Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.


Let Them Eat Cake

11-25-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

It's almost a real life enactment of Jerry Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi". Mayor "Marie Antoinette" Bloomberg of New York has decreed that homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other agencies that serve the poor shall not accept food donations since the city can not assess the salt, fiber and fat content of such donations. "So they have no food? Let them eat spinach salad with a low-fat dressing on the side (hold the bacon bits)." We can add this to the list of other "thou shall not's": thou shall not drink more than 16ounces of soda, thou shall not smoke tobacco, thou shall not consume trans fats in restaurants, thou shall not feed thy baby formula and, thou shall not copulate without protection.

The Church of Secular Fundamentalism of Our Atheistic Lord of the Left is a religion to be reckoned. It has its own high priests, sacraments, dogmas, doctrines and heresies with accompanying punishments. Radical secularism has been the "religion" that has imposed its values on society more than any other in the last 40yrs. The sad irony is that adherents to secularism complain loudly about how religious believers are trying to "impose" their values on others, legislate morality and control people's lives and then they turn around and do the same thing they accuse others of doing. And they do it with fierce intolerance towards anyone who disagrees with them. If you don't believe me try bringing a saltshaker, an ashtray and a liter of soda into a Manhattan restaurant, school or park.

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Thanksgiving

11-18-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

As we approach Thanksgiving Day Weekend let's remember the real reason for our gratitude. While the material blessings and the bounty of the earth are rightly acknowledged we need to see underneath them to the Giver of all Gifts, who has given us the greatest of gifts: our Faith. And that faith is birthed, nurtured and matured in the loving arms of His Church. And so a little appreciation and gratitude in the words of poet Maya Angelou:

"It's Sacred: Church":

Everything in God's world is sacred. Trees and roads and
little girls' eyes. Grandfather's hands
and the murmuring voices of lovers. Sacred

A poet's dream, almanac compilers and rocks that
look up at the moon. Sacred. Everything can be
church and anything can be church.

Church was the first public place where I came
child to spirit to Christ. "Suffer the little children
to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

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Here come the Deacons!

11-11-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council sought to analyze and refocus Church teaching and practice. The most obvious result of the Council was a new liturgical form for the Mass, which really was more of a return to an older tradition and not so much an innovation. Once the Council issued a new rite for the Roman Mass it was obvious that an overhaul of the sacrament of Holy Orders was needed.

Prior to the Council the Sacrament of Holy Orders was divided into two parts: minor orders (porter, lector, acolyte, exorcist) and major orders (sub-deacon, deacon, priest, bishop). Earlier in the history of the Church each of these was a ministry in and of itself and stood alone from the other ministries. So a porter, (one who opens a door) actually started off in times when Christians met in secret for fear of authorities or when only fully initiated Christians could participate in the Eucharist. So the porter was responsible for knowing who was who and who to let into the celebration. (You see a remnant of this when during the RCIA process we dismiss the candidates and catechumens after the homily.) The lector was the only one to read the sacred scriptures during the Liturgy as most people were illiterate and books were rare. As liturgies become more complex trained servers (acolytes) would be required to navigate the maze of liturgical rubrics.

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Election 2012: Caesar vs God

11-04-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Like many pastors in the US, I received a letter from the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Rev. Lynn for some reason felt it necessary to remind me of the IRS regulations on 501(c) (3) tax exempt organizations, which are mostly (but not always) Churches, which forbids such groups from endorsing or opposing candidates for political office or intervening directly or indirectly in partisan campaigns. He also reminds me that this free-speech muzzle does not stifle my right to speak out on religious, moral and political issues. How condescendingly quaint.

Rev. Lynn also in said letter warns me that if I do cross that line and endorse or oppose a candidate for political office he will send the Speech Police knocking at the Church door. (I'll be hospitable.) The IRS according to Lynn will revoke our tax-exempt status. Except that in the 58yrs since the IRS adopted the "Johnson Amendment" (inserted into the tax code in 1954 by then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson who got ticked at a group of Baptist ministers that opposed his reelection in Texas, stating that pastors cannot get involved in partisan politics) they have rarely tried to enforce it. This is most likely because the IRS knows the Johnson Amendment is a violation of the First Amendment. (At this point the Supremes have yet to sing about it.) But the IRS can and has made life miserable for some religious groups with audits and fines. So I don't doubt their coercive power.

