TCA Podcast – “Conversations with Consequences”

Episode22: The irony of modern Catholic history, with George Weigel

In the Catholic Church, everything was calm and placid until the Second Vatican Council…right? There’s the history of the Catholic Church and modernity that you think you know— modernity acts, Catholicism simply reacts— but there’s an “irony” in that history that you probably don’t know; one that turns the history of the Church on its head. How has the world’s largest religious body dealt with the enormous changes of last few hundred years?

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, prolific author and prominent Catholic intellectual, has written a new book called “The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform.” Your hosts Grazie and Andrea engage Mr. Weigel in a fascinating and far-reaching discussion that touches the history of the Church and offers a hopeful vision of the future.

1. Ulrich Klopfer’s treatment of aborted babies is horrifying, but not shocking.

By Maureen Ferguson, The Washington Examiner, September 19, 2019, 5:55 PM

Our abortion culture has so dehumanized the “unwanted” pre-born child that we can’t be surprised when their remains are treated disrespectfully. The societal disregard for the dignity of unborn lives has wrought a predictable end.

“Fetal remains” are what remains after an abortion. It’s always true that a little human body emerges after a successful abortion, given the scientific fact that every abortion removes a tiny, developing human from his or her mother. Do those expressing shock have so little imagination that they have never wondered what becomes of these fetal remains?

In the logic of the pro-choice movement, the fetus is immaterial, so how could there be anything disturbing about the discovery of Klopfer’s stash of over 2,000 preserved fetal remains? In fact, to maintain the irrelevancy of the fetus, abortion industry leader Planned Parenthood has fought any regulation of the matter all the way to the Supreme Court, in a case originating in Indiana. The pro-choice community was rife with ridicule for then-Gov. Mike Pence when he signed a bill requiring the respectful treatment and burial of fetal remains. Pro-choice advocates called the bill “extreme” and “truly bizarre,” among other far more crude epitaphs. But now Pence looks prescient in seeing a need for this law.

The Supreme Court recently upheld this provision of the Indiana law over the objection of Planned Parenthood, saying that the state has a legitimate interest in the disposal of fetal remains. The implementation of this law came too late, however, for Klopfer’s tiny victims.

The shocker in this story is this: Pro-choice advocates maintain their cognitive dissonance in the face of this reality. They are utterly divorced from the truth of what abortion actually is. These fetal remains, these tiny human bodies, cry out to us to recognize the tragic nature of our abortion culture.

Maureen Ferguson is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. She is a senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association.

2. When a Mob Descended on Mass, A Facebook-driven movement to revive churches in America’s Midwestern cities.

By John J. Miller, Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2019, Pg. A15, Houses of Worship

A mob descended on an old church in Detroit last Sunday, but it didn’t pose a riotous threat. Rather, the group represented a special opportunity to pack the pews. “It’s wonderful to see such a great crowd,” said Father Maurice Restivo during his homily at Ste. Anne de Detroit.

This was the 49th gathering of the Detroit Mass Mob, a group formed five years ago on social media to promote big turnouts at the city’s Catholic churches. “Our grandparents built these churches,” says Thom Mann, a retired financial adviser and one of the main organizers. “They’re beautiful and people like to see them full.” Too often, they’re empty.

In 2010 Christopher M. Byrd of Buffalo, N.Y., decided to respond. Working with the leadership of St. Adalbert’s Basilica, where about 50 people would show up for a typical Mass on Sunday, he urged everyone who followed the church on Facebook to attend on a scheduled date and time. More than 300 joined his pious flash mob. “It was a very nice one-day boost in the pews and the collection basket,” Mr. Byrd notes.

This initial achievement encouraged Mr. Byrd to scale up and involve more churches. In 2013, the Buffalo Mass Mob held its first formal event, promoted almost entirely on social media. Facebook, Twitter and the like are often blamed for social division, but in this case they have united people in worship. Again, hundreds came.

The central figure in its history is Father Gabriel Richard, who served as pastor in the early 1800s. He set up schools, published Detroit’s first newspaper, and was a founder of the University of Michigan. (An exhibit dedicated to his legacy is open at Ste. Anne’s through Oct. 15.)

