We’ve Allowed the UCA to Take Over

Holy Saturday

Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise.

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

CHAPTER 5

A BETTER KIND OF POLITICS

Social and Political Charity

The politics we need

177. Here I would once more observe that “politics must not be subject to the economy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy”.[158] Although misuse of power, corruption, disregard for law and inefficiency must clearly be rejected, “economics without politics cannot be justified, since this would make it impossible to favour other ways of handling the various aspects of the present crisis”.[159] Instead, “what is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis”.[160] In other words, a “healthy politics… capable of reforming and coordinating institutions, promoting best practices and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic inertia”.[161] We cannot expect economics to do this, nor can we allow economics to take over the real power of the state.

The United Catholic Appeal was established in 1981 to replace an antiquated system of assessing so much money per person. That structure traditionally provided diocesan financial resources.

Amarillo Diocesan Web Page

How is the, “antiquated system” of 1981 different from what we have today?

In order to find an answer to this question I will follow the example of Bishop Zurek, who has taken up quoting from Miriam Webster in his Holy Week homilies because, “…she seems to have it down.”

outmoded or discredited by reason of age old and no longer useful, popular, or accepted

The Miriam Webster Dictionary’s Definition of Antiquated

That pretty much sounds like the UCA to me!

Poor pastoral decisions over recent years placed St. Mary’s Cathedral in a crisis well before the pandemic occurred. As a result our parish enters this year’s UCA having to pay off more than a third of what the current assessment is before we can even start paying off an assessment which does not take into consideration the dramatic damage caused by the crisis or the pandemic.

When the sheep are over shorn to cover the mistakes of the shepherd, then clearly the UCA is, “outmoded or discredited… ” and certainly not Catholic, according to Fratelli Tutti.

MASS WILL BEGIN SHORTLY: NOT!

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

CHAPTER 5

A BETTER KIND OF POLITICS

Social and Political Charity

176. For many people today, politics is a distasteful word, often due to the mistakes, corruption and inefficiency of some politicians. There are also attempts to discredit politics, to replace it with economics or to twist it to one ideology or another. Yet can our world function without politics? Can there be an effective process of growth towards universal fraternity and social peace without a sound political life?[157]

There are few people in my life with whom I can talk or argue politics and religion, and none (since the passing of Msgr. Waldow) that I can debate the politics of religion in the Diocese of Amarillo. My bishop has written me off as being “restless”, or fallen into ideologies such as “rugged individualism” or “Cancel Culture”, and thus removed me from parish and diocesan ministries.

You no doubt have heard of or perhaps even read the now infamous accusations against myself, your Rector and the associate Rector. These were obviously made by ‘a few’, emphasis on a few, souls that appear to be quite restless.

Bishop Patrick J. Zurek, A Reflection on Christian Life, A Letter to St. Mary’s Cathedral

Am I being “canceled”? Was it because of my blogs about Bishop’s Zurek’s homilies for Palm Sunday and the Chrism Mass that last night’s Holy Thursday Mass that was suppose to , “BEGIN SHORTLY”, never began at all? Is this some “form of misunderstanding, hostility or outright persecution”?

Whatever the answers to those questions are; I have to believe that this is a good state to be in on this “Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion”!

The “Grandeur” of The Diocese of Amarillo

Holy Thursday

On this Maundy Thursday I am recalling that in his Holy Week homilies thus far Bishop Zurek has offered us the encyclical letter, Fratelli tutti of the Holy Father Francis on “Fraternity and Social Friendship” as a Catholic alternative to “Cancel Culture“. In obedience to both of my shepherds I will use this teaching as the basis for my blog for the time being. I’ll start with paragraph 175 that speaks to the topic of “International Power”.

Providentially, many groups and organizations within civil society help to compensate for the shortcomings of the international community, its lack of coordination in complex situations, its lack of attention to fundamental human rights and to the critical needs of certain groups. Here we can see a concrete application of the principle of subsidiarity, which justifies the participation and activity of communities and organizations on lower levels as a means of integrating and complementing the activity of the state. These groups and organizations often carry out commendable efforts in the service of the common good and their members at times show true heroism, revealing something of the grandeur of which our humanity is still capable.

This paragraph draws to mind that the “grandeur” of the Diocese of Amarillo throughout this past year of darkness has been Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle!

Cancel “Cancel Culture”!

Wednesday of Holy Week

Last night at the Chrism Mass Bishop Zurek literally threw down his mask and doubled-down on his Cancel “Cancel Culture” theme for Holy Week. The only difference from his Palm/ Passion Sunday Homily in regards to this topic was the addition of WOKE. My intention is not to defend these ideologies, for to do that would simply be “canceling cancel ‘Cancel Culture'”; which would lead to an endless cycle in which we simply avoid taking on what should be the central focus of this special time.

I gave my back to those who beat me,

    my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;

My face I did not shield

    from buffets and spitting.

Is 50:6

R.    (14c)  Lord, in your great love, answer me.

For your sake I bear insult,

    and shame covers my face.

I have become an outcast to my brothers,

    a stranger to my mother’s sons,

because zeal for your house consumes me,

    and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.

Ps 69:8-10

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;

you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Verse Before Today’s Gospel

“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

Mt 26: 21

My prayer for today is that I take up my cross and follow Christ instead of wasting time this Holy Week fearing or fighting ideologies with ideologies.

The Betrayal and Denial of Clericalism

Tuesday of Holy Week

Today’s Gospel reminds me that even though Jesus was well aware of the betrayal and denial that awaited him, he still instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders, “through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time”.

As I support our priests tonight at our diocesan Chrism Mass, I pray that it is not a false support that is insensitive to the betrayal and denial of Christ caused by clericalism in the Diocese of Amarillo.

“Who’s going to save our Church? It’s not our bishops, it’s not our priests and it is not the religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that the priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and the religious act like religious.”

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Is it Possible to Cancel “The Way of the Cross” Culture?

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

I believe Bishop Zurek still has “no clue”, or at least a Catholic perspective of “Cancel Culture”.

…In today’s reality the Sadducees and the Pharisees belong to what is being spoken of and practiced all too much, not only in the United States but in the world, what is called, “Cancel Culture”. As we begin Holy Week, with all that WE have been through, not only we but all our brothers and sisters throughout the world in regard to the virus. This past year was too much! The pandemic was one thing. The rioting, the toppling of monuments of great civil leaders, even saints! Even authors now of children’s books. It’s time to do a little reflecting on our role as Christian people in this battle, if you will, with the new ideology.

I had no clue a few weeks ago what this “Cancel Culture” was about, so I figured mmm, “Maybe I should just go to Miriam Webster, she seems to have it down. This is what I found to my surprise:

‘Cancel Culture refers to a popular practice of withdrawing support or cancelling out public figures or companies after they have done or said something’, now key words, ‘considered objectionable or offensive by someone. It is generally seen’, she continues, ‘in fierce debates on social media and takes the form of shaming.’

I would parallel that with the Amish when they remove someone, it’s shunning. We can extrapolate a little more. ‘Cancel Culture’ begins when one does not agree with what another says or does or even gives a look that is not appreciated. It’s all personal judgment. It’s described as being destructive, and of course judgmental, but destructive of people, social groups, businesses. Very divisive!

For any slight flaw a person can be destroyed; but it doesn’t relegate itself just to people. It is also capable of destroying a culture, a society; and a couple of days ago I heard the aim is now turning to Christianity itself.

This is totally in opposition to our Scripture and the words of Christ, “Love one another as I have loved you.”…

Bishop Patrick Zurek’s Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion Homily, March 28, 2021

I believe Bishop Zurek still has “no clue”, or at least a Catholic perspective of “Cancel Culture”. Maybe this year, as the Holy Father stated, “Is more trying” for him. Perhaps after going to Miriam Webster our bishop should have turned to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If he had he would have determined after reading paragraph 1761 that ‘Cancel Culture’ is not among “concrete acts”, such as abortion, “that it is always wrong to choose, because their choice entails a disorder of the will,” .

Pope Francis recalled this was the second Holy Week celebrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. While last year was experienced more as a shock, this year “it is more trying for us” and the economic crisis has become very burdensome.

The devil “is taking advantage of the crisis to disseminate distrust, desperation and discord,” he said, but Jesus is taking up the cross, taking “on the evil that this situation entails, the physical and psychological evil, and, above all, the spiritual evil.”

“What should we do?” he asked.

People should be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, and follow her son, he said.

If we followed Bishop Zurek’s reasoning we would be “totally in opposition to our Scripture and the words of Christ,” when we give to the United Catholic Appeal which funds a large portion of our diocesan’s Family Life Office budget, which in turn works to cancel the pro-choice culture in our society.

However, I do believe, we must follow Jesus’s example of the Way of the Cross, and, “Love one another as I have loved you.”, as both of our shepherds stated, and which our local bishop reminded us of today, as he stood in front of and gestured towards, the magnificent Crucifix at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Nevertheless, acting in love for the “common good” is seldom a clear-cut path.

In August of 2019, did not Bishop Zurek utilize, what he termed the Amish practice of “shunning”, when he wrote a letter to St. Mary’s Cathedral condemning the actions of “the few” who were taking part “in fierce debates on social media and (took) the form of shaming.“? Is it not possible that both Bishop Zurek and “the few” were acting in love, at least partially, for the “common good”? A Catholic perspective would lead me to answer, “Yes!”

On this first day of Holy Week, after hearing the Lord’s Passion proclaimed, I have hope based in Catholicism, that just as the Sadducees and Pharisees could not “Cancel Christ” 2000 years ago, neither will the “Cancel Culture’s” aim on Christianity, that Bishop Zurek seems to fear, prevail today because:

“the fact that (Jesus) achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid.”

Pope Francis’s Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion Homily, March 28, 2021

Who Will be Lifted Up at the Chrism Mass?

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

“If you support your parish priest, we encourage you to join us for the Chrism Mass in a show of support for all of our priests,”

Chrism Mass Tuesday, March 30

Perhaps our “patience worn out by the journey”, at St. Mary’s led Bishop Zurek to write…

“There has been a lot of unrest in the Cathedral parish for the last few months; actually, in reality, for some decades.”

Bishop Zurek’s Letter to St. Mary’s Cathedral, A Reflection on Christian Life, August 28, 2019

Furthermore, the pandemic may be likened to the saraph serpents, “which bit the people so that many of them died.”

Even so, Moses did not make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole so that those who looked at it could show him their support; for to do that would be what Pope Francis calls, “…clerical moralism.”, and “This is barren soil,” he said.

Pope Francis leads the Angelus in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican March 21, 2021. The pope condemned the Mafia’s exploitation of the COVID-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

My prayer today is that if we support our parish priest, Bishop Zurek will encourage us to join him for the Chrism Mass so that “When (he) lift(s) up the Son of Man, then (we) will realize that (HE IS), and that (we) do nothing on (our) own, but (we) say only what the Father taught (us).”, and live!

The UCA is Not United, Catholic or an Appeal

Last Sunday, during the announcements before the final blessing, our rector told us that pledge cards for this years United Catholic Appeal (UCA) would be in the pews the following weekend. He went on to inform us that our parish was paying $11,000 per month on last year’s quota, and he asked those of us who had not pledged last year to make a one time donation so that we could pay off the $30,000 owed. My wife and I are among that group, and will not be responding to that request, or pledging to this year’s drive.

United?

Apparently every year the parishes in our diocese begin to look upon ourselves as separate entities, and so we give a weekend to turn our pulpits over to the UCA, which calls “Disciples;” to, “Be One”. This often leads to our priests having to perform verbal gymnastics in front of the the “Disciples;” as they try to “Make One”.

Contrary to popular belief…the United Catholic Appeal covers ministry. So it pays for prison ministry, it pays for Catholic campus ministry, it helps pay for the retreat center, and seminarian and diaconate formation. So, think of it this way. Our quota is about $170,000. It comes down. That’s three seminarians’ education for a year. It costs about $50,000 to educate a seminarian for a year. So that’s what we’re paying. We’re paying for three seminarians to go to seminary so that we have priests whenever I die. Right, I mean that’s the hope. I don’t want to leave you hangin, but we’ve got to form them before I die. So that is what it does.

The Catholic raticum on the other hand pays for the operation and bills and things for the Chancery. So we pay for ministries to the United Catholic Appeal, the Catholic raticum pays for bills. The tribunal is also included in that.

A Recent Presentation by a Priest Bringing about Unity by Way of the UCA

Catholic?

As was used in the aforementioned presentation, the most common theme of UCA talks is that of a future with no priests. Let’s follow that line of argument.

Without priests there would be no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our faith, the Catholic Church would cease to exist. However, our One, True Priest, from whom all other priests derive their priesthood has already promised us, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld (Which seems to be the destiny of those of us who don’t give to the UCA.) shall not prevail against it.” Furthermore the Catechism promises:

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 6, Paragraph 1536

So, is it not heretical to say that without the UCA there will be no priests?

Appeal?

Second Corinthians provides us with an opportunity to see St. Paul’s theology on giving in practice.

I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others.

2 Corinthians 8:8

Given that our parish is in debt to the diocese and is paying $11,000 a month out of weekly contributions in order to pay off last year’s quota (A quota which is not based on what we actually pledged, but on what the diocese assessed.), it appears that the intent of the UCA is not so much to “Be One” by appealing “to the genuineness of our love…”, but to “Make One” “by way of command”.

I write this reflection of the commemoration of Saint Patrick, Bishop, Missionary and namesake for our own bishop. Saint Patrick is remembered for his simplicity and pastoral care, and I ask him to pray that The Holy Spirit guides Bishop Patrick Zurek in developing a simple and pastoral way to fund our local Church.

Rest in Peace Deacon Norrell

I was hanging my hammock between two trees just south of Christ the King Catholic Church in Sunray, Texas on a Saturday evening in late June when Deacon Wayne Norrell drove up. Worn out from riding over 80 miles on a sunny, summer day with temperatures near 100 degrees, I had given up on the idea of making the 25 mile ride to Dumas and a motel; however I was expecting the worse as I approached the deacon’s car and he asked me what I was doing.

I explained that over the last several weeks I had undertaken a bicycle pilgrimage to all the parishes in the Diocese of Amarillo, and that I had hoped to sleep on the parish grounds of Christ the King before riding the final leg tomorrow. I then paused and waited for the response to which I had grown accustomed , “I can’t let you do that.”

However Deacon Norrell simply replied, “Would you like to see the Church?” He pulled out his keys like a doting granddad pulling out a wallet filled with pictures of the grandkids, and unlocked the doors of the Sanctuary while telling me about his parish. We spoke for about half an hour and before he left he told me that he would leave the back door of the hall unlocked in case I needed water or the restroom.

I never saw or spoke to Deacon Norrell after that, but it would be gravely remiss of me to not recall the respect he showed me that evening. His hospitality revived a sense of dignity that had suffered much at the hands of others in power in the Diocese of Amarillo.

Virtue of Justice

This Lent I have been participating in a virtual retreat by the Bishop Defalco Retreat Center.

“With Mark O’Keefe’s book Virtues Abounding as our guide, we will explore the Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude (or Courage) and Temperance and see how all the other virtues hinge on these four,”

BDRC executive director Linda Astuto

This week’s virtue has been justice, or the habit of giving to others what is due. One aspect of justice that was revealed was that of “vengeance”. At times what is due to a person who is in sin is amends. As I practice this virtue I learn to exact or ask for the amount of vengeance that is called for, and no more. I also remain aware of my response to others who exact vengeance on me and give them what is truly due them without seeking vengeance that is self-centered.

It always amazes me how deep our Catholic faith is.