Friday, May 30, 2014

More on Fr. Illo and the new Oratory of St. Philip Neri

Jim Graves at Catholic World Report has a nice interview with Fr. Joseph Illo, who will head the new Oratory of St. Philip Neri in San Francisco. Here's an excerpt:

CWR: What is your plan for the new San Francisco Oratory of St.Philip Neri?

Fr. Illo: It is our hope to establish it as a community for secular priests, living in community, with a common prayer life and a common rule of life. It will support the work of priests called to work in parishes.

We hope it will be one solution to the problem of priests living in isolation, which has become a deepening difficulty in the Church. Even in a rectory with multiple priests, they can be like ships passing in the night, with little contact with one another and no common prayer life. This is an issue that bishops and diocesan personnel boards speak about all the time. I served as a vocations director for four years, and this was a big concern among men considering the priesthood. They were afraid if they gave up wife and family, they’d be lonely and isolated.

A priest in this situation has little or no accountability. Take the case of Father John Corapi. Although he was in a religious community, he lived on his own, and he got into trouble. A good prayer life is essential to the well-being of a priest; if he prays regularly, he is protected from many evils.

A priest needs support, and he needs to be kept accountable. There are many ways to do this, the oratory being one of them. There are many oratories throughout the world today, and many oratorians. [Bl.] John Henry Newman was famous for bringing the oratory to England in 1848. Today, there is still a large oratory in England, and another in Toronto. In the United States, you can find them in places like St. Louis and Cincinnati; I’ve been in touch with one in Lewiston, Maine, the Fraternity of St. Philip Neri. They have a wonderful life together and do much good work in their diocese.

Mr. Graves also gives this heartening description of Fr. Illo, which reminds me of our dear departed Fr. Malloy:

"Known for his outspoken fidelity to Catholic teaching, Fr. Illo made the news when he wrote his parishioners in 2008, “If you are one of the 54 percent of Catholics who voted for a pro-abortion candidate, you were clear on his position, and you knew the gravity of the question, I urge you to go to confession before receiving Communion.”

Praise God!

Valerie Schmalz, at Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, also has a good article on the Oratory. Check it out here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fr. Joseph Illo's Farewell to Thomas Aquinas College

In August, Father Joseph Illo will come to San Francisco, to lead the new Oratory of St. Philip Neri. The Oratory will be at Star of the Sea Church, at 8th Avenue and Geary Boulevard. In the post below, Fr. Illo gives a hint as to the role of the Oratory.

The change is bittersweet, as are many things in life. Fr. Illo's coming to San Francisco means leaving his flock, the students of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paul, CA. From his blog:

Thank you for coming to say good-bye to someone who was with you only briefly. It’s a good reason to have a barbecue—many thanks to the cooks!
Briefly indeed—I hardly got to know you, but what I did get to know has been with a Tolkienesque affection and reverence. I feel like Bilbo at his eleventy-first birthday speech, but I won’t repeat his cryptically ambivalent modalism on that occasion (something about not knowing half of you half as much as I’d want). It’s been brief—I had intended to be at TAC for 3 years, but Archbishop Cordileone asked if we could get moving on the San Francisco Oratory this year. “Are you bound by contract with TAC?” he asked me last year. “Just bound by fraternal charity,” I told him, “and there’s lots of that here in Santa Paula.”In fact, I discovered “love” right away at TAC. I had interviewed with several other Catholic colleges, all of whom offered me chaplaincy positions, but only TAC offered me a job with these words: “We love you father, and we hope you will take this position.” So devastatingly disarming—you might guess that our esteemed Dean uttered those words, so characteristic of our beloved Dr. Kelley.
My Dad was a college professor, and I’ve always wanted to be a college professor. I was on my way to becoming one when I sensed a call to the priesthood, so I switched from literature to theology. But these two years have been a kind of dreamy sabbatical between parish assignments, at least living with college professors and strolling through breezy quadrangles between classes.
TAC is all about truth, but even more obviously for brief sojourners like me, the College manifests beauty. The afternoon sun on Santa Paula Ridge, for example; the morning sun that first touches the Topa Topa bluffs; young voices ringing out the glory of God in a perfectly-proportioned chapel; students sprawled under spreading oak trees with Plato and Aquinas, or playing soccer on broad green swards; spirited Shakespeare plays and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas somehow rehearsed to near-perfection alongside ambitious academic loads.

