Showing posts with label Church History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church History. Show all posts

Friday, July 9, 2021

Is it moral to finance a generation of corrupt bishops?

I consider it an error to trust and hope in any means or efforts in themselves alone; nor do I consider it a safe path to trust the whole matter to God our Lord without desiring to help myself by what he has given me; so that it seems to me in our Lord that I ought to make use of both parts, desiring in all things his greater praise and glory, and nothing else. (St. Ignatius of Loyola to Francis Borgia, 1555)
I first drafted this essay in 2019. Recent events by multiple bishops treating orthodox clergy as enemies and the faithful like nuisances has rekindled the content herein. The matters described below are merely a small sample of scandalous pastoral actions, primarily among bishops, just in recent months. Obviously not all bishops, but obviously too many bishops seem intent on steering the ark to perdition. This essay is both an examination of the merits of the argument against financing corrupt bishops and a thought experiment. It provides additional suggestions while welcoming other solutions toward orthodoxy.

The faithful deserve an authentic liturgy, justice among clergy, and truth from their shepherds in season and out of season. Faithful baptized Catholics should take note, they are royal princes and princesses in the eternal Kingdom. They merit the fullness of Christ the King.

A GRAVE SITUATION
With times as grave as they are in today's Church, what recourse do the faithful have for restoration to consistent orthodoxy? If the current trajectory persists, yet another generation of uncatechized souls will stumble unprepared to the evil snares that await. Far too many clergy have remained silent in the face of unbelief regarding the Eucharist, true marriage, life, injustices against faithful priests, or even or the very foundations of Christ's purpose as the singular door through which few will enter the eternal kingdom.

Generations of faithful have been in the habit of contributing money to the church on a regular basis. Historically, one can see the fruits of such practices, such as the existence of some of the most breathtaking churches, vibrant authentic ministries, and a zealous faithful ignited by the very truths of the faith.

Today, such fruits are sparse. And, tragically, too many clergy either refuse to teach critical doctrines in season or out, or they doubt those doctrines themselves. Would it not be welcome to hear, without hesitation and with perfect clarity, the truths of the faith? Would it not be welcome to hear this from the sacerdotal pulpit, from the mouths of the clergy—and not only the priests, but the bishops? Would it not be a tribute to truth and justice if heterodox clergy were sanctioned and orthodox clergy exalted, rather than the inverse we see today.

Years of attempts at so-called welcome "dialogue" with the hierarchy have failed. Without exaggeration, multiple bishops have turned deaf ears or outright ignored the faithful's inquiries on such matters. This is not the relationship of a shepherd and his flock. It is better described as the tyrant and the underfoot. 

What recourse remains?

HETERODOXY PERMEATING THE CHURCH

Eucharist
Consider the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. How tragic it is that the majority of "Catholics" do not believe this foundational truth. A 2019 poll stated that only one-third of Catholics believe in the real presence. Even among weekly mass attendees, the figure is two-thirds. How is this not at 100%? What shipwreck of catechesis was permitted to fester until the figures were this scandalous? And, still, little to nothing is said among most clergy to remedy the crisis. Is it fair to interpret their silence as an attitude of unalarm? If one's house was on spiritual fire, he would act with urgency, in a frenzy, to remedy the crisis of unbelief. The clergy's silence all but shouts their apathy toward Christ being regularly received by unbelievers. Their persistent silence suggests they believe it is okay. This is not okay.

When the Eucharist was denied to then-candidate Joe Biden, who openly and persistently supported abortion, other clergy scandalously swarmed to condemn the priest. Instead of deferring to that priest, or at least citing canon law to support his own statement, Cardinal Dolan went on Fox News to say he wouldn't have denied the Eucharist to the pro-abortion politician. Chicago Cardinal Blaise Cupich, who was named several times by Bishop Vigano as it pertained to sex abuse and the disgraced Cardinal McCarrick, contradicted his fellow Illinois bishop on the matter of distributing the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians. Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki issued a statement forbidding such "Catholic" politicians from receiving the Eucharist and cited Canon Law 915-916. Cupich contradicted Paprocki, saying such sanctions "don’t change anybody’s minds and the politicians have to deal with the "judgement seat of God." Cupich's "mind change" appeal is not only an invented requirement, but isn't even necessarily true. His statement about forgoing judgment in deference to God is an affront to every excommunication or withheld Eucharist by any bishop or priest in Church history. And, he doesn't abide by this supposed rule himself, as Cupich suspended a priest in February 2018 for burning a "gay pride" flag that was at his church. Both Dolan's and Cupich's argument to distribute Communion to the persistently defiant abortion-supporter is devoid of any theological argument supported by Canon Law or magisterial texts on the subject. Their response is political and not theological. 

Read here for Canon lawyer Ed Peters' explanation of the canonical sanction and theological basis for withholding the Eucharist to persistently defiant pro-abortion politicians. A number of Church Fathers echo the sentiment, as well. For example:
With all our strength, therefore, let us beware lest we receive communion from or grant it to heretics; Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, says the Lord, neither cast ye your pearls before swine Matthew 7:6, lest we become partakers in their dishonour and condemnation. (St. John Damascene, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4.13p, ca. 743 A.D.)
Bishop Paprocki commented on the dereliction of his peers thusly:
One of the misleading arguments voiced by some bishops and cardinals opposed to drafting this document [on the Eucharist] was that doing so would be divisive and would harm the unity of the bishops’ conference. Yes, we should strive for unity, but our unity should be based on the truths of our faith as found in Sacred Scripture and the constant Tradition of the Church. No one should want to be united on the path to perdition. (Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Catholic Times column, June 27, 2021)

Sexuality
Faithful parents are out there trying to teach their children about the sinfulness and perils of pre-marital sex and cohabitation. Why do their children have to hear these truths from their parents in isolation? Churches regularly, not exceptionally, marry openly cohabiting couples. Where is the clergy's clear rejection of that norm? Why are we at the point where youth can say nearly without exaggeration, "Everybody's doing it." Why do we not hear from every pulpit, not just a precious few, about the damage to couples in such situations or the perils to children growing up in unstable homes? Where are they to lead the battle to destroy this scandalous norm? How are parents supposed to convey that marriage and cohabitation are serious matters when so many clergy have shrugged at the matter? When teens see their parents making these claims about sex, they do not see the clergy backing them up with the same gravity, if at all. The parents have largely been abandoned by the clergy. Where Christ promised not to leave the faithful orphans, too many clergy today have been willing to sell those faithful for 30 pieces of secular praises.  

In keeping with the silent effort to damage families, many bishops have been seen in recent years openly championing organizations and events that explicitly mock and reject Church teaching. Lexington Bishop John Stowe "serves" as "ecclesial advisor" to the heretical group "Fortunate Familes," which celebrated the Obergefell Supreme Court decision on gay "marriage" in 2015, have rejected the idea that homosexual sex is sinful, and have called for the Church (impossibly) to contradict moral dogma on homosexual behavior. It is no wonder that there will be no consequences for a priest in Stowe's diocese, Fr. Jim Sichko, who tweeted on the Feast of the Holy Family that "there are all types of holy families out there, heterosexual and homosexual, married and unmarried..."  As well, Stowe, along with Cupich and McElroy (mentioned herein), are among direct collaborators with the group Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, which has called for women's "ordination" and has welcomed exhibitors promoting gay "marriage,", to name a few of its improprieties. Stowe, and Kentucky Archbishops Foys ad Kurtz were also among those who within hours of the release of a politically deceptive video issued unwarranted public condemnations of Covington teens in 2019.

