Program #0455 for Thursday, January 24, 2013: Cardinal Sean’s and Archbishop Aquila’s prolife reflections; diaconate ordination; new Canon of St. Peter’s; the Pope App; Seal of the Confessional

January 24, 2013

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Summary of today’s show: Our Thursday panel of Scot Landry, Susan Abbott, and Fr. Roger Landry consider the news headlines of the week, including an interview with Cardinal Seán reflecting on his pro-life efforts; Archbishop Samuel Aquila’s remembrance of his firsthand encounter with the result of abortion; the ordination of Boston seminarians to the transitional diaconate; the passing of three Boston priests; a local priest receiving a Vatican honor; the Pope’s new iPhone app; and the sanctity of the seal of the confessional.

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

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River

Links from today’s show:

  • 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: Cardinal Sean’s and Archbishop Aquila’s prolife reflections; diaconate ordination; new Canon of St. Peter’s; the Pope App; Seal of the Confessional

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed Susan Abbot and Fr. Roger Landry to the show. Our other usual Thursday guest, Gregory Tracy, is traveling today to the March for Life alongside Cardinal Seán.

Scot asked Fr. Roger what he’s been up to in the weeks since he’s been with us. Fr. Roger said he’s been getting an Alpha Program started in his parish. They also talked about Catholic Faith Essentials as another way to deepen understanding of our Catholic faith.

Speaking of online video, our own George Martell is going with pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Boston to the March for Life and broadcasting live video from various events, including in the midst of the March. People can follow along at and

Scot said speaking of the March for Life, Cardinal Sean is much more involved in leadership of the event this year as chairman of the US bishops’ pro-life activities committee. Before Christmas, he gave a fascinating interview to Joan Frawley Desmond in the National Catholic Register.

She asked him how he first heard about Roe v. Wade.

I was a young priest working with Hispanic immigrants in Washington, D.C. Later on, after the ruling, I heard that Nellie Gray wanted to start the March for Life, and I contacted her and worked with her. She was a real prophet: The Church was stunned, and people didn’t know how to react. But she knew immediately that we needed to mobilize and use the anniversary of that terrible decision as a way to rally people.

I was determined to get people from my Hispanic parish to the first march [in 1974) and gave impassioned sermons on the pro-life issue, reminding them that the anniversary was coming soon, and they promised to come.

The morning of the march, there was a line of rented buses at the church, but no people. In my naive youthfulness, I did not realize that “Si, padre” did not mean “Yes.” The following week, I told the people how disappointed I was.

After Mass, they told me, “You know we are undocumented. And in our own countries, whenever there is a demonstration, the army comes out and arrests and shoots people. We are here to send money home to our families who live in Nicaragua and El Salvador, where civil wars are raging. We cannot afford to do this.”

I told them that the army would not shoot at them and that the march would be a peaceful demonstration. That is what we do in a democracy where we need to witness to certain values.

Susan was also at the first March for Life and talked about how she first heard about the Roe v. Wade decision.

Desmond also asked Cardinal Seán about partisan attacks on pro-lifers. He said:

Intimidation of pro-life efforts still happens. However, I am encouraged by what the Catholic Voices initiative is doing to help train Catholics to explain the Church’s thinking on difficult issues and break through the political correctness that often prevents productive conservations on life issues or the marriage debate.

Intimidation works when people don’t have the tools to have a rational conversation. You object to “gay marriage” – and you are demonized as homophobic and intent on persecuting [people with same-sex attraction]. Catholic Voices is trying to prepare ordinary people to be spokespersons around these issues and to do it in such a way that you draw an audience.

Fr. Roger said we need to note that these attacks do occur. Fr. Roger said in addition to being equipped to respond, but we also have to have the spine to stand up and acknowledge that certain people cannot be convinced and will hate us no matter what. When were are bullied, we need to take the conversation to the vast majority of people who are rational.

Cardinal Seán also talked about his four goals for the Committee on Pro-Life Activities in 2013:

The conscience issues that involve pro-life values are very important. There is so much religious illiteracy. We need to help people understand Church teaching and the difference
between defending human life and imposing our religion on the rest of the country.

Many Americans say that the Church must stay out of politics. We need to help our people to distinguish between our theological position and natural law (precepts] that redound to the common good and apply to everyone, regardless of whether they are religious or not. That is the educational challenge before us.

We continue to look for opportunities to advance restrictions on abortion. Very few states ban gender selection as a reason for abortion. We need to work on that: Just as partial-birth abortion invites people to deal with the full reality of abortion, raising concerns about gender-selection abortions can help break through public denial.

Susan said the whole abortion question has been such a bill of goods that some bright women have bought into. She said she keeps going back to a workshop she heard last spring in which they said in abortion, in addition to the baby, it’s the woman who is hurt by abortion.

She said we have an obligation to be informed as Catholics. When people are being bullies, you don’t act in kind. You have the facts and the more people that can speak the truth in love, the better off we’ll be.

Scot said on religious illiteracy, Cardinal Sean sees that we’re not strong enough in our pro-life advocacy because we’re not formed enough to do it well. Fr. Roger said in the past 50 years, as we’ve been battered by the mantra of the separation of church and state, has intimidated us to be ashamed of our faith and to avoid learning it. We’ve been subjected to a false civics that indoctrinate people to believe that faith and religion is to be kept out of the public square.

