The Corner


Ten Things, Entirely regarding the Catholic Church Today (August 15, 2018)

It’s hard for some of us to read anything that isn’t about Pennsylvania right now (and it’s near to impossible to read). There are plenty of links to details around. Here, some related thoughts and (if you’ll forgive me) prayers….

….And with full knowledge that words are miserably inadequate….

(1.) And, yes, certainly boardroom p.r. efforts (h/t Elizabeth Scalia) are not what is needed.


Morning prayer this morning in the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church, includes Psalm 63: 2-9 about the soul yearning for God. In a video played at yesterday’s press conference, a woman who had been abused by a priest talked about how the very word “God” is painful for her. That’s demonic to do to someone – and a young child, at that. It’s impossible to get through any of the report without disgust, anger, and tears. Why would anyone be Catholic after knowledge of such a thing? Because this is not the work of God in these reports, and as another psalm (which was all too appropriately in yesterday’s midafternoon prayer) puts it: “Let God arise and His enemies be scattered.”

(2.) I’ve written something about St. Catherine of Siena and what she might be saying to bishops about now.

3. Russell Shaw on the abuse of secrecy and the secrecy of abuse.

4. Janet Smith on the need to tell all.

5. I think Michael Strain has the right idea here with Frank Keating. I was struck by some of his interview with Rod Dreher a few days ago – that he may exactly as well-positioned as anyone through his own trials – including struggle with faith on account of his bishops’ experience – to lead right now.

6. Ines Murzaku, a professor of ecclesiastical history at Seton Hall, with a plea about priesthood and fatherhood.

7. Yesterday, I interviewed Matthew Hennessey about his new book on Generation X. Yesterday was also the day Maximilian Kolbe died at Auschwitz. He had heroic virtue. We need heroic virtue. This is what Hennessey wrote in a piece for the Wall Street Journal last year:

Catholics around the world will celebrate the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe on Monday. His story is one the church’s finest, though too few people—Christian or not—have heard it.

Kolbe was born to a German father and Polish mother in 1894. He entered the seminary at 13 and was ordained a priest in 1918. With a special devotion to the Virgin Mary and a talent for writing and publishing, the bearded, bespectacled Franciscan founded monasteries and media outlets in Poland and Japan during the 1930s.

When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, German forces arrested Kolbe. Although he refused to sign a document giving him the privileges of German citizenship, he was released after three months. His monastery continued to issue anti-Nazi publications. It was shut down in 1941, and Kolbe was arrested again. Eventually he was taken to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

There Kolbe carried out his priestly ministry while enduring humiliation and abuse. After a small group of prisoners escaped in July 1941, the camp’s notorious disciplinarian, Lagerführer Karl Fritzsch, decided to set an example by starving 10 others to death. Franciszek Gajowniczek, a Polish army sergeant, was among those selected to die. Gajowniczek begged that his life be spared on account of his wife and children. Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

“I want to go instead of the man who was selected,” Kolbe said. “He has a wife and family. I am alone. I am a Catholic priest.” For whatever reason, Fritzch agreed.

Kolbe outlived the other condemned prisoners, but after two weeks of hunger and prayer, he was near death. On Aug. 14, 1941, a guard was dispatched to finish him off with an injection of carbolic acid. As the executioner approached, the frail priest extended his arm. He died with the Hail Mary on his lips. Kolbe was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Gajowniczek, whose children did not survive the war, lived to be 94. He died in 1995.

This is the call. To love as Christ loved. Anything else is not of God. And certainly not this evil we’re seeing.

Matthew’s rallying cry to Gen X resonates in added ways in the last 24 hours or so. Priests of a certain age may be stepping into some of the spots that will be abandoned. They are the same age cohort who are working in formation now. People who, in some cases, have been hurt by the Church and know the poison that cannot be — and were also around for the first time it was supposedly being eradicated.

8. I spent the weekend at a small silent retreat. There were about 30 women there. The priest who preached it focused almost entirely on the cross of Christ and the need to be conformed to it, for the sake of the world and certainly the Church. Why? Because we believe in the love God poured forth for us in the Incarnation and all the rest. That requires real work and purification, which is clearly the order right now.

About that priest, by the way, he poured himself out in availability for the sacraments and direction. At 10:45 Saturday night I happened to notice he was still hearing Confessions. Sometime overnight he got a sick call, requiring a trip over an hour a way and then back for more Confession/direction, final conference, and Mass. I only found out about that because a sister happened to be at the door in the morning when he arrived back trying to make a quiet return. Look, that’s not Kolbe, but that’s the life, the humble pouring out in service. Those committed priests will suffer for the evil that has been done. Those priests also need to be known and thanked. Because we need them and more of them.

9. In that spirit, a young priest tweeted:

A Gen X priest also tweeted:

And with Kolbe words:

10. Dawn Eden on the need for bishops doing public penance.

Sobrab Ahmari has talked about sackcloth and ashes, too.

Every parish should be doing holy hours and prayers for reparation and penance. Praying in solidarity with the victims of this evil. Praying for evil to be expunged. Praying for the healing of those who have been harmed – lives ruined by the most sacrilegious violence. Praying for courage and bold and humble leadership.

PLUS: I think efforts like this (more here) are needed now more then ever. I shouldn’t say more than ever, because they were clearly needed before. They’re always. But now we had better already, in such desperate clear need for holy leadership. And holiness all around. Today is the day to begin again.

(Two go-to prayers for holiness, for those wanting/seeking: This Litany of Trust from the Sisters of Life and prayer of abandonment by Charles de Foucald. This cardinal’s Litany of Humility wouldn’t hurt, either. Well, it does hurt, but in the way that stretches for what is needed.)

(Today is a liturgical feast day, the Assumption, devoted to Mary. It doesn’t feel like a feast right about now, but Mary is never without Jesus and so there we are right at the foot of the Cross again, with a knowledge of the big picture and what we need to live up to — bishops and everyone else who professes to be Christian alike.)


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