I hope the San Francisco Oratory will be counted among TAC’s many friends and supporters for years to come. I hope we can send students to you, and you can send an occasional “discerning young man” to us (if he can escape the titanic forces emanating from TAC’s lovely females). Much good work has already been accomplished at the future Oratory parish in San Francisco: a healthy elementary school and the Latin Mass every day. It is close to a few universities and Archbishop Cordileone has indicated we put particular energy into youth and young adults, as is consistent with the charism of St. Philip Neri. I thank you for affording me a brief stay with you; I ask your prayers for our fledgling Oratory of priests in SF, and assure you of ours.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

California: "Mother" and "Father" Too Discriminatory

One of our ongoing themes at A Shepherd's Voice is the flight from reality that is central to contemporary society. We've even created the blog post tag "Equality at the expense of sanity" to categorize posts covering this pathology. The flight expresses itself in many ways, but no group is more guilty than homosexualist activists. That particular aspect of the flight is covered extensively in Robert Reilly's new book "Making Gay OK," which I have not yet finished. Reilly explores how the acceptance of homosexuality inevitably becomes a war on the family and requires the upending of society.

Here's a recent example, from Breitbart News:

"In the most recent California effort to 'modernize' family convention, the state Assembly on Thursday passed AB 1951, a new bill that would allow all California parents to list themselves as 'mother,' 'father,' or 'parent' of a child in order to reflect same-sex marriages, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The bill passed by a vote of 51-13, with several Republicans voting in favor. No Republicans spoke in opposition."

Equality California describes the bill as "...allowing parents to choose to self-designate as 'father,' 'mother' or 'parent, eliminating inaccurate designations and confusion for same-sex parents."

We see the wholesale lying required to maintain the fantasy world:"eliminating inaccurate designations and confusion" when the truth is the precise opposite. Also the Satanic attempt to dominate reality:"Self-designate." And of course, while the adults in these households fool themselves, the children will see through it soon enough.

Monday, May 5, 2014

CDF Cracks Down on LCWR

And about time. Fr. Z reports that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has laid the smackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The letter, from Cardinal Gerhard Muller, is excellent. We have reproduced it in full. All emphases are ours. Today, there are in the Church groups of people whose highest synthesizing orientation is not Catholicism--as his Eminence says, in the context of the LCWR, "religious moving beyond the Church or even beyond Jesus."  We discussed exactly this attitude  (or tried to) in our 2007 review of Fr. Donal Godfrey's book Gays and Grays.

Meeting of the Superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
with the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious(LCWR)

April 30, 2014

Opening Remarks
By Cardinal Gerhard Müller

I am happy to welcome once again the Presidency of the LCWR to Rome and to the Congregation. It is a happy occasion that your visit coincides with the Canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, two great figures important for the Church in our times. I am grateful as well for the presence and participation of the Delegate for the implementation of the LCWR Doctrinal Assessment, Archbishop Peter Sartain.

As in past meetings, I would like to begin by making some introductory observations which I believe will be a helpful way of framing our discussion.

First, I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the progress that has been made in the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment. Archbishop Sartain has kept the Congregation appraised on the work regarding the revision of the LCWR Statutes and civil by-laws. We are glad to see that work continue and remain particularly interested that these foundational documents reflect more explicitly the mission of a Conference of Major Superiors as something centered on Jesus Christ and grounded in the Church’s teaching about Consecrated Life. For that collaboration, I thank you.

Two further introductory comments I would like to frame around what could be called objections to the Doctrinal Assessment raised by your predecessors during past meetings here at the Congregation and in public statements by LCWR officers. We are aware that, from the beginning, LCWR Officers judged the Doctrinal Assessment to be “flawed and the findings based on unsubstantiated accusations” and that the so-called “sanctions” were “disproportionate to the concerns raised and compromised the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.” This principal objection, I note, was repeated most recently in the preface of the collection of LCWR Presidential Addresses you have just published. It is my intention in discussing these things frankly and openly with you to offer an explanation of why it is that we believe the conclusions of the Doctrinal Assessment are accurate and the path of reform it lays before the LCWR remains necessary so that religious life might continue to flourish in the United States.

Let me begin with the notion of “disproportionate sanctions.” One of the more contentious aspects of the Mandate—though one that has not yet been put into force—is the provision that speakers and presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by the Delegate. This provision has been portrayed as heavy-handed interference in the day-to-day activities of the Conference. For its part, the Holy See would not understand this as a “sanction,” but rather as a point of dialogue and discernment. It allows the Holy See’s Delegate to be involved in the discussion first of all in order to avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church. Further, this is meant as an assistance to you, the Presidency, so as to anticipate better the issues that will further complicate the relationship of the LCWR with the Holy See.

