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Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

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September 26, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

A Mickey Mantle baseball card from 1952 sold for $12,600,000 a few weeks ago, setting a new record for sports collectibles. Then last month a jersey worn by the Chicago Bulls Hall of Fame basketball player Michael Jordan was sold for $10.1 million — becoming the most expensive piece of game-worn sports memorabilia ever bought at an auction.

As you may know, I love sports, both as a participant and as a fan. I used to collect baseball cards in my youth, but I never paid more for one than the cost of a pack of bubble gum! I also have an assortment of hockey jerseys (or sweaters, as hockey purists would say). Most, if not all, of them were purchased off the rack at a sporting goods store or were given to me as a gift.

So the news of someone paying over $12 million for a baseball card and over $10 million for a basketball jersey strikes me as not only astounding, but even obscene. The $22 million from just these two items alone could feed a lot of hungry people, provide housing for the homeless, and pay tuition for needy low-income families.

The fact that such ludicrous amounts of money are spent on sports and sports-related activities shows how upside down our world’s values have become. Professional athletes and coaches receive millions of dollars in salary. Even college athletes are now being paid millions of dollars for their name, image, and likeness. Meanwhile, nurses, teachers, police officers, and firefighters are paid paltry sums in comparison, despite their much greater value to the health and wellbeing of our society. It is no wonder that there is a shortage of workers in these essential positions, since they are paid so much less than people who do far less for the good of society.

The source of this imbalance in values is rooted in vanity and greed. The remedy for this sad situation is a matter of justice, that is, giving to others what is properly due to them.

Someone who pays millions of dollars for a rare baseball card is saying, “Look at me and see what I’ve got that you don’t have.” That is vanity.

Someone who is paid millions of dollars but does not share that wealth with those in need is greedy.

The Book of Ecclesiastes concludes with the words, “Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!” Father John Hardon wrote in his Modern Catholic Dictionary that vanity is “an inordinate desire to manifest one’s own excellence. It differs from pride, which is the uncontrolled desire for self-esteem, in that vanity primarily seeks to show others what a person has or has achieved. A vain person looks for praise from others and may go to great lengths to obtain it. More commonly, vanity is associated with an exaggerated importance attached to multiple details, especially external appearances, which in no way contain the value attributed to them. It is ostentation in fashion, wealth, or power regarded as an occasion of empty pride.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2536) says, “The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods.”

Vanity is related to pride, but is different in that pride is concerned with praising oneself, while vanity seeks the praise of others. Thus, the antidote to pride is humility, while the antidote to vanity is modesty. Ken Blanchard (author of One Minute Manager) wrote, “People with humility don’t think less of themselves. They think of themselves less.” Similarly, modesty does not involve demeaning ourselves in the eyes of others, but striving for success without going out of our way to draw attention to ourselves or our accomplishments in an inordinate way. In other words, there is nothing wrong in wanting to do things well and even in seeking to have a good reputation, but our desire for recognition from others should not become excessive. While modesty is often considered in relation to dressing in a way that is not sexually provocative, modesty also extends to behaving in a way that is not unduly preoccupied with receiving praise.

Another virtue that counteracts vanity is magnanimity. The classical definition of magnanimity is expressed in the Latin phrase extensio animi ad magna — the striving of the spirit toward great things. The French philosopher Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange says, “Vanity loves the honor and prestige that comes from great things, while magnanimity loves the work and effort that has to be done to achieve them.”

The antidote to greed is generosity. Generous people are willing to share with others not only from their abundance, but even when it requires sacrifice, whether material or spiritual. Thus, generosity means not only sharing material wealth unselfishly, but also being kind, loving, friendly, and cheerful with others.

We can overcome the vices of vanity and greed while growing in the virtues of modesty, magnanimity, and generosity with the help of God’s grace, which He makes available in abundance through the sacraments, especially when we confess our sins in the sacrament of penance and receive Our Lord in holy Communion.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

September 14, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“The second Elizabethan Age ended Thursday. Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has spanned my life. I was born in 1952, a few months after the new monarch was summoned home from the then-British colony of Kenya on the death of her father from lung cancer.” Those words were written by Stephen Fidler in the opening paragraph of his essay published in the Sept. 9, 2022 edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled, “A Reflection on 70 Years of Life With the Queen.” Those could also be the words of the opening paragraph of my column in this issue of Catholic Times.

Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952. I was born six months later on Aug. 5, 1952, so Queen Elizabeth II reigned just slightly longer than I have been alive! As an American, I do not have any particular attachment to the monarchy, yet it is undeniable that the length and manner of Queen Elizabeth’s reign have made a profound impact throughout the world.

As a political science major in college, I learned the difference between a country’s head of state and head of government. Here in the United States, the president is both head of state and head of government, so the distinction between the two roles is not as readily apparent to us. That is not the case in most countries. Even in parliamentary systems of government with elected officials, such as Germany, France, Italy, and Poland, the president is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. In a monarchy like the United Kingdom, the king or queen as head of state is a personal symbol of the nation’s sovereignty, while the prime minister as head of government is the leader of nation’s political processes. The head of state as symbol of a nation’s sovereignty is an important reminder that the country is independent and is not subject to any foreign power or dictator.

To say that the head of state is a symbol of the nation’s sovereignty is not to imply that the head of state is merely a figurehead. Queen Elizabeth II was the epitome of calm, civility, courtesy, composure, dedication, devotion, equanimity, perseverance, and stability. These are intangible qualities and virtues that cannot be legislated through the political process, but which nonetheless are vital to a nation’s character. A monarch cannot order people to live virtuous lives, but can influence a nation’s culture and provide a model of admirable behavior for others to emulate.

In this regard, Queen Elizabeth II conveyed a spiritual quality to her leadership. At her coronation in Westminster Abbey, after the archbishop of Canterbury anointed the new queen, Elizabeth said the anointing “sanctified her before God to serve her people.” It was said that she felt it was the anointing, not the crowning, that made her queen.

Indeed, British law recognizes the monarch as the head of the Church of England ever since Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 recognizing King Henry VIII as the “Supreme Head of the Church of England,” a title that Henry VIII had insisted upon after Pope Clement VII refused to approve the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. It was repealed briefly in 1555 under Mary I, but in 1559 Parliament adopted a new Act of Supremacy during the reign of Elizabeth I. In keeping with the Act of Supremacy, the Oath of Supremacy required any person taking public or church office in England to swear allegiance to the monarch as supreme governor of the Church of England. Failure to do so was to be treated as treasonable. My patron saints, St. Thomas More, who served as chancellor of England under King Henry VIII, and St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and chancellor of the University of Cambridge, remained faithful to the pope, and were thus convicted and beheaded for their refusal to recognize the king as the head of the Church of England.

Here in the United States, as Americans after the Revolution sought to distance themselves from matters related to the English monarchy, they began calling themselves members of the Episcopal Church rather than the Anglican Church. The term “Episcopal Church” not only asserted that it was not under the authority of the English monarch, but inferred that the episcopacy, that is, the bishops, were the highest level of ecclesiastical authority, and thus, like their counterparts in the Church of England, were not answerable to the pope.

When Pope Benedict XVI travelled to the United Kingdom in 2010 for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, Queen Elizabeth II remarked that she was “delighted” to welcome him to the United Kingdom. In her speech welcoming the Holy Father, the Queen said, “We are all aware of the special contribution of the Roman Catholic Church particularly in its ministry to the poorest and most deprived members of society, its care for the homeless and for the education provided by its extensive network of schools. … I know that reconciliation was a central theme in the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman. … I am pleased that your visit will also provide an opportunity to deepen the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the established Church of England and the Church of Scotland.”

May the soul of Queen Elizabeth II rest in peace, and may St. John Henry Newman, St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, and all the English martyrs pray that Anglican and Episcopalian Christians everywhere may return to full communion with the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome. May God give us this grace. Amen.

August 30, 2022

Looking at the clear connection between discipleship and stewardship

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In the coming weeks, the parishes in our dioceses will be conducting their season of stewardship. This is a major shift away from the former mindset of fundraising for donations, moving instead to the practice of stewardship, which is a grateful response of giving back to God a portion of the gifts that God has given to us. This change in approach was reflected in several declarations that were adopted at our Fourth Diocesan Synod, which was held in 2017 with representatives from each of our 129 parishes in our diocese.

The tenth declaration of our Fourth Diocesan Synod states: “As a diocese committed to discipleship and stewardship, the community of Catholic faithful recognizes that everything we have comes from God and that He has given us gifts not just to use them for ourselves but also to share them with others. As faithful and generous stewards of God’s abundant gifts, those committed to discipleship and stewardship as a way of life pledge to share their talents, give of their time and contribute proportionately from their financial resources for the good of the Church and those in need.”