In April 2019, Newark Archbishop Joseph Tobin, of "Nighty-night, baby" fame, decried the Catechism's language on homosexual behavior. A secular interviewer asked him how he can "welcome" people the Catechism calls "intrinsically disordered." Tobin ignorantly replied, "it’s very unfortunate language. Let’s hope that eventually that language is a little less hurtful." First, Tobin accepted the false premise that the Catechism calls persons of homosexual orientation "intrinsically disordered." It doesn't. The language of CCC#2357 states: "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." Second, when has Tobin ever lamented other references in the Catechism about other sins described similarly. Acts of lying and calumny are called "intrinsically disordered" CCC#1753). Any sexual act apart from its unitive and procreative nature is called "morally disordered" (CCC#2351). Acts of masturbation are called "gravely disordered" (CCC#2352). There are multiple other examples of sinful "disorders" in the Catechism. The very idea of disorder is a theological reference to the human person as he exists in the image of God. Proper order is a foundational concept for morality. Either Tobin does not know this or he is more concerned with whether the truth is "hurtful," as he said. In either case, Tobin delivered a lie gift-wrapped with a bow of false compassion.

As reported in March 2021, the archdiocese of Washington has a $2 million budget for the "continuing ministry" of recently resigned Cardinal Wuerl. As Phil Lawler for Catholic Culture pointed out, that's over $5,000 per day allotted for the undisclosed activity of a resigned clergyman. 

Other life and faith issues
Meanwhile, pro-life advocates David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt continue to face legal injustices after exposing Planned Parenthood for butchering and selling baby body parts. Did a swarm of bishops take to the pulpits and social media in support of this pro-life cause, just as they did to condemn a contextless video of Covington teens in January 2019? They did not.

In August 2019, the Jesuit superior general, Fr. Arturo Sosa, said the devil is not a "personal reality" in contradiction to the Catechism and Pope Paul VI, among other magisterial sources. With such ignorance at the head of the order, it is not surprising how many other American Jesuits are permitted to promote heresy and quasi-heresy.

Many dioceses have been sending funds to the "Catholic Campaign for Human Development" which regularly contradicts Church teaching in its promotion of abortion, contraception, and even the physically destructive notion of "transgenderism" in its campaigns.

In December 2019, it was revealed that Vatican funds were used to promote the R-rated film about Elton John. Also in December, we learned that the Vatican's "Peter Pence" fund, which draws collections from the world's dioceses, gives only 5% of collections to aid those amidst "war, oppression, natural disaster, and disease." In November, we learned more about a Vatican financial scandal involving former administrators who were "jailed for systematic fraud and embezzlement" and millions in other financial losses. Also in November, we learned that Pope Francis granted special appointments to Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta, despite the bishop being under investigation for sex abuse and possession of gay pornography. It is reported the bishop is now failing to respond to legal notices. In October 2019, Pope Francis would not address the nature of an apparently pagan "Pachamaa" statue present at the Amazonian Synod. He later apologized that the statue, which was present before bowing worshippers in days prior, was thrown into the Tiber River. Too often, when such confusion comes from Vatican officials and clergy, there is no clarification, such as in the case with the still-unanswered Dubia; or when Bishop Vigano made his famous testimony, of widespread improprieties in the Church, Pope Francis replied, "I will not say a single word" on the matter.

When orthodoxy was actually voiced by the US Catholic Bishops in January 2020, Cardinal Cupich reared his jaws again, this time to criticize his own brethren's attempt to teach moral law. The USCCB statement included concerns regarding the new president, especially: 
"[O]ur new President [Biden] has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences."  
Cupich lamented the process by which the statement was crafted. He then chose to criticize them publicly via the Twitter app, which is itself a non-protocol. He added: "[T]he U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration." Again, Cupich's series of tweets offered zero confrontation of any theology at issue.

ATTACK ON FAITHFUL CLERGY
The organization Coalition for Cancelled Priests was recently formed to aide faithful priests who have been removed from active ministry with no evidence of improprieties given, and in many cases, with no explanation whatsoever. The group even received a detailed endorsement from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who has made similar efforts for orthodoxy and justice in recent years.  

Perhaps the most vocal of these priests is Father James Altman of La Crosse, Wisconsin; who is known for promoting traditional postures such as communion rails and Latin liturgy, and calling out heterodoxy among bishops. On June 8, 2021, Bishop William Callahan issued a removal the removal of the priest from ministry. In a decree, the bishop only calls for Fr. Altman to "spiritually heal and recharge and to address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree." Presumably, the issues were condemning democrat party support for abortion genocide. Late last year, the Bishop said, "His generalization and condemnation of entire groups of people is completely inappropriate and not in keeping with our values or the life of virtue." Much like the bishops arguing for distribution of the Eucharist to abortion-supporting politicians, Bishop Callahan's statement is also devoid of theological analysis. Certainly lamenting about tone and generalization of groups would result in condemning the prophets and even Christ who called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers" (Matt. 12:34). As well, there are plenty of priests making condemning generalizations with scandalous tones in public who are not in a bit of trouble with bishops. To boot, it was reported that local media was present at mass the morning of the decree, indicating secular parties were privy to the removal even before the parishoners. 

In the diocese of Rockford, Illinois, Bishop David Malloy removed from his parish Father James Parker, issuing no reason for the removal other than "various concerns," and did not reassign him to another parish, leaving the pastor in a pastoral "prison" or "limbo." It is scandalous enough that the faithful are deprived of their beloved pastor, but the bishop has since ignored their inquiries for answers. Additionally, the diocese opened their June 15 statement addressing Fr. Parker's removal as part of changes in priest assignments "typically announced" at that time of year. Since Fr. Parker was not reassigned to another parish, the diocese assertion is by all measure a false one. This is not a "typical" priest reassignment. It is penal in nature. Further discussion and documents can be read at FB group We Stand with Father Parker.

The Coalition for Cancelled Priests has a number of media resources describing this phenomenon of faithful priests removed by their bishops from ministry with no evidence of improprieties. Interviews with one of the victims, Fr. John Lovell, go into more detail. Imagine the perspective of a young man discerning the priesthood, perceiving the potentiality of being unable to practice his vocation for no apparent reason other than his orthodoxy. The scandal is intensified when one is aware of how many heterodox or outright heretical priests are allowed to persist in ministry while the faithful ones are attacked. 

FAITHFUL REMNANTS
It goes without saying there are a number of faithful bishops and priests. For instance, the authors of the "Dubia" presented to Pope Francis, Cardinals Raymond Burke, Joachim Meisner, Walter Brandm├╝ller still await his answer (Carlo Caffarra has since passed away). In 2018, Auxilary Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Tomash Peta, and Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga issued a document on the truth of sacramental marriage. In November 2019, Bishop Strickland and Archbishop Chaput rebuked their peers Cardinal Cupich and Bishop McElroy—the former defended the traditional language describing abortion as a "preeminent" moral issue.

And, there are others, but there are also countless other stories of heterodox clergy well. There are too few hierarchical voices enflamed with the truth of the faith, delivered with certitude, and grounded in Sacred Tradition.


Temptation of Christ on the Mount
; Duccio, di Buoninsegna; ca. 1308-1311


EXTENT OF OBLIGATION TO GIVE TO PARISHES?
In early June 2019, I had a brief Twitter exchange on this subject with JD Flynn, editor-in-chief of the Catholic News Agency. I asked if he thought it was time to suspend diocesan giving in favor of other apostolates, such as "EWTN, Catholic News Agency, Ave Maria Radio, Catholic Answers, etc..." At the time, Flynn was opposed to the idea of withholding diocesan giving, stating in part: "I think it's our moral obligation to support the local Church, qua Church, even if the administrators of that money risk their souls by their choices." He also stated "our first obligation is to support the local Church. The Code of Canon Law says we have an obligation to do so."