He also knew something about urban comebacks. After a fire devastated Detroit in 1805, Richard offered the words that today serve as Detroit’s motto: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus. Translation: “We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes.”

The Detroit Mass Mob will rise up again on Oct. 20 at St. Francis D’Assisi. “If people keep coming, we’ll keep doing them,” says Mr. Mann.

Mr. Miller is director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College.

3. A test for the Catholic Church, Will bishops at last be held to account in abuse cases? We’re about to find out.

The Washington Post, September 20, 2019, Pg. A20, Editorial

On becoming the bishop of Buffalo, Richard J. Malone let it be known that his episcopal motto would be “living the truth in love.” Now Mr. Malone, ensnared in scandals and buffeted by allegations that he has covered up for priests accused of sexual abuse, has become a test case of whether bishops, who report only to the pope, will at last become accountable under a new policy adopted by Pope Francis last spring.

It has been a year since the bishop acknowledged “inadequacies” in his handling of abuse complaints involving minors as well as adults targeted by clergymen. Since then, reports of those “inadequacies” have multiplied. But Mr. Malone, who insists he has instituted reforms, has refused to resign even as some clergy in his own diocese and other prominent Catholics have said enough is enough. His tale encapsulates a basic feature of the church’s clergy sex abuse scandals: professions of new procedures and policies to clean up the mess, juxtaposed with institutional inertia, resistance and denial.

Under the church’s new policy on accountability for bishops, it has fallen to Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, to decide whether to launch an investigation of Mr. Malone. As Mr. Dolan mulls that question — his office says an announcement is expected soon — other revelations have surfaced involving Mr. Malone’s less-thanassiduous attention to abuse victims. In an audio recording of a conversation from August, leaked recently by one of his former top assistants, Mr. Malone is heard worrying that “this could be the end for me as bishop.”

Conceivably, it could be. Meanwhile, what’s striking in the sordid tale is the absence of proactive moves that would lend credibility to the church’s stated zero-tolerance stance.

4. Not all roads lead to Roe.

By Michael Gerson, The Washington Post, September 20, 2019, Pg. A19, Opinion

The decision by the New York Times to remove a key exculpatory fact from its recent article on Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh is such an incredible editing error that it raises the prospect that it might have been an ideological intervention.

But why would an ideologically motivated editor remove a fact that is contained in the book (“The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation”) on which the article is based? This would be bias compounded by utter stupidity.

Why does the campaign to discredit Kavanaugh continue with such intensity? Some critics might be concerned about his views on campaign finance reform or the unitary executive. But the matter that provokes the most passion is abortion.

“When he takes a scalpel to Roe v. Wade,” Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz has said, “we will know who he is, we know his character, and we know what motivates him, and that is important: It is important that we know, and that is part of what motivated Christine.” The goal, it seems, is to preemptively discredit an unfavorable court decision by putting what Katz describes as “an asterisk” next to Kavanaugh’s name.

This strategy is one indicator of the unhealthy focus of our entire political system on Roe v. Wade. Because it touches on the deepest issues of autonomy and human dignity, the legal status of abortion is crucial. The problem comes when we see all politics through the lens of one issue.

5. During Brexit storm, UK’s efforts to protect religious freedom fly under the radar.

By Charles Collins, Crux, September 20, 2019

Since Brexit has dominated the UK news for the past three years, it might be easy to miss the great strides being made by the government in promoting religious freedom in the same time period.

The latest move has been to appoint Rehman Chishti, a Conservative Member of Parliament, as the new Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

He replaces Lord Tariq Ahmad, the inaugural holder of the position. Ahmad was appointed to the post by then-Prime Minister Theresa May last year.

The position is similar to the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, currently former Kansas governor and senator Sam Brownback.

Ahmad launched the UK government’s first ever program to find innovative solutions to promote and defend religious freedom, and also worked closely with the Holy See, the EU’s Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in developing the role.

The appointment also came with assurances that the implementation of the recommendations from the recent independent review into the UK’s support for persecuted Christians will continue, under Chishti’s lead.