This declaration makes clear the connection between discipleship and stewardship. The word “disciple” comes from the Latin word “disco,” which is not a dance, but means “I learn.” A disciple is someone who learns from someone else. A disciple of Jesus is someone who follows Jesus in order to learn from Him and live accordingly.

A “steward” is a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something, such as a person employed to manage another’s property. As followers of Jesus, we learn that everything we have comes from God our Father. God not only created everything, but in a real sense He still owns everything. We are only caretakers of creation given the responsibility to manage the affairs of this world.

This is a radically different way of looking at things. If you ask most people who it is that owns their possessions, they would answer, “I do.” If you ask them who is responsible for acquiring these possessions, they would answer, “I am.” In contrast, if you ask followers of Jesus who have embraced the discipleship and stewardship way of life who owns their possessions, they would answer, “God does.” If you ask them who is responsible for acquiring these possessions, they would answer, “God is, and He has given me these gifts to take care of them for Him.”

The eleventh declaration of our Fourth Diocesan Synod states: “Trusting in God’s providence and giving according to their means, the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois are called to live as disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ by giving of their time and talent and striving to fulfill the Biblical command to tithe by donating the suggested amount of at least 8% of their income to their parishes and 2% to other charities as an expression of their gratitude to God and of their stewardship of His manifold gifts of creation.”

Tithing is a concept that is not familiar to many Catholics despite its strong biblical roots. The earliest example of tithing in the Bible is found in chapter 14 of the Book of Genesis, where Abram (before God changes his name to Abraham) returns victoriously from battle after rescuing his nephew Lot from captivity and recovering all of the possessions and food supplies that had been stolen from his countrymen. Melchizedek, King of Salem, appears majestically to recognize Abram’s great victory. Melchizedek prefigures the Eucharist by bringing out bread and wine and blessing Abram. In response, the Bible says, “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:20).

There is much that we can learn from this account. First, we should note that the 10-percent tithe is given after the battle, not before. This is significant in that the offering is not made in supplication as a plea for God to grant the favor of a successful outcome in battle. Rather, the offering is made in gratitude for the victory having already been achieved.

Second, the offering is not made in response to a request from Melchizedek to satisfy some financial need. Melchizedek, for example, did not ask for a donation to pay for repairs for a leaky temple roof. Nor did Abram ask what Melchizedek intended to do with his gift. That is in contrast to our present reality where so much of charitable giving today is based on responding to a demonstrated need.

In this regard, a study by the University of Notre Dame’s Catholic Social and Pastoral Research Initiative found that Catholics are more likely “to focus on giving as ‘paying the bills’ rather than ‘living the vision’ when thinking about money.” As a result, the report showed that, on average, “Catholics are less generous in voluntary financial giving than other Christian groups in the United States.” In response to this reality, the study suggests that what is needed is “fostering parish cultures in which the use of money is not seen as a mere secular or profane matter, but, as the Bible teaches, a spiritual concern that God cares about, that shapes one’s personal spiritual life profoundly, and that can genuinely help transform the world along Christian values and purposes.”

In the Diocese of Wichita, where stewardship has been widely embraced and implemented, the generous response of parishioners has made it possible to offer Catholic education from kindergarten through high school without charging tuition to the parents of the students. What a great blessing it would be for our diocese if we could do the same!

May God give us this grace. Amen.

August 18, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

President Joe Biden and his administration are continuing their aggressive assault on the religious liberty rights protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, thus threatening the ability of the Catholic Church to continue her essential work in education and health care. The Catholic News Agency reported on Aug. 10 that “Catholic school leaders need to be aware that their schools could be cut off from the federal government’s free and subsidized lunch program if their policies don’t comply with the Biden administration’s revised rules against LGBTQ discrimination.”

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential childcare institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Earlier this year the Biden administration announced that their interpretation of Title IX’s federal ban on sex discrimination would be expanded to include “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Religious freedom and free speech advocates warn that the proposed rule change could be used to enforce mandates on hiring, access to bathrooms according to the student’s gender of choice, using preferred pronouns, and dress codes.

Fifty-two percent of U.S. Catholic schools participate in the federal lunch program, according to Sister Dale McDonald, vice president of public policy at the National Catholic Educational Association, which represents nearly 150,000 educators serving 1.6 million students in Catholic schools, universities, and religious education programs.

Grant Park Christian Academy in Tampa, Fla., was able to obtain a religious exemption earlier this month from the state’s agriculture department, but the school first had to file a lawsuit in order to get it. Thankfully, the school was represented in court by the nonprofit public interest law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom. Other schools may well have to go to court to preserve their religious freedom.

With regard to health care, the Biden administration earlier this year promised new regulations that are contrary to Catholic values and will be a disaster for Catholic employers, physicians, and hospitals. These regulations will require employers and health care providers to cover or perform abortions, gender transition services, and unethical fertility treatments. Other regulations will affect insurance and exchange plan coverages, education discrimination rules, eligibility for HHS grants, religious student groups’ ability to select like-minded leaders, and contractors’ freedom to make employment decisions consistent with their religious beliefs. Then, on June 15, President Biden issued an executive order that seeks to dramatically advance his administration’s radical LGBTQ+ agenda. These regulations will violate the God-given dignity of men, women, and children. They will attack the science that we are made male and female, promote the destruction of innocent human life, and undermine protection of religious liberty and the ethical ordered liberty enshrined in our Constitution.

Thankfully, there are organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Catholic Benefits Association, Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative, and the Thomas More Society Public Interest Law Firm who are fighting to protect the religious freedom rights of Catholic dioceses, hospitals, schools, ministries, religious orders, and businesses guided by our Catholic values.

It is a shame that religious freedom is under attack these days right here in the United States of America, but we must continue to be vigilant and vindicate our God-give rights, even if this means fighting for our rights in court. May God give us this grace. Amen.

August 02, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The month of July typically provides an opportunity for me to get away for a bit during the summer, some of it for vacation and some of it to attend out-of-town conferences. This year saw the resumption of several conferences that had been cancelled or postponed during the COVID pandemic of the past two years. Among those that I attended were the International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, which took place at Saint Louis University, and the Conference of the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists, which was held at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. The topics of discussion for experts on Medieval canon law and diocesan archivists admittedly take place in a rarefied atmosphere not frequented by most people. Maybe that is why I find these subjects so fascinating!

Perhaps the topic of greater interest to people in general and parents in particular was the conference I attended on dealing with the challenges of gender ideology. Presentations included speakers from CanaVox, which they describe as “a cheerful marriage movement that offers reading groups to friends who support the historic understanding of marriage.” Their website, canavox.com, includes readings lists on topics such as:

  • The Meaning of Marriage
  • Same-Sex Attraction
  • Same-Sex Marriage
  • Divorce
  • The Hook-Up Culture
  • Cohabitation
  • Marital Fidelity
  • Communication in Marriage
  • The Importance of Fatherhood
  • The Beauty of Motherhood
  • Compassionate Responses to Infertility
  • Donor-Conceived Children
  • Adoption
  • Sex Education in the Family
  • Sex Education in the Schools
  • Pornography
  • Transgender Identity
  • Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria

There are also several excellent videos on the CanaVox website, canavox.com/videos, on the following topics:

  • Sex, Gender, and Identity
  • Helping Our Children Navigate Gender Identity: The Elementary Years
  • Helping Our Children Navigate Gender Identity: The Middle Years
  • Helping Our Children Navigate Gender Identity: The High School Years

I highly recommend these resources, especially for parents who are looking for help in addressing these issues with their children.

While traveling, I also had the opportunity to read some very informative books related to these topics. Among these books is Unraveling Gender: The Battle Over Sexual Difference, published in 2022 by TAN Books, and was written by John Grabowski, who is Professor of Moral Theology and Ethics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Professor Grabowski describes gender ideology as one of the greatest moral errors of our times, threatening the truth and meaning of human sexuality. It is essentially the mistaken notion that gender is not necessarily connected to the sex of the body, but is a personal construct. Noting that the Catholic Church in her wisdom has stood up to stem the tide of this harmful new attack, Professor Grabowski draws upon Scripture and Church teaching to equip parents, religious educators, and clergy with the information they need to confront this dangerous ideology with clarity, confidence, and charity. As gender ideology continues to spread its errors, infecting our culture like a deadly virus, this book provides a valuable resource to confront this destructive ideology.

