Program #0091 for Thursday, July 14, 2011: Closed churches, South Sudan, chastity

July 14, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, executive editor of The Anchor, the newspaper of the Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Boston archdiocese

  • The Anchor
  • The Pilot
  • Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.

Today’s topics: Decision on 8 closed churches, South Sudan, Church teaching on chastity

Summary of today’s show: Fr. Roger and Greg discuss with Scot and Susan the news of the week, including Cardinal Seán’s decision on the future of 8 closed churches; the struggles of the Church in the new nation of South Sudan; the Church’s teaching on chastity, especially for those with same-sex attraction; new vicars forane for the archdiocese; and more.

1st segment: Scot told Susan that there is big news in the Archdiocese today with Cardinal Seán making a decision on the fate of eight closed churches. Susan noted that today is the Feast of Bl. Kateri as well as Bastille Day. Scot noted that on yesterday we learned that today is also the Feast of St. Camillus. She also was at CatholicTV this week taping a show with Msgr. James Moroney on liturgy. cot said Msgr. Moroney is one of the world’s experts on Catholic liturgy and is teaching at St. John Seminary. He is in high demand to educate people on the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal this Advent.

Scot said the Pilot is back this week from its two week hiatus.

2nd segment: Scot welcomed Fr. Roger and Gregory back to the show. He said Cardinal Seán has announced his decision on eight churches that had appealed closure. Six are being relegated to profane uses and two others for new uses (St. Therese and St. Jeremiah).

Greg said relegation to profane use, but not sordid use. Profane use means not set aside for sacred use; a use other than sacred worship. It clears the way to sell or transfer the property for other purpose. The Planning Office for Urban Affairs, for example, has converted some closed churches to affordable housing. St. Therese will become an oratory of St. Anthony in Everett for use by the Brazilian community. In canon law, a church is a public place open to all; a chapel is a private place of worship; and an oratory is designated for a particular group of Catholics and anyone who is a member of that group are welcome to use the oratory. Fr. Roger added the category of the shrine, which is like a church but doesn’t have similar rights in canon law to a church.

The pastor of St. Anthony had made a request to the Archdiocese, saying that he had too many Masses each weekend in one church building and needed another. The Brazilian community has grown large enough to warrant another building, but they didn’t want the extra overhead of a separate parish, with the need for a parish staff and all the separate issues.

Susan asked what a rectorate is. Greg said a rectorate is essentially a parish, except it’s under the direct authority of the bishop and not a pastor. In a cathedral, the bishops it the pastor and he appoints a rector to run the cathedral parish. It means that the rectorate doesn’t have the same right in canon law that a parish does.

Scot said it’s big news because many of these churches have had vigils in place since they were closed during Reconfiguration in 2004-2005 with many contentious appeals to re-open the churches. He noted that the parishes have already been canonically suppressed or closed. The church is not synonymous with the parish. The church building’s disposition is now being decided. Scot said the funds from any sales of property will go to the archdiocese for the use of any parishes in need.

Susan said the sacred objects from the churches will first be offered to welcoming parishes and then to other Catholic parishes. She noted that the stained glass windows in the Bethany Chapel of the Pastoral Center contain many stained glass windows from closed churches.

Scot said Cardinal Seán said maintaining these buildings were drawing needed resources from other parishes.

What I have heard from these consultations is that we have reached a point as a community of believers where we must relegate these Church buildings as part of the continuing healing and rebuilding of the Archdiocese. I continue to put my trust and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ to help us come together as one Catholic family, inspired by the Holy Spirit and guided in our principles and commitment to do God’s work.

Fr. Roger said the Church has a high standard for the use of sacred buildings because God has been present there in the Eucharist and the worship of God has taken place there. He noted that in other places where it wasn’t taken seriously one church was used as a restaurant and then later turned into a place of ill repute. He said the Church isn’t taking the sacrifices of those who built the churches lightly. He said the Vatican takes seriously the decision to relegate to profane use. It can’t just be to save money or help with organizational matters. It must go beyond to grave reasons. These buildings are holy ground.

Scot said Cardinal Seán made the consultation on the churches available to everyone in the Church. He said it’s the first time any diocese used an electronic survey to receive responses from people and there were about 400-500 responses for the eight churches. Greg said the Vatican has recently turned its attention to the question of the relegation of churches in other places in the country where there have been closures. In most cases the Vatican has upheld the right of a bishop to suppress a parish, but has taken a more conservative stance on the relegation of churches. He thinks this was kept in mind in the making of this decision in Boston.

3rd segment: Scot said a big story in the worldwide Catholic Church was the independence day for the new nation of South Sudan on July 9. About 80% of the country are Catholic. The people of South Sudan had suffered great persecution over decades by the Islamic majority in the north.

This week, Fr. Roger has a priest from the Archdiocese of Juba in South Sudan to preach at his parish. He wrote a letter to the parish and said the Church in that country is at a crossroads. In a country the size of New England, they have just 20 miles of roads. Most of their churches, seminaries, and schools need to be rebuilt. The country needs police departments founded and they need an army to defend their borders. In order for there to be real forgiveness, they need much support. He has suggested to the missionary from Sudan that he preach on what it takes for his people just to get to Mass. Many of them would have to walk 20 miles each way to Mass and they would travel at night to avoid being waylaid by soldiers from Khartoum in the north. They wanted more rosaries so if they were killed on the road their last words would be the Hail Mary. Their Mass would last for hours and hours because it might be the last time they would get together in prayer.

