Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Benedict XVI's Palm Sunday Homily

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young People!

The Gospel for the blessing of the palms that we have listened to together here in St. Peter's Square begins with the phrase: "Jesus went ahead of everyone going up to Jerusalem" (Luke 19:28). Immediately at the beginning of the liturgy this day, the Church anticipates her response to the Gospel, saying, "Let us follow the Lord." With that the theme of Palm Sunday is clearly expressed. It is about following. Being Christian means seeing the way of Jesus Christ as the right way of being human -- as that way that leads to the goal, to a humanity that is fully realized and authentic. In a special way, I would like to repeat to all the young men and women, on this 25th World Youth Day, that being Christian is a journey, or better: It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ. A going in that direction that he has pointed out to us and is pointing out to us.

But what direction are we talking about? How do we find it? The line from our Gospel offers two indications in this connection. In the first place it says that it is a matter of an ascent. This has in the first place a very literal meaning. Jericho, where the last stage of Jesus's pilgrimage began, is 250 meters below sea-level while Jerusalem -- the goal of the journey -- is 740-780 meters above sea level: an ascent of almost 1,000 meters. But this external rout is above all an image of the interior movement of existence, which occurs in the following of Christ: It is an ascent to the true height of being human. Man can choose an easy path and avoid all toil. He can also descend to what is lower. He can sink into lies and dishonesty. Jesus goes ahead of us, and he goes up to what is above. He leads us to what is great, pure, he leads us to the healthy air of the heights: to life according to truth; to the courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of dominant opinions; to the patience that stands up for and supports the other. He leads us to availability to the suffering, to the abandoned; to the loyalty that stands with the other even when the situation makes it difficult.

He leads us to availability to bring help; to the goodness that does not let itself be disarmed not even by ingratitude. He leads us to love -- he leads us to God... Read the whole sermon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A bad bill and how we got it

by Archbishop Charles Chaput

As current federal health-care legislation moves forward toward law, we need to draw several lessons from events of the last weeks and months:

First, the bill passed by the House on March 21 is a failure of decent lawmaking. It has not been “fixed.” It remains unethical and defective on all of the issues pressed by the U.S. bishops and prolife groups for the past seven months.

Second, the Executive Order promised by the White House to ban the use of federal funds for abortion does not solve the many problems with the bill, which is why the bishops did not -- and still do not – see it as a real solution. Executive Orders can be rescinded or reinterpreted at any time. Some current congressional leaders have already shown a pattern of evasion, ill will and obstinacy on the moral issues involved in this legislation, and the track record of the White House in keeping its promises regarding abortion-related issues does not inspire confidence. The fact that congressional leaders granted this one modest and inadequate concession only at the last moment, and only to force the passage of this deeply flawed bill, should give no one comfort.

Third, the combination of pressure and disinformation used to break the prolife witness on this bill among Democratic members of Congress – despite the strong resistance to this legislation that continues among American voters – should put an end to any talk by Washington leaders about serving the common good or seeking common ground. Words need actions to give them flesh. At many points over the past seven months, congressional leaders could have resolved the serious moral issues inherent in this legislation. They did not. No shower of reassuring words now can wash away that fact.

Fourth, self-described “Catholic” groups have done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops. For groups like Catholics United, this is unsurprising. In their effect, if not in formal intent, such groups exist to advance the interests of a particular political spectrum. Nor is it newsworthy from an organization like Network, which – whatever the nature of its good work -- has rarely shown much enthusiasm for a definition of “social justice” that includes the rights of the unborn child.

But the actions of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) in providing a deliberate public counter-message to the bishops were both surprising and profoundly disappointing; and also genuinely damaging. In the crucial final days of debate on health-care legislation, CHA lobbyists worked directly against the efforts of the American bishops in their approach to members of Congress. The bad law we now likely face, we owe in part to the efforts of the Catholic Health Association and similar “Catholic” organizations.

Here in Colorado, many thousands of ordinary, faithful Catholics, from both political parties, have worked hard over the past seven months to advance sensible, legitimate health-care reform; the kind that serves the poor and protects the rights of the unborn child, and immigrants, and the freedom of conscience rights of health-care professionals and institutions. If that effort seems to have failed, faithful Catholics don’t bear the blame. That responsibility lies elsewhere. I’m grateful to everyone in the archdiocese who has worked so hard on this issue out of love for God’s people and fidelity to their Catholic faith. Come good or bad, that kind of effort is never wasted. (This is the whole article. Read the original here.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Aborting Healthcare Reform

by Lisa Fabrizio

And so it comes down to this: President Obama wants his signature healthcare reform bill passed this week, no matter what; whether or not the American people want it and whether or not his own party has the votes to pass it. So great is either his ego or his conviction that the government must take over one sixth of our economy, that he is willing to march his fellow Democrats to the edge of an electoral grave they themselves are digging.

So desperate is their goal, that even with strong congressional majorities, they must employ highly unusual and maybe even illegal methods to attain it. One of the extra-constitutional measures they might use is appropriately called the "Slaughter Solution," whereby the bill that cannot get a simple majority of votes in the House may be returned to the Senate where that's all it can get. Got it?

