St James Cathedral - Seattle, WA

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reject Bad Information About the Church!

Want to know what really pushes my ecclesial buttons? 
It's spreading misinformation and misunderstanding, specifically about the Church.

I know we get a lot of it from the media.  It was especially noticeable when Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy.  Many journalists who had never said the word papal before pronounced it wrong, as if it rhymed with "apple" instead of "maple." (Credit goes to college friend John Jansen from Generations for Life who first pointed this out.)

We get a lot of misinformation from people outside the Catholic Church, too.  The world seems to have an abundance of people who have a poor understanding of the Church, and our large number of poorly catechized Catholics isn't helping.

What I can't tolerate is people who claim to be devout, sanctimonious Catholics who share wrong information about the Church with other people.  Whether they realize it or not, what they are actually doing is pushing their own agenda or version of church instead of the real Truth.

Here's a prime example of what's got me all fired up.  There's a bogus video circulating through the internet called Pope Francis Rejects Communion in the Hand.  It's edited footage from the Holy Father's liturgies at St Peter's Basilica on April 14, 2013 and on April 21, 2013.

Here's what's so misleading about it.  The video doesn't show Pope Francis rejecting or denying Holy Communion in the hand at all!  What it shows is the Holy Father administering Holy Communion to the deacons of the Mass (on the tongue, which is the norm for ministers at the altar).  It also shows one of the priests from each Mass, instructing an individual communicant to receive the Communion on the tongue, not the hand. 

What it doesn't show you is that Pope Francis usually only distributes Holy Communion to the ministers close to him at the altar at the larger pontifical celebrations. He hasn't been giving Communion to the faithful in attendance, even on the tongue. It also doesn't show the numerous priests and deacons who assist with the distribution of Holy Communion at these liturgies, with some of them administering Holy Communion in the hand.

Besides the selective editing, there's a lot that unsuspecting viewers may not realize. Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is the norm at the Vatican (and really in the entire Church). Reception in the hand is only permitted by decree in certain countries where the bishops have asked for it (including Italy which surrounds but does not include Vatican City). Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable for a priest at St Peter's Basilica to insist that the unknowing Mass attendee receive the Eucharist on the tongue, especially if this instruction can be done with little disruption. Of course, this instruction has nothing to do with the pope supposedly eradicating Holy Communion in the hand that the video wrongly claims.

Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis) giving Communion in the hand in 2004.
The end of the video is the tell all. It's a reference to a person's blog whose personal agenda is pretty apparent. This guy wants everyone to receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling, to the point where he's jumping to false conclusions about the pope and then manipulating video to push his agenda on unsuspecting Christians.  Maybe some day this guy will get his wish, but if that happens, it will come by decree of the Holy Father or the Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, not by a lay person's twisted video production.

St Athanasius once wrote: "In accordance with the Apostolic Faith delivered to us through the tradition of the Fathers, I have delivered the tradition without innovation, without adding anything extraneous to it."  He's referring to doctrine, but it's fair to extend this to general information about the Church, too.  All I'm asking of my fellow Catholics is to teach what the Church teaches, not your own version of it or what you think the Church should teach.

People deserve the real deal, not some cheap imitation.  Giving them anything else doesn't serve the Church, but selfishly builds your own ego. Chicago's Fr Robert Barron said in a recent homily: "When the ego takes over, the flow of grace is blocked."  That's pretty evident in the video. 

Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is very reverent and I recommend it.  However, I don't recommend lying and saying the pope denies Holy Communion in the hand when he doesn't. Reject this video. Pray for the one who made it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Needing a Little Courage with Being Pro-Life

In case you're wondering if I'm pro-life, this is what I think:
  • Life is beautiful and sacred, even if it doesn't always seem that way. 
  • Each person is unique, unrepeatable, and has something to offer.
  • Life doesn't begin at birth, but at the very beginning at conception.
  • You shouldn't kill people.
I believe this not just because the Catholic Church teaches this, but also on my own discernment.  I've also found that whether you believe them or not doesn't take away from the reality that they are all true. 

So what's the problem?  Well, I didn't think I had one until I started thinking about getting the Choose Life specialty license plate for my car.  

If you haven't seen what I'm referring to, Choose Life America is an organization that started the Choose Life license plate with the idea of funding prenatal care for mothers considering adoption and to help fund pro-life pregnancy centers.  It actually started in Florida where I grew up and is now available in at least 29 other states.  According to their website, they have been able to raise $14 million so far.

Initially, this seemed like a great idea.  I'm pro-life, and a license plate that reflects my values and beliefs is available in my state.  It raises money for a charitable organization and brings attention to a worthy issue.  The problem is it also brings some attention to me, and this is where I stopped.

Let me explain.  I'm not a shy person.  I'm not one to hide my Catholicity or being a Christian.  I often participate in casual conversations about faith or religion in the workplace.  I hope my faith life is reflected in my behavior (although I know it sometimes isn't).  At the same time, I've always been a very prudential person and tend to pick my battles.  I prefer getting the job done rather than being the announcer that says it has to be done.  I prefer to talk to people when they're not emotional, and do not care for heated arguments that typically don't lead to anything but misunderstanding and frustration which is why the argument started in the first place.

And that's my fear, getting caught up in some confrontation that I don't need to get caught up in.  I'm not sure how rational or realistic this fear is, but I have it.  Do I want to be caught in a debate about abortion at a gas station when all I want is to pump gas?  Would that police officer have given me a break on that ticket if he/she wasn't so convicted that a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body?  Maybe that garbage wouldn't be on my car when I came out of the store if it had the regular license plate.  I might be able to live with things like this, but what if my kids are there or my wife is driving the car?

I know I might be over thinking this a little.  Maybe I'm thinking about myself and my family too much.  Regardless of where you are on being pro-life and how you convey it, this can be a very desperate issue.  People do unnecessarily crazy things when they're desperate, and I prefer them not to do them to me, especially if I'm in a hurry or my kids are watching.  Is this a good reason not to get the Choose Life license plate?  I couldn't seem to arrive at an answer, and I wasn't even sure if there was a right answer.  After all, you don't have to have a license plate to be pro-life.  On the other hand, if everyone did nothing out of fear, then nothing in the world would get done.

So, I turned to my wife and asked her what she thought.  She's not the kind of person to rock the boat and doesn't like it when people argue.  Waiting for her to pass on getting the Choose Life specialty plate with a multitude of reasons including mine and a few more, she says with the wisdom of Solomon: "Paul, it's pretty obvious we're pro-life.  Get the plate."

And so with a little courage, I did.  The application has been submitted; the plate should be arriving any day now.  Even before putting this license plate on the car, I've realized some things about being a pro-life Christian: 
  • Some people preach on street corners, others prefer a subtle approach.  Both are fine as long as you are using your God given talents fully.
  • Being a Christian comes with a price (and an eventual reward).  All the important things in life do.
Who knows, maybe I'll help save a life by having the Choose Life plate on my car.  

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's thought about this, or even been deterred from getting the license plate for similar reasons.  If you're pro-life, do you think you should get one?

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