Scot said Denver archbishop Samuel Aquila also wrote a pastoral letter recently, in which he talked about his encounter with the results of abortion as a college student working in a hospital. The event made him pro-life and eventually brought him back to his faith.

After starting college in 1968, he also worked as a hospital orderly, and during a couple of work shifts, he “witnessed the results of two abortions and the memory haunts me,” he said. “I witnessed the death of two small people who never had the chance to take a breath. I can never forget that,” Archbishop Aquila wrote in a pastoral letter released Jan. 22, the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion virtually on demand in the United States. “I have never been the same. My faith was weak at the time,” he said in the pastoral, noting that he wasn’t “even aware” some states “had approved abortion laws. But I knew by reason, and by what I saw, that a human life was destroyed,” he continued. “My conscience awakened to the truth of the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. I became pro-life and eventually returned to my faith.”

Susan said images have a power to affect us. A European photographer decades ago took groundbreaking photos of children developing in the womb. Life magazine published them, they were included on the Voyager 1 spacecraft, and were in every high school textbook. Today, they are not shown at all.

Fr. Roger said he knows Archbishop Aquila and didn’t know the archbishop had studied pre-med in college. He said scientists among the episcopate are relatively rare. He wasn’t surprised that the archbishop wrote about life issues as the subject of his first pastoral letter.

2nd segment: Scot said last Saturday three seminarians became transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Boston. John Casani, Gerald Souza, and Christopher Wallace were ordained to the diaconate, joining two other classmates who were already ordained. The are planning to be ordained to the priesthood, most likely in May.

Cardinal Seán said in his homily:

“The first seven deacons were chosen so that the apostles would have some help, and therefore have more time for prayer and to preach. The deacon also needs to have time
for prayer and for reaching the faith. Your ministry – a ministry of charity and service
to the poor, the widowed, and the orphans – your call to be bridge builders between people to forget God and a “spiritual anorexia” that serves the Church.

“You men are being ordained to be an antidote and a cure for these modern maladies, for you are called to feed God’s people with the Word of God and the bread of life, needing them how much he really loves them,” he said.

Scot noted that Deacon Wallace turned 30 on the day of his ordination. Scot asked Fr. Roger why the Church ordains men to the diaconate first. Fr. Roger said the training to be the servant, as deacons are, is setting the standard for the priesthood as one of service. He said once a deacon, you’re always a deacon. Fr. Roger said the norm is to be a deacon for at least six months because that service is the best preparation for the priesthood, service of God in the liturgy and service of God in the charitable work of the Church. Boston is one of the few that ordain them in less than six months. Most dioceses ordain them at the end of their third theology year. Boston is being cautious in wanting another semester to evaluate their call.

Scot said we also lost three priests, Fr. Paul Cloughtery, Fr. Laurence Kelley, and Fr. Alexander Keenan, who all died in the past week.

Also in the news, Msgr. Francis Kelly, who was rector of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston for 13 years and has been rector of the Casa Santa Maria in Rome, has been named a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Fr. Roger said there’ve been only three Americans who’ve held the post in the past century. It’s a rare honor and their principal duty is to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in St. Peter’s and help out in small ways. In European cathedrals, there have always been chapters of canons whose job was to be in charge when there wasn’t a bishop in office at the time and in many cases they chose the next bishop to be proposed to the Pope. Nowadays, the most prominent pastors in a diocese are members of the chapter. In the US, we have the college of consultors who do the same duty.

The canons of St. Peter’s have the specific duty to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father and they do that several times per day. Fr. Roger remembered studying in Rome and participating with them in prayer. Cardinal Angelo Comastri is the dean of the chapter and leads them in prayer. Msgr. Kelly is being honored for the work he has done and being rewarded in his last official assignment.

Msgr. Kelly will bring an American sensibility to the chapter and letting the Italians and others in the curia be exposed to an American approach to our faith.

The Vatican also released a new smartphone app yesterday sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications called The Pope App. It lets people follow live broadcasts of papal events, see one of six Vatican live webcams, and more.

In this week’s Anchor, Fr. Roger wrote about the attacks on the seal of the confessional. Fr. Roger said there is an effort in Australia to require priests to break the seal if they learn of sexual abuse during a confession. These efforts have also been pursued in Great Britain and in three US states. Fr. Roger wanted to let people know that this is going on. He said in Australia the seal was called “medieval” but someone who regularly goes to confession knows that the sacraments aren’t medieval.

There are two purposes for the seal: First, so we will have no fear that what we saw cannot come back and hurt us. Priests need to be willing to suffer even death to protect even what a first penitent says in confession about how often they disobey their parents. Any time you see a priest, recognize he’s willing to suffer death to protect confession.

He hopes Catholics will be alert to these efforts and that people will recognize that one of the glories of the priesthood is the willingness to die to protect the sanctity of the confessional.

Scot said he’s not sure most Catholics are aware of the lengths priests will be willing to go to protect the confessional. Susan said it’s tragic that there is not as great an understanding or appreciation of the sacrament as there ought to be. She asked Fr. Roger to write some of his columns as we lead into Lent about confession. Fr. Roger said he’d like to one-up Susan and say that he will write a book for Our Sunday Visitor on Confession.

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