At the time, I thought Flynn's perspective was reasonable and acknowledged misappropriations occurring within the Church. However, as I briefly stated in that exchange, I don't think continued giving in the current climate is actually helping the larger or local church. That is what has been going on for decades. The faithful participate, they give in the Sunday basket, and the routine goes on. And, heterodoxy persists from the mouths of too many clergy, without consequence. 

Furthermore, the number of corrupt bishops and their aggression against orthodoxy has seemed to intensify in recent months. The question presents itself: Is it moral to finance a generation of corrupt bishops?

In December 2019, it was reported the Church may pay out upwards of $4 billion in sexual abuse settlements. Are the faithful obligated to contribute to such liabilities?

Canon Law states:
The legitimately accepted wills of the faithful who give or leave their resources for pious causes ... are to be fulfilled most diligently even regarding the manner of administration and distribution of goods... (Can. 1300)
[T]he ordinary can and must exercise vigilance, even through visitation, so that pious wills are fulfilled... (Can. 1300.2)
The faithful have an expectation that their giving will go toward "pious causes." Not paying legal fees for the crimes of perverted infiltrators. Not paying the salaries of archbishops who are opposed to the catechism and ignorant of moral theology. Not paying to keep churches going with bland homilies that avoid teaching the truth about relevant subjects. Not going toward the de-beautification of church architecture. Not redistributed to organizations that openly oppose Church teaching. Not going to support the lives of priests and bishops who tickle the ears of the Church's secular enemies in the media. At what point does one's financing enterprises make him complicit in pastoral crimes?

In June 2019, pro-life champion and theologian Dr. Jennifer Robak Morse was interviewed on Kresta in the Afternoon. On the subject of corruption that can occur when clergy intermingles with civil authorities, Dr. Morse stated: "And I think it is going to come from the people at the bottom. Raising their voices, raising their hands, withholding their money. You know, doing whatever needs to be done."

The situation is dire. The response must be drastic. It is not reasonable to expect collection-basket giving as usual will produce more of the same?

WHAT ABOUT FAITHFUL PARISHES?
As mentioned earlier, there are faithful clergy. And, there are vibrant parishes and religious communities. Should these remain recipients of general giving? Perhaps. Here are the possible pros and cons of giving to faithful parishes or religious communities. The pro is to hopefully to move all dioceses to make every parish exemplary of the true faith, like the ones the faithful support financially. The con would be that dioceses might re-route funds. The argument against giving even to vibrant parishes or religious communities would be to exhort even them to be able to go to their bishops and superiors and say, "The faithful are serious. We must take the faith seriously."

Could suspension of giving result in churches closing or faithful programs disappearing? Perhaps. However, it is also possible that such reductions, such suffocations, will be the means by which the Church is born anew. Bishops must know, unequivocally, that the faithful will not stand for the persistent heterodoxy that has permeated the walls of the Church and the lips of the clergy without consequence. 

WHAT OTHER GIVING OPTIONS ARE THERE?
Diocesan parishes or religious orders are not the only arms of the Church available for financial giving. A number of lay apostolates remain vibrant and faithful, such as the aforementioned EWTN, Catholic News Agency, Ave Maria Radio, or Catholic Answers. There are many life apostolates such as Pro-Life Action League, Live Action, the Ruth Institute, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Prolife Across America, Waterleaf Women's Center, and more. Others include law firms that have defended pro-life and other Catholic causes, such as Becket Law or Thomas More Law Center. There are no doubt many other good life, apologetic, bioethical, and ministerial apostolates a Catholic can donate to with minimal fear that the funds will support something offensive to the faith.

HOW LONG TO SUSPEND GIVING?  A ROADMAP TO RESTORATION
In the delicate discernment process to suspend giving as described herein, what would be the signal to resume giving as normal to local parishes or religious communities? I would suggest until clear changes toward orthodoxy become normal. These are suggestions one could ask for even as a parishoner or to pursue as a member of a parish counsel. For example, the following, or things like them, would indicate the Church has begun a purification process we can expect to last:

Removal or sanction of heterodox and corrupt clergy/Restoration of faithful clergy
One of the most critical changes must be made among the clergy. As mentioned earlier, there are often no consequences for clergy who advance heretical ideas or enable corruption to flourish. Obviously, the criminal need to be removed and prosecuted. As well, so must there be consequences for clergy who foster heretical ideas, including giving a platform to those who do so. The names and improprieties described above are, scandalously, hardly the only examples. The Church must sanction or remove these culprits from positions of authority. In cases of formal heresy, excommunications should be issued, and appropriate priestly privileges revoked.

When clergy improprieties are permitted to persist without consequence, the faithful can only conclude those up the hierarchy find their improprieties acceptable. No sanctions nor removals have been dealt to the likes of Cardinal Cupich, Bishop Stowe, Archbishop J. Tobin, Fr. Sichko, Fr. Sosa (and multiple scandalous Jesuits beneath him), nor a host of other clergy promoting unsound doctrines or opposing their faithful peers. The truths of the Church are sacred. There will be no purification in the hierarchy until the corrupt are removed from corrupting.

In 1791, Pope Pius VI spoke of clergy causing public scandal, teaching error, and making pacts with secular authorities, not unlike the state of many in today's hierarchy:
Love, which is patient and kindly, as the Apostle Paul says, supports and endures all things as long as a hope remains that mildness will prevent the growth of incipient errors. But if errors increase daily and reach the point of creating schism, the laws of love itself, together with Our duty, demand that We reveal to the erring their horrible sin and the heavy canonical penalties which they have incurred. For this sternness will lead those who are wandering from the way of truth to recover their senses, reject their errors, and come back to the Church, which opens its arms like a kind mother and embraces them on their return. The rest of the faithful in this way will be quickly delivered from the deceits of false pastors who enter the fold by ways other than the door, and whose only aim is theft, slaughter, and destruction. ... We pointed out to [a Cardinal] the error of his opinion in taking the oath, and the canonical penalties which with sadness We would be obliged to apply, stripping him of the rank of Cardinal unless he removed the public scandal by a timely and appropriate retraction. (Pope Pius VI, Charitas (In the civil oath in France), 1791)
In the same vain, there can be no more removal of faithful priests with no theological reasons stated. Those faithful priests whom have fallen victim to these bishops' pastoral crimes must be restored to full ministry.

Eucharist taken seriously
As mentioned above, many of the faithful do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and a number of clergy have collaborated with corrupt politicians in devaluing its significance.

Receiving the Eucharist like common food tends to betray the divine reality at work. Receiving the Eucharist is arguably the most important thing we will ever do in our lives. Bishop Schneider has explained the significance of posture in our understanding of the Eucharist, and the advantages of receiving on the tongue or kneeling. Some parishes either use the Communion rail or place or stand behind a small portable kneeler to foster kneeling postures and reception on the tongue simultaneously.

Bishops are obligated to uphold the Church's teaching on withholding the Eucharist from politicians who publicly support mortal sins, persistently and defiantly. The Church has had such sanctions and even excommunications throughout history because the faith is a serious matter.

I wrote last year on how minimizing recourse to lay extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist can help communicate the truth of the sacrament. 

These are just some of the types of ideas the Church could advance in order to restore the true mystery of the Eucharist in the hearts of the congregation.

Edifying architecture and music
I also wrote last year about the topic of the importance of epic church art and architecture that better communicates the majesty of Christ. 