Another highly informative book from my summer reading was What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics, published by Harvard University Press in 2020, and was written by O. Carter Snead, director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, Professor of Law, and Concurrent Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He is also a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the principal bioethics advisory body to Pope Francis. Inspired by the insights of Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, Professor Snead proposes a vision of human identity and flourishing that supports those who are profoundly vulnerable and dependent, especially children, the disabled, and the elderly. To show how such a vision would affect law and policy, he addresses three complex issues in bioethics: abortion, assisted reproductive technology, and end-of-life decisions, situating them within his framework of embodiment and dependence. He concludes that, if the law is built on premises that reflect the fully lived reality of life, it will provide support for the vulnerable, including the unborn, mothers, families, and those nearing the end of their lives. In this way, he argues, policy can ensure that people have the care they need in order to thrive.

I hope some of these resources which I have found very helpful will also be of valuable assistance to you.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

July 20, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The following letter was sent by a Congressman to one of his constituents in Springfield:

“I believe we should end abortion on demand, and at every opportunity I have translated this belief into votes in the House of Representatives. I am opposed to the use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions, and will continue to support amendments to prohibit the funding of elective abortions for federal employees and Medicaid recipients. … I continue to believe the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade should be reversed.” That letter was sent on Aug. 14, 1989, by then-Rep. Richard J. Durbin. Now Sen. Durbin’s wish has finally been granted by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, reversing Roe v. Wade.

Similarly, when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 just 17 days after Joseph Biden entered the U.S. Senate, he said, “I don’t like the decision. I think it went too far.” His wish has now been granted, too.

Unfortunately, Biden and Durbin and other formerly pro-life politicians have flip-flopped their positions 180 degrees and are now promoting a very pro-abortion agenda. In his opening statement on July 12 during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “A Post-Roe America: The Legal Consequences of the Dobbs Decision,” Sen. Durbin said, “A woman’s choice to get an abortion is her choice alone.”

President Biden has gone beyond words by issuing an executive order on July 8 to promote access to abortion. The Office of Personnel Management issued guidance that allows for federal workers to take paid sick leave to cover absences for travel to obtain an abortion. This is truly scandalous, in that it leads others to take similar immoral actions. Following the lead of the Biden administration, dozens of companies announced that they will pay for employees who want to get an abortion. See the accompanying list of companies who have issued new “health care” policies that provide thousands of dollars in abortion stipends and travel reimbursement. It would be good to keep these companies in mind and avoid buying their products whenever possible.

These actions in promoting abortion have crossed a significant line with profound moral implications for their proponents, moving from what might have been considered material cooperation with evil, which sometimes is excusable, into the realm of formal cooperation, which is always sinful. The difference is that material cooperation does not share in the intent to commit sin, but may involve unintentional cooperation with evil. An example would be paying taxes in a state like Illinois which provides for taxpayer funding of abortion. When paying sales tax for purchasing goods in Illinois, the purchaser is a material cooperator in evil since the sales tax will go into the state treasury from which abortions are funded. Such material cooperation is remote and usually unavoidable, which means that it is not sinful.

Formal cooperation shares the intent to commit evil, and is therefore sinful. In the case of a person who deliberately purchases goods in Illinois with the intent of providing the State with sales taxes to help pay for abortions, that person is formally cooperating in grave evil and thereby is committing a serious sin. One of the consequences of formal cooperation with grave evil is that those who commit serious sins are not permitted to receive holy Communion unless they repent and receive sacramental absolution.

When Catholic politicians like Joe Biden, Dick Durbin, and Nancy Pelosi proactively promote abortion in their words and actions, they can no longer claim that they are “personally opposed to abortion, but are not going to impose their beliefs on others.” They are in fact intentionally imposing their pro-abortion beliefs on others and hence are now formally cooperating in evil. As such, they are not to receive holy Communion because of their manifest, obstinate, and persistent promotion of grave sin and their strident support for intrinsic evil. This applies to business executives who promote abortion policies as well.