They need not just our prayers, but also our financial assistance. Fr. Roger suggested sending a donation to Catholic Relief Services with a memo marking it for use in South Sudan. Fr. Juba wrote in his letter:

Our people are desperate. They have lost everything and are unable to help themselves. Many, particularly the most vulnerable children and the elderly, are dying daily from starvation and curable diseases. We in the Church are the hope for our people. Our clergy, religious catechists and lay leaders are fighting against all odds to keep the flames of faith burning in our country. While burying the dead, supporting the survivors, sheltering the displaced, healing the wounded and broken-hearted, and feeding the orphans and displaced children, widows and the elderly, we continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ vigorously, build the Church and consolidate faith in our country.

We need your help to continue to keep hope alive among our traumatized people. I am therefore appealing to you, our brothers and sisters in faith, to help us in our struggle for survival. Thank you in advance for standing in solidarity with us in our time of need. May our Risen Savior Jesus Christ bless you with the fullness of grace, peace and health!

Susan said she was moved by the live broadcasts from South Sudan during independence celebrations, hearing the jubilation of the people in the streets. She was also pleased the Ken Hackett, the retiring president of Catholic Relief Services, was representing Catholics in the US there. (She noted that Hackett was a parishioner at St. Theresa’s in West Roxbury.)

Fr. Roger said it will take a long time for the Church there to build up its institutions and so he encourages all to make a long-term commitment of prayer and financial resources to South Sudan. He said the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church and they have bled very much there. He expects in the future to have many clergy and religious to come from there.

4th segment: Scot said Fr. Roger has published his third in a series of editorials in The Anchor on topics related to issues brought up by controversy at St. Cecilia in Boston, which held a Mass devoted to welcoming homosexuals into the Church.

Fr. Roger’s editorial said all are called to chastity in the Church: married, single, priests & religious, and those with same-sex attraction. Fr. Roger said chastity is often confusing to people because they confuse chastity and continence, which is the same as abstinence. He said that chastity is tied to piety as preached by Pope John Paul II.

Piety is the habit that helps us to revere others according to their true dignity, according to the image of God in them. St. Paul wrote to husbands and wives, “Be subordinate to each other out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21, calling them to recognize and revere Christ in each other and mutually lay down their lives for each other out of love for the Lord they recognize dwelling in the other. Linked to piety, chastity helps us to see the other as sacred subject instead of a sexual object, to treat the other with reverence rather than randiness.

Susan said t he archdiocese has an office for Respect Life Education that teaches chastity in schools and religious education. Many parishes are adopting a course on theology of the body adapted for teens. Fr. Roger quotes Pope John Paul’s theology of the body quite a bit in his editorial.

Blessed Pope John Paul II’s insights help us better to see why all of us in the Church, no matter our state of life, are called to chastity.

Husbands and wives are called to chastity in their marriage. This means that they reverence the other as a sacred gift, raise their attractions to the level of their spouse’s genuine good (including, obviously, the good of the soul) and see the other as created in God’s image, fully accepting the paternal meaning of a man’s masculinity or the maternal meaning of the woman’s femininity, In simple terms, their love is meant to be holy, not horny. Lusting after each other — what Jesus called “adultery in the heart” — is, therefore, a desecration of the other in one’s intentions.

Fr. Roger said those who are unmarried are to reverence others and never take advantage of others for their own gratification. Such relations should only be following a lifelong commitment. We cannot have a consumerist attitude.

Can those with same-sex attractions truly love each other? Absolutely. The Church by no means is condemning those with same-sex attractions to a loveless life; the question is what practices will be consistent with genuine love and the objective good of the people involved. The Church teaches that those of the same-sex can clearly exercise the love of friendship (philia) in which the other becomes like a second self. The Church teaches that they certainly can — and are called to — have true Christian love (agape) toward each other, a willingness to sacrifice themselves and even die to themselves and their pleasures for the other’s true good. But the Church stresses that they need to ensure the romantic attractions (eros) they have for each other do not damage the one they love by opposing or destroying the love of agape and philia. For this they need chastity, which helps them raise their romantic attractions up to the sacred dignity of the person, which is violated by same-sex sexual activity.

Those of the same sex are able to love one another, but of the type of philia and agape, which are self-sacrificial. If they have this elove, they will realize that reducing the other to their sexual attraction and mutually using each other destroys friendship and self-sacrificial love. They are called to raise their attractions up to the reverence of each other. Same-sex sexual activity is not consistent with this type of love or the good of the soul.

Fr. Roger said an article in the Anchor updates on the past year of the availability of pro-life Choose Life license plates which has raised $90,000. They need to have 3,000 plates total to abide by Mass. Dept of Motor Vehicles requirements and they are only about two-thirds there. It is a great witness for life and raises money for great causes. A benefactor put up a $100,000 bond for the plates and will lose that bond if they do not reach 3,000 plates.

Greg said the Cardinal this week has named 20 vicars forane for the Archdiocese. Most people have never heard of the vicariate. The Archdiocese has five regions: Merrimac, South, Central, West, and North. Each of those are divided into four vicariates that cover a couple of towns. The vicar forane is responsible for communication between the bishop and the parishes and visiting the parishes to ensure that sacramental records are being properly maintained and report to the regional bishop.

Scot said Fr. Dan Sheehan’s obituary is in the Pilot this week. He was one of the first priests of the St. James Society in the archdiocese. He said there is also a story about the Vatican asking a retired bishop to visit the Cleveland Diocese where Bishop Robert Lennon is the ordinary, related to the reconfiguration plan there. Bishop Lennon is a former auxiliary bishop and vicar general of Boston.

The Toledo diocese has asked Catholics not to donate to the Susan G. Komen Foundation because of their support for Planned Parenthood and embryonic stem cell research.

Bishop Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota is also asking his brother bishops to consider moving confirmation before first communion. This will be discussed in a future show.

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