Truth from homilies
Certainly there are priests who can deliver homilies that deliver the truth with clarity, no matter the issue. It is imperative that homilies are given in light of the salvation of the souls of the faithful. However, there are too many priests (or deacons) who never or rarely enforce the truth to their congregations on "controversial" issues. Too many homilies are bland paraphrasings of the Gospel, if it is addressed at all. Too many have the effect of coddling the congregation, such as those that never confront the reality of sin. This is both from personal experience and the testimony of many others. Yet, Jesus preached such razor sharp truths that once-followers departed from him on the spot (John 6:60-66). A priest should not fear to do the same.

As mentioned earlier, when too many priests consistently avoid mentioning, for example, the true nature of the Eucharist, we have what we have today—a scandalously large number of Catholics who believe neither in the Real Presence, nor its significance. The importance of the holy sacrament should be trumpeted from the pulpits. 

When the Church marries scores of cohabiting couples, they are in a sense betraying faithful young people in need of the Church's backing. Couples who avoid contraception should have their faith confirmed from the pulpit while those who contracept are clearly explained the perverse, damaging, and sinful quality of such acts. The dangers of pornography should be articulated clearly when such rampant use is so statistically evident. The true nature of marriage between one man and one woman should be explained anthropologically, that the two sexes are not interchangeable pieces that result in the same sacred institution. Sin should be taught from the pulpit in all its forms. Families are broken, tongues are spiteful, the world grows more perverse. Souls are at stake. The priest must equip the faithful with sound doctrine, that they might live in love, and understand the richness of the true faith. The lives of heroic saints should be announced as exemplars of living out the splendorous truths that flow from Scripture and Tradition. All these and more truths facing the faithful today should be trumpeted from the pulpit, to confirm and exhort the faithful, to educate them, to equip them to carry the message to others. This should not come from a few priests. It should come from all priests.

Pope Pius XII stated:
Let priests therefore, who are bound by their office to procure the eternal salvation of the faithful, after they have themselves by diligent study perused the sacred pages and made them their own by prayer and meditations, assiduously distribute the heavenly treasures of the divine word by sermons, homilies and exhortations; let them confirm the Christian doctrine by sentences from the Sacred Books and illustrate it by outstanding examples from sacred history and in particular from the Gospel of Christ Our Lord; and — avoiding with the greatest care those purely arbitrary and far-fetched adaptations, which are not a use, but rather an abuse of the divine word — let them set forth all this with such eloquence, lucidity and clearness that the faithful may not only be moved and inflamed to reform their lives, but may also conceive in their hearts the greatest veneration for the Sacred Scripture. (St. Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, #50, Sept. 30, 1943)
Other signs of serious Church
Celebrating the liturgy ad orientum unites the congregation with the Christians of old. Use of Latin does likewise. Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio in 2007 fostered the use of the Latin liturgy. However, the Church's negligence in teaching Latin in recent decades makes the language shift more challenging to many Catholics. As a transition, bits of the mass could be said in Latin, such as is sometimes done when "Lamb of God..." is said as "Agnus Dei..." And over time, more Latin phrases could be incorporated easily and immediately.

Some, such as Cardinal Burke or Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral rector Fr. John Lankeit, support a return to the exclusively male altar server to distance that role as simply a participational one or one of mere capability. The role these men have in mind would be one by which young boys experience liturgical life at the altar as part of a vocational discernment. This is an idea very worthy of consideration, especially in times of confusion about the sexes inside and outside the Church.

Any change made in parishes and religious communities should be done so in light of sacred tradition, befitting of the body of Christ. Too often, secular demands have transformed churches rather than the other way around. By holding to traditional sacred themes wherever possible, the Church announces itself as unique, a place that has something to offer that you cannot get in the world. This is a truth betrayed when worldly sights and sounds meet the visitor of a church, when unsound doctrines enter the holy halls and spill forth from the mouths of the clergy. What good is a Church that just regurgitates what one can already get from the world? 

THE QUESTION
It goes without saying, prayer and fasting are an integral part of the spiritual life. This situation is no different. In the opening Ignatian quote, the saint encourages us to also work with what God has given us.

If one agrees that the Church is in need of much reform and purification, then the questions of financial giving to parishes or religious communities include: Should withholding financing to corrupt bishops be plan B in light of their refusal to dialogue or confront theological arguments? Does financing corruption and injustices make one complicit in the crimes of corrupt bishops? 

A natural reaction for some might be concern that this would bring about an end to various church programs. However, this only means those programs would not be funded by parishes. They could still be funded if they were compartmentalized from parish coffers with separate fund raisers or oversight by lay apostolates.

Another objection is that the bishops in league with secular officials will receive their funding from those secular powers in exchange for secular favors. That corruption is a possibility, but those withholding money still won't be culpable of financing the corruption.

Another objection might be fear that parishes will close. This is another possibility if the faithful were to, in large numbers, withhold their money. The question then is whether or not the Church has to get small before it can grow anew. Will pruning, although painful, result in restored vibrancy and life?  This was the thought of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI over 50 years ago:
The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. ... As the number of her adherents diminishes...she will lose many of her social privileges. ... But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. (Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, Faith and Future, 1969)
Do we have the courage to go through such a purgation? Does the current situation call for such a drastic reaction as the withholding of money from parishes or religious communities until serious signs of purgation appear? Is financing corruption immoral? These are the questions on the table. May the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the counsel of Our Lady move the faithful wherever God will be glorified.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

7 historic images with Catholic back stories IV

Following is the 4th installment of images with Catholic back stories. (See volume 1, volume 2, and volume 3.)

1. JOHNSTOWN FLOOD (1889) 

Sisters of Charity stereoscopic image in aftermath of Johnstown Flood.
Public domain image by George Barker.

 On May 31, 1889, the South Fork Dam failed in what resulted in the Johnstown Flood of 1889. The dam released 14.55 million cubic meters of water onto the town, resulting in over 2,200 deaths, and $17 million in damages (nearly half a billion modern dollars). Later that year, George Titus Ferris published The Complete History of the Johnstown and Conemaugh Valley Flood, in which he described various groups of people who responded to help with recovery. Among them, he cited the critical work of the nuns and priests: 
The Sisters of Mercy were also active in the good work in the ruined city, though the majority of the Catholic women and children had been removed to Pittsburgh, and were being cared for there. There were about thirty Catholic priests and nuns at work, the sisters devoting themselves to the care of the sick and injured in the hospitals, while the priests did anything and everything, and made themselves generally useful. Bishop Phelan, who reached Johnstown on Sunday evening after the flood, returned to Pittsburgh the next day. He organized the Catholic forces in that neighborhood, and all devoted themselves to hard work assiduously. What the hospitals would have done at first without the sisters is a difficult question. There were nine charity, seven Franciscan, and seven Benedictine sisters. Among the priests were: Rev. Fathers Guido, Goebel, Cosgrave, Gallagher, Trotwein, Rosensteet, Doren, Corcoran, Derlin, Boyle, Smith, O’Connell, and Lamb. 
Famous 19th century landscape photographer George Barker captured much of the Johnstown Flood. Among his techniques was the stereoscopic pair, a method of creating three-dimensional photographs by aligning two photos side by side, taken a few inches apart. When observed either cross-eyed, or looking “through” the pair, the image takes on three dimensions. Pictured above is Barker’s stereoscopic photo of the the Sisters of Charity house after the Johnstown Flood. 

2. POPE PIUS IX RAILROAD CARS (1859)

Altobelli & Molins (Italian, active until 1865), [Pope Pius IX's Private Train at Velletri], 1863, Albumen silver print, 26.4 × 35.2 cm (10 3/8 × 13 7/8 in.), 84.XP.373.2, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 

In 1859, Pope Pius IX was gifted three railroad cars for use in traveling to the papal states. The cars served different purposes that contained a chapel, meeting area, and even an open car from which the public could be addressed. The first trip was from Porta Maggiore to Albano, near Castel Gandolfo. The life of the papal railcars was short-lived, however, as Italy ended the authority of the papal states in 1870. The cars were not seen again until 1911 during a unification anniversary. 