In a television interview broadcast July 12, Pope Francis responded to a question about President Biden’s support for abortion by saying, “Let him talk to his pastor about that incoherence.” It is indeed incoherent for Catholics to promote abortion and it is incoherent for such Catholics to receive holy Communion. We must continue to pray for their conversion and return to full communion with the Catholic Church.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

The following companies announced new “health care” policies that include thousands of dollars in abortion stipends and travel reimbursement:

July 06, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It is very providential that last month, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson, thereby overturning the infamous and wrongful decision of Roe v. Wade, which had declared abortion to be a constitutional right. Although the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated this year on June 24, because it always occurs in the liturgical calendar on the Friday after Corpus Christi, normally June 24 is the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. How fitting that in future years the anniversary of the United States declaring in Dobbs v. Jackson that abortion is not a constitutional right will be observed on the birthday of St. John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Our Lord and Savior! The decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson marks an important moment for our nation, lifting a cloud that has hung over our country for nearly a half century.

There is no way to undo the tragedy of tens of millions of innocent lives lost or the decades of division sown by the Roe v. Wade decision. But, for the sake of future generations, we can now move forward with a more honest debate and efforts to advance policies and support programs that protect innocent life and promote stability and security for vulnerable mothers. Much work remains to be done on both fronts, and that work will now necessarily have more of a local focus, particularly in our own home state of Illinois. Importantly, these efforts must include prayer and concerted attentiveness to preserve peace in the face of recent violence, anti-Catholic bigotry, intimidation, and criminal vandalism against churches and government officials.

We must also pray for the conversion of those who continue to deny that the right to life of unborn babies should be protected from the moment of conception. Such conversion comes through God’s grace, with which we generously cooperate by giving an example of our care for children and adults throughout life until the moment of natural death.

In this regard, we in the Catholic Church — clergy, religious, as well the lay Christian faithful — must redouble our already robust efforts to help mothers and their children. This includes volunteering and giving to crisis pregnancy centers, Catholic Charities, Catholic food banks, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, and organizations like the Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, and the St. Martin de Porres Center in Springfield. The people of the pro-life movement must increase their commitment to helping organizations like these, as the Dobbs ruling and a culture that more and more is recognizing the dignity of human life inside the womb will mean that more support is needed.

That support will also be needed in our area specifically because Illinois politicians passed laws in recent years making the killing of human life in the womb a “fundamental right” and providing for taxpayer funding of abortion. These politicians are already advertising around the Midwest that Illinois will welcome mothers here for abortion. As of this past June 1, Illinois politicians repealed parental notification, which had been required when a minor was seeking abortion. So, with abortion becoming more pronounced in Illinois, our work to defend human life and help mothers and their children must become more pronounced.

For nearly 50 years, the guise of catchphrases like “choice,” “reproductive rights,” and “women’s health” has normalized the killing of innocent children in the womb, so it is not unexpected that pro-abortion activists will spread lies and turn to violence. When evil loses its grip on something, it uses evil to fight back. So, we in the pro-life movement must stand strong and faithful, but always peaceful, as we promote civility and common concern for our neighbor, so our culture can prosper.

Science has proven that a unique human being is present at the moment of conception. The sound of a heartbeat and image of the child on an ultrasound machine proves just that. Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. Our prayers now should be to thank God for the Supreme Court’s ruling and for more people to embrace the greatest gift, the gift of life.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

June 21, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

When I was in the seminary, I began to discern a vocation within my vocation. I had wanted to be a priest for as long as I could remember (my mother said I was about 4 years old when I started talking about being a priest!), but perhaps because I had been thinking about priesthood for so long, I began considering different ways to exercise ministry as a priest: diocesan priesthood vs. religious life, for example, or being a parish priest vs. teaching or some other sort of specialized ministry. It was in this context that I decided I want to do something concrete to help the poor, rather than simply talk about it. So, in conversation with my spiritual director, I discerned that I wanted to be a parish priest who would provide legal services for the poor.

Four months after my priesthood ordination and after spending the summer in Mexico studying Spanish, I began studying law at DePaul University College of Law while serving in a parish in the heavily industrialized steel mill area known as South Chicago. Since I was not officially asked to do this by my Archdiocese, I took out a student loan, which I repaid with my own money. Shortly after I graduated with my civil law degree in 1981, I passed the Illinois Bar Exam and co-founded the South Chicago Legal Clinic, which was later renamed the Chicago Legal Clinic as we expanded into other neighborhoods. I specialized in immigration law to help the many immigrants in the area, who were mostly Hispanic.

I also began an internship with Catholic Charities under the guidance of then Father Edwin Conway, the devoted and capable Administrator of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago from 1983 until 1996. In 1995, he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, also serving as Vicar General of the Archdiocese from 2003 until his death from cancer in 2004. Having obtained a master’s of social work degree from Loyola University Chicago in 1970, Bishop Conway was an influential mentor for my work in serving the poor. One specific piece of advice from Bishop Conway that I distinctly remember is that he said there was never any reason to give cash to panhandlers or homeless people begging for money on street corners. All the basic necessities of life — including food, shelter, and clothing — were readily available from Catholic Charities and other social service agencies. Giving them cash would only provide them with funds to enable their addictive behaviors.

Bishop Conway’s advice comes to mind frequently as I see homeless people begging for money outside our Cathedral, usually right before or after Mass. It is understandable that homeless people apparently consider church-going people more receptive to their requests to “help the homeless” since we Christians wish to do as Jesus taught when He said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Caring for the least among us, however, does not necessarily mean handing out cash. To provide true assistance that will help the person in need usually requires more than a handout. We could, for example, offer to take the person to a restaurant to get something to eat. But that would require more than money; actually getting some food for a hungry person would require real time and effort. It is far easier to just drop some cash into their cup, which is perhaps doing more to make the donor feel good than to provide real assistance.

Once, I was walking in downtown Springfield wearing my clerical suit and Roman collar when a person approached me asking for money to buy food. We were just a couple of blocks from St. John’s Breadline, so I started giving instructions on how to get there for a free meal when the person cut me off saying, “Oh, I know all about the Breadline. I don’t want that.” I said I was sorry, but if he did not want that, I could not help him. I have served meals at St. John’s Breadline and have eaten the food there myself. It is quite healthy and good. Anyone of any faith can walk in and have a meal for free — no eligibility requirements and no questions asked.

So, if you want to help feed the hungry, you could donate to Catholic Charities, which operates the St. John’s Breadline at 430 North Fifth Street in Springfield and the Catholic Charities Regional and Mobile Food Pantries located throughout our diocese. For locations and hours of operation, as well as for volunteer opportunities, or to donate online, go to https://cc.dio.org/. Donations may also be sent by check payable to Catholic Charities – Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, 1625 West Washington Street, Springfield, IL 62702.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that “a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called ‘The Beautiful Gate’ every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.’ Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God” (Acts 3:2-8).

Rather than give cash to beggars, our goal — like St. Peter and St. John — also should be to help them to rise and walk in the name of Jesus Christ, so that they too may enter the church to give praise to God.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

June 06, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Sunday, June 19, is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known by its name in Latin, Corpus Christi. This year’s celebration of Corpus Christi will mark the opening of the three-year Eucharistic Revival announced last year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The mission of the Eucharistic Revival is “to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.”

According to the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, by Francis X. Weiser, S.J., “Very early (in the fourteenth century) the custom developed of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a splendid procession through the town after the Mass on Corpus Christi Day. This was encouraged by the popes, some of whom granted special indulgences to all participants. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) solemnly approved and recommended the procession on Corpus Christi as a public profession of the Catholic faith in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament.” The Code of Canon Law encourages liturgical processions outside the church, “When it can be done in the judgment of the diocesan bishop, as a public witness of the veneration toward the Most Holy Eucharist, a procession is to be conducted through the public streets, especially on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ” (canon 944). The leading of processions outside the church is among the specific liturgical functions especially entrusted to the pastor (canon 530).

In my Pastoral Letter of June 22, 2014, Ars celebrandi et adorandi, Latin for “The Art of Celebrating the Eucharistic Liturgy Properly and Adoring the Lord in the Eucharist Devoutly,” I wrote, “I highly encourage and give permission for pastors to conduct processions with the Blessed Sacrament through the public streets, especially on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ, as a witness to our faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist and as an expression of our belief that God is in our midst even in our everyday lives.”

This encouragement and permission for Corpus Christi processions is reflected in Statute 107 of our Fourth Diocesan Synod as adopted in 2017: “As a public witness of the veneration toward the Most Holy Eucharist, clergy in this Diocese may conduct processions with the Blessed Sacrament through the public streets and are especially encouraged to do so on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Such processions shall be conducted in accord with the pertinent liturgical customs and norms. Arrangements for the procession through the streets shall be made with local law enforcement and civic officials for the sake of good public order and as required by civil law.”

Carrying the Blessed Sacraments in procession through the streets is what Stephen Bullivant, professor of Theology and Sociology at St Mary's University in London, calls a Credibility Enhancing Display (CRED), which is a sociological term for what makes this Catholic experience special.