But the issue that may drive the final spike into this mess of a bill is appropriately, abortion; that awful practice that was also undemocratically forced on our nation without benefit of a single vote legitimately cast. I and others have long chronicled the use of Orwellian doublespeak as a tool of socialists to foist their agenda on a country whose people are basically good at heart and of a trusting nature, but never have their efforts been more focused than on this issue. The continued application of euphemisms like "choice" is both sophistic and insulting, as are attempts to paint the snuffing of our children's lives as some form of healthcare... Read the whole article.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

England Should be a Catholic Country again

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's Address at the Spectator Debate
Tuesday, March 2nd 2010

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to see so many of you here this evening for this great event. Not like the bishop who went to a parish for a function. There were very few people there and he was a bit annoyed. He said to the Parish Priest, Father, there are very few people here; didn’t you tell them the bishop was coming? No, my Lord, says the Parish Priest, but the news must have leaked out somehow! Well, the news of this debate has clearly leaked out and you want to know why England should be a Catholic country again.

But what is “a Catholic country”? Does it mean claiming back our historic cathedrals … and paying for their upkeep? Or is it a call for political power, where Bishops appoint the Prime Minister, rather than the other way round? If you were hoping for a good old fashioned punch-up –Protestants versus Catholics, pausing only to stop Richard Dawkins interrupting us - I am afraid you are going to be disappointed.

Most English people, if they thought about the matter at all, would probably say that, on balance, the Reformation was a good thing. The Reformation brought education, biblical truth, independent thinking and progress, therefore it was a good thing.

By the same logic, Pre-Reformation England, therefore, was bad: with corrupt and worldly prelates like Cardinal Wolesey, and an uncouth and ignorant clergy. The only signs of Christian life came from the Lollards, the Protestants who rejected the mumbo-jumbo of the sacraments, read the bible in English, so all in all, England was ready for the good news of Protestantism.

A raft of studies shows in fact that the English parish churches on the eve of the Reformation were vigorous, adaptable and popular. The laity had a wholesome piety and ready charity. The Episcopate was not corrupt and Erasmus himself thought early Tudor England the most enlightened place in Europe. And those monasteries, swept away with such zeal: along with them went the education, the medical care, and the hospitality they provided for the love of God.

My point is that the Reformation, notwithstanding its positive contribution, brought a tremendous loss to this country. It was a great hiatus. It dug a ditch, deep and dividing, between the people of this country and their past. Over-night, a millennium of Christian splendour, the world of Gregory, Bede, Anselm, Catherine of Siena, Francis, Dominic, Julian of Norwich, Bernard, Dante, all the men and women who nourished the mind and heart of Christendom for a thousand years, became alien territory, the Dark Ages of Popery.

Protestantism was founded on two affirmations about the grace of God and Salvation; the Revelation of God in Scripture. But it accompanied these affirmations with a series of negations and rejections, as it smashed the statues, white-washed the churches, denounced the Pope and the Mass. Protestantism – and its particular form here in England – became constituted by its ‘No’ to Catholicism.

In speaking of a Catholic Country, let us agree that the Reformation conflict is over. We do not need to trade history. And I for one would be the first to be grateful for so much that the Anglican Church and other Christian Churches have brought to this country that has been of such benefit over the past four hundred years.

Instead, let me give you a better starting point for our debate. Go back to the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982. For many, the key image was the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, kneeling before the shrine of St Thomas a Becket, side by side in prayer. It was extraordinarily moving. Our two churches have already come a long way on the path back to the unity which Christ called for. And it will take more than even The Spectator to push us apart again. I am a convinced and dedicated ecumenist and I believe that the ecumenical movement is like a road with no exit. We are not in competition but in a shared endeavour. It is not a choice between the Church of England or Catholic England: it is a choice for the Church in England... Read the whole article.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Saving Catholic Schools

by RiShawn Biddle

The poor black and Latino children attending Sacred Heart School in the Columbia Heights section of Washington, D.C., probably don't know that Century Foundation Senior Fellow Richard Kahlenberg thinks their participation in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship and other voucher plans merely helps to make "'separate-but-equal' work." Chances are, they don't even know about the contention among progressives and even otherwise school choice-supporting centrist Democrats that public funding of parochial schools is somehow a plot among conservatives to cut government spending and violates the Constitution's ban against the intermingling of church and state.

Nor should they or their parents care one way or another. Although the District's traditional public school system is undergoing a much-needed overhaul led by Blackberry-touting reform maven Michelle Rhee, just 49 percent of its high school freshmen graduate four years later; a mere 12 percent of its 8th-graders in 2007 had reading skills rated "proficient" or higher on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal test of academic performance.

These families shouldn't have to wait until Rhee turns around the district's performance in order to avail their children of opportunities for high-quality academic instruction. Their interest in improving the quality of education for their children should outweigh concerns about the racial and ethnic segregation that they choose. And their hard-earned tax dollars shouldn't remain captured by a district that isn't delivering the goods.

Centrist and progressive Democrat school reformers are certainly familiar with these arguments. After all, they have successfully used them in beating back efforts by teachers unions, traditional school districts and some civil rights activists (usually the kind that spend more time on manicured Ivy League campuses than in gritty urban locales) to stamp out and restrict the existence of public charter schools, the publicly-funded-privately-operated entities that have become their favored form of school choice. And they should keep it in mind whenever vouchers (and similar tax credit programs) come up for discussion. If nonprofit- and for-profit operators can be trusted with public funding through charters, then school vouchers used for Catholic and private schools shouldn't be a problem... Read the whole article.


About Me

My photo
Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.