Watch Rome Report’s 2-minute documentary on Pius IX’s train and see more images at Centrale Montemartini

3. MONKS, CAR, AND ST. BERNARD (1905)

Monks and workers pose with their first car and a St. Bernard at the Great St. Bernard Hospice in Switzerland. Photo by Dufour & Tissot S.A., Nyon.

To help weary travelers in the Swiss Alps, St. Bernard de Menthon founded a hospice and monastery in the late tenth century. St. Bernard is perhaps most well-known for the dogs that bear his namesake. For the monks availed the use of dogs in finding and helping weary travelers in the frigid Alps. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: 
Since the most ancient times there was a path across the Pennine Alps leading from the valley of Aosta to the Swiss canton of Valais, over what is now the pass of the Great St. Bernard. This pass is covered with perpetual snow from seven to eight feet deep, and drifts sometimes accumulate to the height of forty feet. Though the pass was extremely dangerous, especially in the springtime on account of avalanches, yet it was often used by French and German pilgrims on their way to Rome. For the convenience and protection of travelers St. Bernard founded a monastery and hospice at the highest point of the pass, 8,000 feet above sea-level, in the year 962. A few years later he established another hospice on the Little St. Bernard, a mountain of the Graian Alps, 7,076 feet above sea-level. Both were placed in charge of Augustinian monks after pontifical approval had been obtained by him during a visit to Rome. … At all seasons of the year, but especially during heavy snow-storms, the heroic monks accompanied by their well-trained dogs, go out in search of victims who may have succumbed to the severity of the weather. 
"The St. Bernards were never just a symbol," said Father Hilaire, a hospice monk, in 2006. "Before the 1900s, there were no skis, so the dogs made paths even if there were one or two meters of fresh snow. They helped us save lives." 

Pictured above is one of the dogs along with the monks and workers aboard the first motor vehicle owned by the hospice. The Wikimedia photo caption reads in part: 
This is the first motor vehicle owned by the Augustinian fathers of the Great St Bernard Hospice, Valais, Switzerland, identified as a 1904 Dufour...built in very limited numbers by Dufour &Tissot, engine makers, of Nyon, Vaud, Switzerland. This picture was taken 11 September, 1905 in Martigny, Valais, prior of what became the first climb of a motor vehicle to the summit of the Great St Bernard pass. The journey took about two hours. 
In today's rescue efforts, the monks also use helicopters.

4. FLYING AIRSHIP (1670) 

Francesco Lana de Terzi's design of a "flying ship" from 1670. Public domain image

In what could be called a forerunner of steampunk design is this sketch of a “flying ship” from 1670. Although this isn’t a “photograph” per se, the image is a famous one in aeronautics, which also happens to have a Catholic backstory. The sketch is by Italian Jesuit priest Francesco Lana de Terzi, who published the image in his book Prodromo

Lana speculated that such a design could create a lighter-than-air balloon, thus able to levitate a ship. His theory was inspired by the experiments of Otto von Guericke known as Magdeburg hemispheres—two hemispheres pressed together and evacuated of air. Although the materials he suggested would collapse under pressure, some speculate the vehicle could have worked with graphene or other materials

A model of Lana’s invention can be seen at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Incidentally, in his same book, Prodromo, Lana also proposed the invention of a raised alphabet for blind readers that was a distant forerunner of Braille (who is also covered later in this article). 

Of note here is how frequently historic scientific advancements or theories involve a Catholic and often clergy. This is an unspoken reality among those who have accepted the false narrative that Church and science are at historic odds. 

5. FORTY MARTYRS OF BRAZIL (2000/1570)

Underwater memorial for the Forty Martyrs of Brazil near the island La Palma. Public domain image.

They are known as the Forty Martyrs of Brazil La Palma. Ignacio de Acevedo was rector of the Jesuit college of Lisbon and at Broja. St. Francis Borgia appointed him as a leader in missions to Brazil, where Ignacio worked for three years. Many years later, he asked to return to Brazil, but in July, 15-16, 1570, he, along with thirty-nine Portuguese and Castilian companions were martyred by Huguenot pirates near the island of Palma. The Huguenots were French Protestants following the tradition of John Calvin. 

The voyage led by Ignacio was reportedly the “largest number of Jesuits leaving Lisbon for overseas missions and the most numerous collective martyrdom in all of the Modern Period.” A great number of galleries of Jesuit martyrs consist in depicting these Forty Martyrs of Brazil. Ignacio is said to have had in his hands when martyred the image of the Madonna di San Luca. Pictured here are memorial crosses dedicated to those Forty Martyrs whose earthly lives ended at sea. Installed in 2000, the memorial is located about twenty meters deep by the island of La Palma. 

For a lengthy account of the 40 martyrs, see 2010 article in the publication Cultura.

6. FIRST BRAILLE TYPEWRITER (1892)

The Hall Braillewriter invented in 1892 utilized Catholic Louis Braille's alphabet for the blind. Source: History of Blindness in Iowa.

Pictured here is the first Braille typewriter, the Hall Braillewriter. The invention builds upon another invention by Louis Braille, a French Catholic. 

Blinded since age five, a twelve-year-old Braille attended a lecture by a military captain, Charles Barbier—who was himself once a classmate of Napoleon. Barbier had created multiple communication systems including a complex raised-letter system for reading in the dark. It was this latter invention that inspired the young Braille to develop his simpler reading system for the blind.

A priest, Father Jacques Palluy recognized great aptitude in the young blind boy and took to teaching the youth himself and entrusting his schooling to a new schoolmaster. So skilled was Braille despite his blindness, that he served as the organist at the Church of Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs and at the Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. Between the ages of 15 and 19, Braille had developed his system of writing for the blind. He published his Braille system in 1829. 

7. FIRST SELF-PORTRAIT (ca 1450)
Catholic artist Jean Fouquet's pioneering self-portrait miniature. Public domain image.

The Louvre
describes this enamel-painted copper medallion as "the first self-portrait by a painter which was not composed as part of a scene." Wikipedia calls the work "the earliest sole self-portrait surviving in Western art" (There is some debate whether an earlier work by Jan van Eyck is actually a self-portrait.) A separate Wikipedia article describes the medallion as "the oldest self-signed self-portrait."


In any case, it is a work of pioneership in the arenas of self-portraits and art miniatures. The artist, Jean Fouquet, was also a Catholic. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls the 6cm medallion Fouquet's "best portrait."

The technique of portrait miniatures arose in the 15th century from artists, such as Fouquet, whom were skilled in book illustrations and manuscript painting. He is said to be the first French artist to have traveled to Italy. During his time there, he also painted a famous portrait of Pope Eugene IV, which now survives only in reproductions.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The importance of epic church art & architecture

St. John Cantius, Chicago (photo by author)
Origins
The early ecumenical council at Nicea explicitly condemned those opposed to venerating sacred iconography:
All those childish baubles and bacchic rantings, the false writings composed against the venerable icons, should be given in at the episcopal building in Constantinople, so that they can be put away along with other heretical books.
Second Council of Nicea, Canon 9, 787 A.D.
And the council exhorted that holy images be exposed in the churches in keeping with tradition:
We defend, free from any innovations, all the written and unwritten ecclesiastical traditions that have been entrusted to us. One of these is the production of representational art; this is quite in harmony with the history of the spread of the gospel, as it provides confirmation that the becoming man of the Word of God was real and not just imaginary, and as it brings us a similar benefit. For, things that mutually illustrate one another undoubtedly possess one another’s message. Given this state of affairs and stepping out as though on the royal highway, following as we are: the God-spoken teaching of our holy fathers and the tradition of the catholic church — for we recognize that this tradition comes from the holy Spirit who dwells in her– we decree with full precision and care that, like the figure of the honoured and life-giving cross, the revered and holy images, whether painted or made of mosaic or of other suitable material, are to be exposed in the holy churches of God, on sacred instruments and vestments, on walls and panels, in houses and by public ways, these are the images of our Lord, God and saviour, Jesus Christ, and of our Lady without blemish, the holy God-bearer, and of the revered angels and of any of the saintly holy men.
You see how the writings of those opposed to icons were filed under heresy. From the earliest centuries, "tradition" included visual depictions of the gospels and the saints as vital to the spread of the gospel and ecclesial sanctuaries. The art serves the faithful.