The focus of the first year of the Eucharistic Revival will be on Diocesan Revival. Here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, we will observe a Year of the Eucharist, beginning on Dec. 8, 2022, and ending on Dec. 8, 2023. The highlight of our diocesan Year of the Eucharist will be our Centennial Celebration on Oct. 28, 2023, marking one hundred years since the translation of our Diocesan See from Alton to Springfield. This Centennial celebration will be held at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, which holds 7,000 people. I have instructed pastors that there are to be no parish Masses or weddings across the diocese on Oct. 28, 2023, in order to allow all the priests and as many parishioners as possible to attend the day-long event at the BOS Center in Springfield. Our featured speakers, who will address the relationship of the Eucharist in the life of Christian discipleship, will be Dr. Scott Hahn, Professor of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and Bishop Robert Barron, founder of the global media ministry Word on Fire, who recently was appointed as the new Bishop of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota.

The second phase of the Eucharistic Revival, through June 2024, will foster eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening our liturgical life through eucharistic adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and movements of the Holy Spirit. These local efforts will be designed to help convert hearts and minds to fall more deeply in love with Jesus Christ, truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

The third phase of the Eucharistic Revival will be the National Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. At this historic event, more than 80,000 Catholics of all ages from every diocese in the United States are expected to gather in Indianapolis to worship our Risen Lord in the mystery of the Eucharist. Then, the Year of Going Out On Mission will take place from July 21, 2024, through Pentecost of 2025. We pray that the Holy Spirit will enkindle a missionary fire in the heart of our nation as we reconsecrate ourselves to the source and summit of our faith.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

May 23, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“No one may share the eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.” These words were written between 155-157 A.D. to the Roman Emperor by St. Justin in his treatise providing a detailed explanation of Christian practices and rituals, while also seeking to convince the emperor to abandon the persecution of the Church. Not only did the emperor reject Justin’s arguments, but Justin was eventually put on trial around the year 165 A.D. for refusing to worship the pagan gods of the Roman Empire. 

The testimony of St. Justin’s trial before the Prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus, was recorded in the The Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companion Saints. After these Christians were seized and brought before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect said to Justin: “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors.” 

Justin said: “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus asked: “What system of teaching do you profess?” 

Justin replied: “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.”

Rusticus asked: “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?”

Justin answered: “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching.”

Rusticus said: “What sort of teaching is that?” 

Justin responded: “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was foretold by the prophets as the future herald of salvation for the human race and the teacher of distinguished disciples. For myself, since I am a human being, I consider that what I say is insignificant in comparison with his infinite godhead. I acknowledge the existence of a prophetic power, for the one I have just spoken of as the Son of God was the subject of prophecy. I know that the prophets were inspired from above when they spoke of his coming among men.” 

Rusticus asked: “You are a Christian, then?” 

Justin answered: “Yes, I am a Christian.”

The prefect said to Justin: “You are called a learned man and think that you know what is true teaching. Listen:  If you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?” 

Justin answered: “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives.”

Rusticus said: “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?” 

Justin said: “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain.”

The prefect Rusticus then said: “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.” 

Justin said: “No one who is right thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.”

The prefect Rusticus said: “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.” 

Justin replied: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Savior.”

In the same way the other martyrs also said: “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols.”

The prefect Rusticus then pronounced sentence, saying: “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws.” 

The execution of St. Justin and his companion saints was described in these words: “Glorifying God, the holy martyrs went out to the accustomed place. They were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.”

The courageous martyrdom of these faithful saints comes to mind as we see so many politicians stoop to false worship at the altar of abortion rather than give true worship to the Triune God and adherence to His commandments. 

Thus, it is entirely appropriate that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco announced on May 20 with regard to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, a staunch advocate of abortion who is a member of his archdiocese, “After numerous attempts to speak with Speaker Pelosi to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

I fully support and earnestly commend Archbishop Cordileone’s action in regard to Speaker Pelosi. All politicians who promote abortion should not receive holy Communion until they have repented, repaired scandal, and been reconciled to Christ and the Church.

The Memorial of St. Justin Martyr is June 1. St. Justin, pray for us to have the courage to stand up for the true doctrines of Christianity as you and your saintly companions did.

May God give us this grace. Amen.