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An Election Primer

10-28-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Well, here's a little Election Primer. Never let it be said I did not tell you how to vote!

First and foremost, citizens have not only a right to vote but also a moral duty to do so. Remember failure to exercise (our rights) causes them to atrophy. And as you exercise your right to vote please do so as an informed Catholic. Too often we are more interested in being a faithful Democrat or Republican or Independent than a faithful Catholic. Partisan labels are simply stupid for Catholics. The truth is that sometimes you may have to vote liberally and at others conservatively. Such is the nature of the Christian's participation in the maze of politics.

It is very important to remember that while some issues involve absolute principles others involve prudential decisions. Simply put our moral principles are a commitment to the common good and the dignity of each human person. So for instance voting against abortion or candidates who support it is in keeping with upholding the moral principle of human dignity. When it comes to upholding the common good say for instance as it is expressed in care for the poor, the "how to" will usually involve a prudential decision. That is while the principle that we should care for the poor is not up for grabs the strategy of how best to do that will be a point of disagreement even while upholding the general principle. So while two different courses of action may both be in keeping with and not violate the general moral principle you will have to make a prudential decision on which one to support.

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Stem Cell War Victory

10-21-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Well you could've knocked me over with a well, stem cell, an induced pluripotent stem cell to be exact. This year's Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Japanese scientist Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, who developed the induced pluripotent stem cell (IPSC) procedure by which stem cells can be developed without destroying an embryo. Dr. Yamanaka discovered a way to reprogram normal skin cells so that they become like an embryonic stem cell or pluripotent, that is a cell that can differentiate into almost any body part.

What is more interesting is that Dr. Yamanaka decided to pursue this research after looking at embryo destructive research and having the realization that the embryos that were being destroyed could have been his daughters. He put it this way: "When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters". When he looked through the microscope he saw not just a cell but also the beginning of a human life. "If human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough," he said. "I thought long and hard about whether I would do it." He then realized how ethically troubling embryo destructive research was and sought to find a way to continue this research in an ethical way. His insight and ethical qualms changed the course of stem cell research and the terms of the great Stem Cell Debate.

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The Year of Faith

10-14-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned when —under the auspices of the virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is commemorated on this feast — the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is being solemnly opened here beside St. Peter's tomb.

With these words Blessed Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962. Fifty years later Pope Benedict XVI called for a "Year of Faith" to mark this anniversary as well as the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Both Pontiffs saw that as a Church our "salt is becoming tasteless and our light is hidden". The Church in every age needs renewal so that its salt can flavor the world and its light can light up the path to Christ for humanity. John XXIII's main concern in calling the Council was to help the Church speak more clearly to the modern world. This was to be done by taking many of the documents of the First Vatican Council (1868) and updating or redacting them, bringing clearer focus on issues of modern importance and lessening the stress on other issues of lesser present significance. But in no way was it the intention of the Council or the actual work of the Council to throw out the baby with the bathwater. So why did so much confusion and apparent decline in the practice of our faith follow in the aftermath of Vatican II?

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Is Lady Liberty an abused spouse?

10-07-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Is Lady Liberty an abused spouse?

One of the dynamics that often is present when a spouse is abused is that the abused believes (wrongly) that the abuse is their fault. Abusers are very good at convincing their victims that somehow the fault lies in their behavior not the abuser’s behavior. So in effect an abuser is saying to a victim “you brought this on yourself”. So the victim spends her time apologizing and trying her best to placate her abuser. The victim then will often go out of her way to not make waves or do anything that would set the abuser off. But even when the victim is behaving “perfectly” an abuser will cleverly set the victim up to provoke a reaction so that he can inflict more physical, mental or emotional abuse. This is just the sad cycle of abuse and if it is not broken victims can wind up dead.

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You Gotta Serve Somebody

09-30-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

But you're gonna have to serve somebody,
yes indeed You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

—"Gotta Serve Somebody" by Bob Dylan

The values we hold and the choices we make reveal to others who we are serving. The problem we face is that left to our own devices we tend to rationalize and justify choices that are really self-serving. So we need something outside of ourselves to hold us accountable for our choices. Being part of a community helps us to do that but only if we are willing to use the community of the Church to measure our choices so that they are made not by a self-deluded standard but by the standards of Christian service.

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Effective Stewardship

09-23-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

One of the harder ideas to shake from our thinking is that the amount of wealth that can be had in the world is basically a zero-sum game. In other words if someone gets rich it is because someone else got poor. But this way of thinking has for centuries kept people in poverty. Today many economists are challenging this way of seeing wealth and the free market by pointing out that there is in fact a nearly infinite amount of wealth that can be created and in which everyone can participate in its creation and benefit from it. Markets tend to reward those who excel by serving others well and meeting the needs and wants of customers. Economic activity then should be pursued as mutually beneficial exchanges and not the domination of the strong over the weak. In this view each of us then is a potential producer of wealth and resources for others.

Transposing this from the temporal to the spiritual means that if each of us is the best steward we can be then each of us individually and the Body of Christ at large will have all that we need. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that when we observe our neighbor's success that we ourselves do not possess we should react with zeal for self-improvement. But too often, Aquinas noted that when we observe good in others that surpasses what we ourselves possess we grieve over it rather than rejoice and in a malicious spirit seek to destroy it. This is the sin we call envy. If that is us then the spiritual challenge we face is to rejoice over a neighbor's good rather than resent that we do not possess the same and to be inspired by it not to tear others down but to address our own flaws and weaknesses.

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Are you loyal to your political party or to your Church?

09-16-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Singer and Songwriter, Neil Diamond wrote the song "Sweet Caroline" with a young Caroline Kennedy in mind. The artist says he was inspired by a photograph of the young Kennedy taken during those Camelot years in the White House. But now sadly it seems that "sweet" Caroline has turned rather sour. At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte recently she proclaimed: "as a Catholic woman I take reproductive health seriously." Of course by reproductive health she did not mean having lots of children. And most people, including those living under a rock find her statement an oxymoron. Or at least not something a Catholic declares on National TV.

The fact is how could you (and why) call yourself a Catholic and be so willing to embrace a position that is at complete odds with essential Catholic moral doctrine? Caroline Kennedy is by no means the exception as there are numerous well-known Catholic politicians and public figures cheerleading for abortion. Yet the world sees them as "enlightened" and progressive and it never seems to matter that these public figures are taking a position that is radically different than the Church they claim to be a part of. Yet when a Catholic politician, like Rick Santorum holds the Catholic position he is called "extreme". The Santorums of this world are just ordinary Catholics and the Kennedys are the "extreme" Catholics.

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Circumcising religious liberty from the culture - part 2

09-09-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

A few weeks ago I wrote about how a Court in Cologne, Germany ruled that circumcision was a violation of the right of a child to “bodily integrity” and that it amounted to a form of religious child abuse with no therapeutic benefit therefore the Court outlawed the practice. Well recently the first rabbi, David Goldberg of Northern Bavaria was charged with performing circumcisions. Frankly this should chill your spine. Are these people that unaware and insensitive to the anti-Semitic overtones? (The ruling affects only one state in Germany. I don’t want to castigate all Germans.) And think of the arrogance of the Judge who bans a religious ritual that has been performed consistently for 4,000 years. The Judge joins the company of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus Epiphanes, Titus and other oppressors of the Jews.

Sadly European anti-Semitism runs deeps and wide. The circumcision ban was argued in the language of human rights but right below the surface you can sense a deep hostility to Judaism as well as a point of view that sees religious rituals as archaic and superfluous. But the fact is that the ritual of circumcision has helped Jews maintain their identity despite not having a homeland for centuries nor all the things that normally help maintain ethnic and religious identity. Circumcision is hardly superfluous to Jews.

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Exceptions in the case of rape

09-02-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

What about "except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother"? This exception to permit abortion is one that generates intense emotional reactions, which makes it difficult to discuss without descending into highpitched arguments that usually end in personal attacks. Even though this issue has been in the news constantly as of late because of statements made by a candidate for elected office, very little serious reporting has been done which would shed some light on this painful and difficult subject.

The pro-abortion side always tries to make its case from the exceptions and not the rule. And the rule is that the direct taking of innocent human life is always wrong. This basic principle keeps us from sliding back into barbarianism. If it is always wrong then there really can be no exceptions, which is what the pro-life side argues. The proabortion side uses this against the pro-life side to paint them as crazy, heartless and irrational. They do this especially well by arguing from the worst-case scenarios which are heart wrenching and challenging to defend and which make most pro-lifers fold like a house of cards. Don't fold, the "exception cases" are straw men designed to get pro-lifers to back down and agree with the abortionists. It is a conquer and divide strategy.

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