A beautiful environment for divine reality is prefigured in the Old Testament. When God instructed Moses to build the ark in Exodus 25, He mandated use of gold, precious gems, and statues of cherubim. The ark was the dwelling place of God. The beautiful imagery corresponded to the divine invisible reality. 

The importance of holy images in churches remains in order unto today:
[I]n sacred buildings images of the Lord, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saints, in accordance with most ancient tradition of the Church, should be displayed for veneration by the faithful and should be so arranged so as to lead the faithful toward the mysteries of faith celebrated there. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, #318)
Pope Benedict XVI explained the necessity of "beauty" in conjunction with the Eucharistic celebration:
Everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty. Special respect and care must also be given to the vestments, the furnishings and the sacred vessels, so that by their harmonious and orderly arrangement they will foster awe for the mystery of God, manifest the unity of the faith and strengthen devotion.Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, #41, 2007
Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) ca 1870s (public domain photo by Giacomo Brogi)
In the 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII explained how sacred images should tend "neither to extreme realism nor to excessive 'symbolism.'" It's easy to understand excessive symbolism, for an overly abstract or vague image detaches from sacred tradition and wouldn't contribute to catechesis if the viewer can't tell what it is. Extreme realism is, perhaps, trickier to understand why it should be avoided. However, consider a statue of St. Peter holding the keys and pontificating with his finger to the sky and a halo over his head. Would this depiction be "realistic" in that there could have existed a photograph of Peter in that exact pose holding a giant key? No, however, the key and halo and pose are representative symbols that reveal truths about the saint. If one considers a photograph and sacred art in this way, the art is the more "real" of the two. 

This brings us to a final consideration.


Old St. Mary's Church, Cincinnati (photo by author)
Christ Uses Visual to Depict Mystery
This notion of fostering awe for the mystery of God calls to mind a particular Scriptural passage combining the visibly glorious with an invisible mystery. The passage is the healing of the paralytic. The crowd doubted Christ's ability to forgive sins. Christ replied:
"Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your pallet and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" — he said to the paralytic — "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!" (Mark 2:9-12)
Jesus used a visibly striking image to correspond to the unseen miracle of the forgiveness of sin. Christ used the visual medium to represent the unseen mystery. The healing of paralysis served as the icon of the forgiveness of the man's sin. St. John Paul II wrote to artists, "in a sense, the icon is a sacrament." The incarnate Christ is both God and man, the visible and invisible. Art that gives due regard to the incarnation principle stays true to tradition.


Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Naperville, IL (photo by author)
It's also important to recognize the manner of physical representation Christ chose to model a sacred reality. Did He perform some act of mundanity or plainness? No. The act was awe-striking. Nothing less would befit the unseen mystery. Mundane art and architecture is a contradiction against what transpires on the Eucharistic altar. 

This is why Church art, iconography and architecture must be epic, awe-inspiring, and befitting of divine mysteries. Even a small church can incorporate things like striking stained glass windows; an ornate crucifix, tabernacle, and altar; or small statues and icons to the extent possible. The goal "should be marked by beauty," as Pope Benedict said. Plain or abstract decor in a church fail to correspond to the Eucharistic mystery in the way Christ's healing of the paralytic delivered shouts of glory to God because it was so visually amazing. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

7 historic photos with Catholic back stories III

This is the third "historic photos" post here at The Catholic Voyager. See here for Historic Photos 1 and Historic Photos 2. These photos often contain obvious or lesser known details pertaining to Catholicism. Here are the next seven in no particular order.

1. Hollywood to sisterhood, 1958
Photo of Dolores Hart and Elvis Presley from public domain trailer of King Creole (1958).
Acquired from Wikimedia Commons.
In 1957, young Dolores Hart starred opposite Elvis Presley in his first film, Loving You. She was the first to kiss him on screen. From there her career blossomed. She starred in 10 feature films opposite many famous Hollywood stars. Pictured above, she is seen in the 1958 film, also opposite Elvis, in King Creole.

And then Hart answered the call to join a contemplative Benedictine monastery. In 1963, she entered the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CN. Today, Mother Dolores is prioress of the abbey.

The National Catholic Register relayed Hollywood’s reaction in an interview with Mother Dolores:
They were shocked — angry. My boss, Hal Wallis, just couldn’t believe it. He sent me a message that said, "Don’t leave. Because if you do, I’ll make sure you never work again in Hollywood!" [She laughs.] But, eventually, he became a very good friend. His wife is still alive and sends us a basket of fruit every month.
On prayer, she said:
Prayer is not something you just teach a little child as a pious action. Prayer comes from the deepest heart of human beings who want their life to continue or they want the life of someone else to continue. The call for prayer is a belief and faith that their needs can be answered.
Some believe young Dolores' role as St. Clare of Assisi influenced her conviction to become a nun. Although Dolores grants there may have been some influence there, she better recalls a moment while filming Lisa, a story of a Nazi survivor. In speaking with a real Nazi survivor, Dolores contemplated the evils of the world. In another National Catholic Register interview, she stated:
I realized that the human condition was in such terrible pain that I wondered what one person could do. What can one woman do to face that kind of evil? The only thing that came to me was: The consecration of a woman was the only way to fight that. You have to believe that giving your body into that kind of prayer has a meaning.
See further reading at the Abbey of Regina Laudis.

2. Cologne crane, 1868
The Cologne Cathedral crane.
Photo by Theodor Creifields, 1868. Acquired from Wikimedia Commons.
The Cologne Cathedral crane pictured here was a centuries-old mechanical marvel. The cathedral, whose construction began in 1248, took over seven centuries to build! (I'm betting any original Contract Surety Bonds on that construction project defaulted). The crane was thus once a fixture in the Cologne skyline, it’s 13 meter jib serving as a familiar arm in the sky for centuries. The date of origin of the crane is unclear, but it appears in paintings as early as 1450. The official website of the Cologne Cathedral posits a date of origin for the crane around 1350. But many of those centuries were without activity.

In either the 15th or 16th century, lack of funds prevented further construction until 1842.  The official website imagines that the crane was originally built at ground level, and slowly raised along with the construction of the tower by lifting each corner atop the tower blocks, up to 50 cm at a time, until the base reached a height of 45 meters.  Many websites and books reference this device when detailing the history of cranes. By 1880, the Cathedral was completed.

3. Soccer priest, 2008
Chase Hilgenbrinck (left) playing for the New England Revolution in 2008.
Photo acquired from Fr. Hilgenbrinck.
As a promising soccer talent in high school and at Clemson University, Chase Hilgenbrinck eventually signed in Chile where he played several seasons, including three in the Chilean top flight league.

In 2008, he was signed by the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer, although he was released during the pre-season. But other scouts recognized his defensive talent and he eventually signed with the New England Revolution. He ended up playing several games for the Revolution until he decided to leave the sport of soccer. Why? To become a priest, of course! Our story here resembles Dolores Hart's, told above, of someone leaving public fame for religious life.

After announcing his decision to leave the Revolution and enter the seminary, Hilgenbrinck said:
"I wouldn't leave the game for just any other job. I'm moving on for the Lord. I want to do the will of the Lord, I want to do what he wants for me, not what I want to do for myself." (CatholiCity)
Even then, he already incorporated soccer technique into his new vocation:
"When you play soccer you have to continue getting better every day. It's the same with faith. You have to improve every single day, search for opportunities to deepen your relationship with Christ."
Hilgenbrinck was ordained in 2014 and currently serves at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign, Illinois.

In May 2016, Fr. Chase returned to the city of Chill├ín where he played “on first division teams for three years.” (Catholic News Agency) This time, he returned not as a soccer player, but as a priest, to celebrate the Eucharist with over 600 faithful in the community that knew him.

Further reading at Wikipedia: Chase Hilgenbrinck.

4. Tomb of a priest, 2016
Presumed tomb of Don Miguel de Palomares (d. 1542) in Mexico City.
Photo: Mauricio Marat, INAH. Used with permission.
In April 2016, construction crews sought to install new lamp posts to illuminate the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. In digging one of the holes, the crew struck a historic slab of stone.

Pictured above is the stone, now featuring the hole made by the construction crew. As it turns out, the slab is inscribed with the name Miguel de Palomares, a Catholic priest. The slab is apparently the cover of his tomb. 

Miguel was one of the first Catholic priests to evangelize Mexico. He arrived in Mexico from Spain in 1524 “to work with Juan de Zumarraga, the Franciscan prelate and the first Bishop of Mexico.”   He died in 1542.

Miguel’s tomb is set in a foundation of what was once an Aztec temple. The Aztecs were known for committing hundreds if not thousands of gruesome human sacrifices per year

The question was raised in media as to why the Church would not have destroyed the Aztec temple. However, the question may not be so intriguing as simple. As explained by Raul Barrera, an archaeologist for the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History: “The Spaniards, Hernan Cortes and his followers, made use of the pre-Hispanic structures, the temples, the foundations, the floors.”  The foundation was already firm and saved on excessive construction materials and would have been adequate for a foundation for a cathedral.

5. Easter Island Moai, 2011
A row of Moai at the Easter Island sacred site Ahu Akivi (2011).
Photo by Arian Zwegers. Acquired from Wikimedia Commons.
Easter Island, natively known as Rapa Nui, is home to many mysterious statues and mythology from ancient history. The most famous icons of this historic place are the great “Moai,” giant monument busts. Pictured here is a row of Moai at the sacred site Ahu Akivi, and the apparent location on the cover of Father Sebastian Englert’s 1970 book, Island at the Center of the World

Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited lands on the entire planet, about 1,200 miles away from the nearest inhabited Pitcairn Islands and 2,000 miles away from the nearest mainland in Chile.

Father Englert was a Capuchin Franciscan friar stationed at Easter Island for decades. The island is home to a single museum named The Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum. The museum website describes the priest having "lived at Rapa Nui for more than 30 years, extensively documenting the island's legends, language and culture in general."

Father Englert is suspected to have been the only non-native during his time on the island to have mastered the language. Following is an excerpt from Father William Mulloy’s biography of the late Father Englert:
In 1935 he volunteered to serve on Easter Island, and continued there until his death [1969], having contact with the outside world only through supply ships which arrived once or twice a year. He devoted every free moment to study of his island and its people. 
Fr. Mulloy described Fr. Sebastian as a student of Easter Island's "linguistics, ethnology and archaeology. Fr. Sebastian was unique in that "no other investigator of the island [had] ever been able remotely to approach the rapport which he had obtained with the islanders." He was also involved in the restoration of the island's monuments, which "began to be fulfilled in 1960."

6. LBJ oath of office, 1963
Lyndon B. Johnson, standing between Lady Bird Johnson and Jacqueline Kennedy,
takes the oath of office aboard Air Force One on Nov. 22, 1963.
Public domain photo acquired from jfklibrary.org
November 22, 1963 forever remains a day of infamy in the history of the United States. At around 12:30 local time, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by a sniper in Dallas as he rode along side his wife, Jacqueline. This seismic event in the history of the U.S. remains today the subject of fascination, conspiracy theories, and mysteries. One such mystery involves the Catholic missal on which Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in approximately 2 hours later.

Following the President’s death and ensuing chaotic events, a group of federal staff found themselves aboard Air Force One, prepared to fly back to Washington, along with the deceased. Mrs. Kennedy, keeping near the casket, accompanied the group. Johnson had requested that a Judge Sarah T. Hughes administer the oath. 

The events surrounding the Catholic missal begin around 2:34 p.m.  A timeline appearing in Esquire recounts the moment as follows:
2:34 p.m.Marie Fehmer palms the typewritten oath to Judge Hughes. But they still need a Bible. Larry O'Brien, excusing himself to Jackie, finds a Catholic missal in the bedroom's nightstand drawer. It is in a small box, still wrapped in cellophane. It is possibly a gift, something that somebody, somewhere, had thrust into Kennedy's hands, perhaps even on this last trip to Texas. Now O'Brien tears open the box and hands the book to Judge Hughes.
A recorded phone call (MP3) between U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Abe Fortas and Judge Hughes reveals Fortas stating: 
“[Larry O’Brien] handed you something that he thought was a Bible that a steward had handed him, which had been in the President’s quarters.”  
How Kennedy acquired the missal remains unknown. Some articles posit that someone, perhaps even a civilian, had simply handed it to President Kennedy at some point.

Then came the administration of the oath. A 1967 article in the Washington Post reported:
“Mr. Johnson and Federal Judge Sarah Hughes, who administered the 36-word oath, both believed that the small, leather-bound book was a Bible. … [O’Brien] entered the room. He handed the missal to Judge Hughes, who looked at it briefly and took the book to be a Douay (Roman Catholic) Bible.” (Washington Post, Feb. 26, 1967, PDF)
And, so, at 2:38 p.m., President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as 36th president of the United States. Everything about the scene felt providential. Mrs. Kennedy stood by his side, wearing clothes still stained with her husband’s blood. Kennedy’s body was elsewhere in the jet. Judge Hughes to this day remains the only woman to administer the oath of office. And Johnson, a Protestant, took the oath wth his hand atop a Catholic missal.

Why the missal was perceived as a Bible may have come from the cover. According to Justice Fortas in another recorded call (MP3):
"[T]he missal was bound in “black leather cover…with a cross on it. I would assume looking at it, it was a Bible. I’m sure the President (Johnson) knew nothing about it.”
Fortas later revealed that the book was a “St. Joseph Sunday missal.” A photo of the missal can be seen here at the LBJ Library & Museum.

The immediate fate of the missal following the oath is also unclear. In the same phone call, Justice Fortas stated, “somebody, probably a secret service man” handed the missal to Lady Bird Johnson, who placed it in her bag and returned it to the White House archives. Mrs. Johnson, who was also on the call, claimed she did not remember the sequence of events. 