The review, led by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, pointed out various reforms Britain’s Foreign Office should take to better identify and combat the persecution of Christians around the world.

6. Rikers Island prison ‘has got to go,’ says New York cardinal.

By Christopher White, Crux, September 20, 2019

New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan joined with religious leaders throughout the city on Thursday to call for the closing of Rikers Island, saying that one of the nation’s most notorious prisons “has got to go.”

At a press conference outside of the New York Supreme Court, the cardinal said the prison complex, one of the largest in the nation, goes against the values of the gospel and American values of “fairness, hope, and justice.”

“God has told us Jews, Christians, members of Islam to bring compassion, mercy, and justice to those who are incarcerated,” he said.

Dolan was joined by Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara, executive director of Catholic Charities Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Rev. A. R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis, and other members of the Commission of Religious Leaders (CORL), which serves as an advocacy body on issues related to poverty, racism, homelessness, and “a breakdown of moral values, family structure and other social institutions.”

Rikers Island – a four hundred-acre island in the East River amidst Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx – has repeatedly come under scrutiny in recent years for overcrowding and its brutal treatment of inmates.

7. Buffalo bishop ‘very open’ to Vatican review of his diocese.

By Christopher White, Crux, September 19, 2019

Buffalo’s embattled Bishop Richard Malone said he would be “very open” to a Vatican review of the diocese to “let all the truth come out” as he faces yet another week of scrutiny over his handling of the clergy abuse crisis.

Malone, who has resisted calls among priests, seminarians, and the most prominent lay reform group in the diocese to step down over the past year, once again said he would not resign.

In recent weeks there has been speculation that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York would initiate an investigation into Malone based on the new Vatican guidelines issued last May pertaining to bishop accountability.

8. Chaput: Fr. James Martin’s message causes confusion about Church doctrine.

Catholic News Agency, September 19, 2019, 7:46 AM

After Fr. James Martin, SJ, spoke at a Philadelphia university, the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged caution about the priest’s message, especially regarding the possibility that Catholic teaching on sexuality might change.

“Father Martin has sought in a dedicated way to accompany and support people with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. Many of his efforts have been laudable, and we need to join him in stressing the dignity of persons in such situations,” Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in a Sept. 19 column published on his archdiocesan website.

“At the same time, a pattern of ambiguity in his teachings tends to undermine his stated aims, alienating people from the very support they need for authentic human flourishing. Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput added.

Chaput’s column raised his concern that “Father Martin – no doubt unintentionally — inspires hope that the Church’s teachings on human sexuality can be changed.”

9. FDA: Thousands of Deaths Associated With Drugs Given to ‘Trans’ Children.

By Celeste McGovern, National Catholic Register, September 18, 2019

Fatal blood clots, suicidal behavior, lowered IQs, brittle bones and sterility are just a few of the potential side effects of ‘puberty blockers’ that the transgender industry doesn’t want talked about.

Thousands of children attending “affirmative” gender health clinics globally, including in the United States and the United Kingdom, are being given powerful puberty-blocking drugs with a litany of serious side effects — including death — according to Food and Drug Administration data.

And the National Health Service (NHS) in England is currently investigating issues surrounding use of the drugs since it registered a 4,500% increase last fall in the number of youths seeking treatments to alter their biological sex in the previous nine years.

The drugs, sometimes referred to as “chemical castrators” because they are used to treat sex offenders, are increasingly used as a first-line treatment for gender-confused children as young as 10 years old when they are referred to counseling.

Frequently on their first consultation, children and teens are implanted with hormone-blocker-releasing rods or taught to self-inject the drugs to “pause” their adolescence and prevent developmental changes, like growth of breasts and facial hair while they decide on which sex they would like to identify.

The practice recently gained the endorsement of the Endocrine Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, but the Food and Drug Administration has not licensed the drugs for transgender medicine due to lack of supportive evidence. They are approved for treati

Aside from the medical risks involved with castration drugs, the principle driving their promotion flies in the face of Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

Pope Francis addressed the issue of transgenderism in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home), citing the words of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.”

“[V]aluing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different,” Pope Francis added. “In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.”

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