and leave the boxes unchecked beside both these two men. But I had a dream the night before I voted, a dream so compelling that I wonder if it wasn’t more than just a dream. Then, when I had the ballot in one hand and the pen in the other, I knew that I would vote for one of the two men on the presidential ballot. The Holy Spirit touched me, and I knew.

It’s happened to me before, these unbidden moments of clarity that I knew were from the Holy Spirit. But the other times it was votes I cast as an elected representative. This is the first time it has ever happened with my private vote as an American citizen.

Based on my own experience, I am asking each of you to pray before you vote. Give your vote to God. Then, do your best to pick the bad instead of worse when you have that ballot in your hand. I believe that God will guide you.


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