The Esquire account describes the immediate fate of the missal thusly:
2:41 p.m.There will soon be stories that have Judge Hughes taking the Catholic missal with her and in her shock handing it to a mysterious man, never to be seen again. In fact, the missal ends up in Lady Bird's purse. She will show it secretively to Liz Carpenter, and they will worry for a moment that it's a Catholic book, one more of the day's accidental crossings. Today, the missal is at the LBJ Library in Austin. It looks as new as it did the day it was made, its soft black leather cover embossed with a cross.
Two other mysterious aspects surround the missal. First, details of the missal’s fate were apparently never revealed to William Manchester, who was then writing The Death of a President. In his book, published in 1967, Manchester stated that the missal was missing. The other matter concerned ownership of the missal. As the phone calls reveal, the inside of the book’s leather binding are embossed with “JFK.” The calls touch on whether or not the White House legally had the right to retain the missal or if it should be returned to the Kennedy family. The LBJ Library (also the location of 9 recorded phone calls regarding the missal) clears up these two issues as follows:
Although Manchester says in his book, published in 1967, that the book used for the swearing-in ceremony was missing, it is clear now that the White House had the missal but did not disclose this at the time.  In 1979, when Merle Miller was doing research at the Library for his book on LBJ, Miller asked Library staff for information on the book used to swear in the President.  At that time Harry Middleton, Director of the LBJ Library, disclosed that the Library had the book and that it was a Catholic missal.  The question of legal title arose at that time since the book had actually belonged to President Kennedy.  Middleton notified John Stewart, Assistant Director of the Kennedy Library, and offered to send the item to the Kennedy Library.  On April 2, 1979, Dan Fenn, the Director of the Kennedy Library, responded and stated that it was his opinion that the missal should remain in the Johnson Library.  Dan Reed, the head of Presidential Libraries at the time, concurred.  The LBJ Library considers legal title to the item to have transferred with this letter.
7. The John McNulty case, 1894
Sketch of John McNulty from Jan. 26, 1894 issue of the San Francisco Call newspaper.
Saturday, March 24, 1888. San Francisco. John McNulty, a longshoreman, was once employed by a George Haskell, who is said to have teased and bulldozed McNulty frequenty. McNulty had left his employment to work for Haskell’s son. McNulty’s departure was considered personal to Haskell Sr. and his workmen. Quarrels had escalated, and the matter was to be settled in a fistfight between McNulty and one of Haskell’s men, James Collins, at the nearby wharf. The encounter occurred that Saturday afternoon.

According to McNulty, Collins showed up at the wharf with friends who proceeded to “beat him with a wagon-wheel spoke till he bled from the lungs.” Later that evening, McNulty purchased a "revolver to protect himself."

Sunday, March 25, 1888. The next day, McNulty claims to have seen Collins and friend Mike Halpin (or Halpen) walking down the street. The three men had an encounter, apparently arguing about the fight at the wharf the day prior. McNulty was quoted as follows:
“Collins approach me in a threatening manner and put his hand to his hip-pocket. Fearing he was going to shoot me, I drew my pistol and fired it at him.” 
Collins died shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital.

Halpin’s version of the story differs. He claims McNulty was the aggressor and challenged Collins to a fight. McNulty then is said to have shot Collins after Collins refused to renew the fight. A Wednesday news report adds the testimony of Patrick Morgan, who also claims to have been with Collins when the murder occurred.  In this report, Morgan's account of the murder is similar to Halpin’s, although there is no mention of Halpin's presence.

McNulty was immediately arrested by nearby police. His pregnant wife did not learn of the arrest until after visiting hours, and she wept outside the prison, unable to enter. While behind bars, McNulty was reported to have heard hear crying and said, “Poor woman, she will soon give birth to a child that will have a man like me as a father. That’s the only thing I am sorry for.”

In July 1888, McNulty plead not guilty. The trial was even postponed because Mrs. McNulty had given birth and was considered a key witness.

When the trial began, a new report said the McNulty defense, behind attorney J.N.E. Wilson, was temporary insanity. The jury found McNulty guilty on August 6 which likely meant the death penalty. McNulty is reported to have later sparred “violently insane” with prison guards that evening following a visit from his wife.

After some appeals, Judge Murphy delivered his sentence on October 6—the death penalty. At the announcement, McNulty’s mother reportedly cried “Oh, Lord, have mercy,” while his wife cried, “My God, my God, pity me and my child.”

Subsequent appeals continued to occur for many months. In a brief segue on January 12, 1890, McNulty escaped from prison with five other inmates, having snuck past a guard and dug through a rotted wall. By January 19, he was recaptured after traveling “through the mountains.”

Appeals continued for the next years. By then, McNulty was represented by attorney Carroll Cooke. But the sentence of death continued to loom.

An August 1892 article describes Nulty’s prison situation.
The condemned man is a Catholic and he is zealously devoting most of his time in preparing for death in accordance with his faith. During the afternoon he was visited by two priests and two Sisters of Mercy. … At the upper end of the cell is a shelf. Upon this stands a crucifix flanked by two candles and a few glit-edged prayer-books.
The article also reported an interview between McNulty and a reporter. "I killed Collins in self-defense," McNulty said, echoing his defense from the day after the murder.

By 1894, the gallows had already been raised twice to hang him, only to be stored again after legal stays and appeals.

McNulty was scheduled again for execution by hanging on January 26, 1894. But our story comes to an end on January 25. McNulty sat in his cell accompanied by two Sisters of Charity, consoling him and offering prayers. At 2:15 p.m. a telegram is delivered to the prison. It is from a sheriff relaying a message from California Governor Henry Markham. The message reads:
Sacramento, Jan. 25, 1894. McDade, Sheriff, San Francisco—The Governor has commuted McNulty’s sentence to imprisonment for life. I will bring official document down to-morrow morning.
According to the news report, the entire prison population, as well as an outside crowd, received the news with joy. The prison sheriff reportedly exclaimed, “Thank God!” on hearing the news. The deputy and newsmen apparently ran to tell McNulty the news, who himself exclaimed, “Praise God!” The sisters shook his hand as well as the messengers'. (News reports regarding Mrs. McNulty were absent.)

After hearing the news, McNulty immediately sent a message to his mother reading:
Mrs. Miles McNulty, St. John, New Brunswick, care of Joseph Watson—Dear Mother: God has spared you from the disgrace that once threatened you. Yours. John McNulty.
McNulty’s first visitor the following morning was Father Jaquet of St. Ignatius Church, who encouraged the prisoner to have hope. In an interview with the San Francisco Call, Father Jaquet stated:
I have known McNulty for years, and I never believed he would be hanged. Why? Well, when I learned that his mother came here to sacrifice her last cent for him, yet refused to swear falsely for his sake, to swear that he had been subject to epileptic fits for eighteen months when he had not, I believed that for her sake his life would be spared.
Remember, during his first attorney’s term, McNulty’s plea was temporary insanity. Perhaps the mother had refused to give false testimony that McNulty suffered from seizures.

And so, our story comes to a close. It is a strange story that raises moral questions. Whether or not McNulty killed in self-defense remains unknown. Obviously the judge and jury did not buy the self-defense argument (nor his original plea of insanity with his first attorney). However, what does not seem in dispute is that Collins and some other party indeed took to beating McNulty the day before the kill. A medical report did not confirm the use of foreign objects in McNulty’s beating, as McNulty claimed, but it did reveal “discolored contusions” on McNulty’s body.

An editorial did appear shortly after Gov. Markham’s commutation, criticizing the governor’s decision, insisting murder was no fair exchange for battery. Although, as cited above, other reports claimed the community, the police staff, and religious were gladdened by the commutation. Did this indicate McNulty had shown remorse? Was McNulty only regretful for his mother and wife and child, but not the killing of Collins? That priests and nuns visited him regularly, coupled with the report that he had taken up his Catholic faith, does give evidence that he may have repented. What about Collins’ culpability? We know little of the victim’s life, other than probably leading another man’s beating, and possible involvement in bullying McNulty in the days prior to the incident at the wharf. The incident may move us to ponder our own lives and interactions with others as we strive, even if poorly, to lead worthy lives. And, as faithful, we can hope with God for the salvation of all men (1 Tim. 2:3-4).