An example may help at this point. It saddens me to learn that you have decided to give the Outstanding Leadership Award during this year’s Assembly to a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian’s writings. This is a decision that will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment. Not only that, but it further alienates the LCWR from the Bishops as well.

I realize I am speaking rather bluntly about this, but I do so out of an awareness that there is no other interpretive lens, within and outside the Church, through which the decision to confer this honor will be viewed. It is my understanding that Archbishop Sartain was informed of the selection of the honoree only after the decision had been made. Had he been involved in the conversation as the Mandate envisions, I am confident that he would have added an important element to the discernment which then may have gone in a different direction. The decision taken by the LCWR during the ongoing implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment is indeed regrettable and demonstrates clearly the necessity of the Mandate’s provision that speakers and presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by the Delegate. I must therefore inform you that this provision is to be considered fully in force. I do understand that the selection of honorees results from a process, but this case suggests that the process is itself in need of reexamination. I also understand that plans for this year’s Assembly are already at a very advanced stage and I do not see the need to interrupt them. However, following the August Assembly, it will be the expectation of the Holy See that Archbishop Sartain have an active role in the discussion about invited speakers and honorees.

Let me address a second objection, namely that the findings of the Doctrinal Assessment are unsubstantiated. The phrase in the Doctrinal Assessment most often cited as overreaching or unsubstantiated is when it talks about religious moving beyond the Church or even beyond Jesus. Yes, this is hard language and I can imagine it sounded harsh in the ears of thousands of faithful religious. I regret that, because the last thing in the world the Congregation would want to do is call into question the eloquent, even prophetic witness of so many faithful religious women. And yet, the issues raised in the Assessment are so central and so foundational, there is no other way of discussing them except as constituting a movement away from the ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.

For the last several years, the Congregation has been following with increasing concern a focalizing of attention within the LCWR around the concept of Conscious Evolution. Since Barbara Marx Hubbard addressed the Assembly on this topic two years ago, every issue of your newsletter has discussed Conscious Evolution in some way. Issues of Occasional Papers have been devoted to it. We have even seen some religious Institutes modify their directional statements to incorporate concepts and undeveloped terms from Conscious Evolution.

Again, I apologize if this seems blunt, but what I must say is too important to dress up in flowery language. The fundamental theses of Conscious Evolution are opposed to Christian Revelation and, when taken unreflectively, lead almost necessarily to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the Incarnation of Christ, the reality of Original Sin, the necessity of salvation and the definitive nature of the salvific action of Christ in the Paschal Mystery.

My concern is whether such an intense focus on new ideas such as Conscious Evolution has robbed religious of the ability truly to sentire cum Ecclesia. To phrase it as a question, do the many religious listening to addresses on this topic or reading expositions of it even hear the divergences from the Christian faith present?

This concern is even deeper than the Doctrinal Assessment’s criticism of the LCWR for not providing a counter-point during presentations and Assemblies when speakers diverge from Church teaching. The Assessment is concerned with positive errors of doctrine seen in the light of the LCWR’s responsibility to support a vision of religious life in harmony with that of the Church and to promote a solid doctrinal basis for religious life. I am worried that the uncritical acceptance of things such as Conscious Evolution seemingly without any awareness that it offers a vision of God, the cosmos, and the human person divergent from or opposed to Revelation evidences that a de facto movement beyond the Church and sound Christian faith has already occurred.

I do not think I overstate the point when I say that the futuristic ideas advanced by the proponents of Conscious Evolution are not actually new. The Gnostic tradition is filled with similar affirmations and we have seen again and again in the history of the Church the tragic results of partaking of this bitter fruit. Conscious Evolution does not offer anything which will nourish religious life as a privileged and prophetic witness rooted in Christ revealing divine love to a wounded world. It does not present the treasure beyond price for which new generations of young women will leave all to follow Christ. The Gospel does! Selfless service to the poor and marginalized in the name of Jesus Christ does!

It is in this context that we can understand Pope Francis’ remarks to the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General in May of 2013. What the Holy Father proposes is a vision of religious life and particularly of the role of conferences of major superiors which in many ways is a positive articulation of issues which come across as concerns in the Doctrinal Assessment. I urge you to reread the Holy Father’s remarks and to make them a point of discussion with members of your Board as well.

I have raised several points in these remarks, so I will stop here. I owe an incalculable debt to the women religious who have long been a part of my life. They were the ones who instilled in me a love for the Lord and for the Church and encouraged me to follow the vocation to which the Lord was calling me. The things I have said today are therefore born of great love. The Holy See and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith deeply desire religious life to thrive and that the LCWR will be an effective instrument supporting its growth. In the end, the point is this: the Holy See believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church. The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration.