Archive for September, 2011

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I’ve said pretty much all that needs to be said in four posts and a Novena to Saint John Vianney. There isn’t very much more to say except this:

The Church is not a democracy.

Some years ago I read a commentary by the brilliant Dr. Janet Smith about how the media reports on the Catholic Church. Essentially, Dr Smith observes, the media try to apply the template of the majority party in power (conservative Popes) and the minority opposition (liberal theologians). It doesn’t work with the media, because they fail to grasp the ecclesiastical realities of the Church. Again, it’s not a democracy.

There really is no such thing as liberal and conservative. There is orthodoxy and fidelity vs. heterodox rebellion. They aren’t competing goods.

Many of Father Pavone’s more vocal supporters are non-Catholics who see him in terms of a fellow warrior in the cause for life, and there is a great deal to be said for having been foxhole buddies who have come through major battles together. It is truly a band of brothers in the pro-life movement, and I understand and applaud their fidelity to Father Pavone. However…

If they (and the very vocal Catholics protesting against Bishop Zurek) truly understood what a bishop is and what a priest is, they wouldn’t have taken the course of action that they have. This terse clarification from Bishop Zurek translates: I’m the one who wears the Mitre, and I’ll decide what is best for one of my priests (That’s what was meant by, “At my discretion and solicitude, he has faculties for ministry in the Diocese of Amarillo.”).

It’s time to back off. Flying banners of butchered babies, trucks with similar grisly images circling the Cathedral school, are pretty thuggish tactics from Father’s supporters, as are some of the letters people sent me in hopes of my signature. I have signed no letters. I have made no phone calls to the bishop. I have instead been hosting a novena. I have also written to Father Pavone to convey my support of him, and my prayers that God’s perfect will be done.

The thought that the pro-life movement simply cannot survive without Father Pavone is reflective of a serious spiritual cramp. I love all that Father Pavone has done, but one day he and I and this entire generation will be dead and interceding from Heaven. It will fall to today’s young to assume the mantle of leadership.

The one whom we cannot survive without is the Holy Spirit.

To remove all doubt:

A priest has no priesthood of his own to exercise at will. He is merely an extension of his bishop, who being an Apostolic Successor, has the fullness of priesthood. Having a share in the Apostles’ company, bishops are free to act as they see fit regarding governance of their priests, so long as that governance is in accord with the moral and juridical norms of the Church. This bishop has underscored that he has restricted Father Pavone’s activities in order to provide a space for reflection.

I’ve been urging that all simply give these two men the time and space to work this out. Our getting into a power struggle with Bishop Zurek will only reinforce his belief that Father needs some time away in order to reorient his priestly bearing. The thuggishness and wild accusations against Bishop Zurek have backfired, badly I’m afraid.

Consider the wisdom of Rabon Gamaliel in Acts 5:

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

It’s time that those making war on the bishops ask themselves if they are not fighting against God Himself by fighting His will being expressed through His Apostle’s Successors. They are redefining ugly.

I’m praying for God’s perfect will in all of this, and I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to make that will known with crystal clarity. Again, if we can’t hear the Holy Spirit, perhaps we need to be still. Street activism has failed in this case. Perhaps now we should try faith.

H/T Deacon Greg Kandra<

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Day 8

“Three things are wanted to preserve purity – the presence of God, prayer and the Sacraments.”– St. Jean Vianney

O Holy Priest of Ars, a witness of your life made this magnificent praise of you:
‘We would have taken him for an angel in a mortal body.”

You so edified others: the modesty and the exquisite purity radiated from your body. With such charm and with such enthusiasm you preached to others about these beautiful virtues which you said resembled the perfume of a vineyard in bloom.

Please I beg you to join your entreaties to those of Mary Immaculate and Saint Philomena in order that I guard always, as God asks me, the purity of my heart. You, who have directed so many souls towards the heights of virtue, defend me in temptations and obtain for me the strength to conquer them.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray during this novena that Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek may join their hearts to our Lord’s Sacred Heart, that bound up in His Holy Priesthood they might come to know and do His will; that the laity in the pro-life movement be ever mindful of the authority and sacred trust Jesus placed in His bishops, that they be trusting of His promise to send His Holy Spirit who will lead them to all truth.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Day 7

“See, my children, if we really wish to be saved, we must determine, once and for all, to labor in earnest for our salvation; our soul is like a garden in which the weeds are ever ready to choke the good plants and flowers that have been sown in it.”– St. Jean Vianney

O Holy Priest of Ars, the infamous attacks of the devil which you had to suffer and the trials which disheartened you by fatigue would not make you give up the sublime task of converting souls. The devil came to you for many years to disturb your short rest but you won because of mortification and prayers.

Powerful protector, you know the temptor’s desire to harm my baptized and believing soul. He would have me sin, by rejecting the Holy Sacraments and the life of virtue. But good Saint of Ars dispel from me the traces of the enemy

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. During this novena, intercede for us that the Evil One not separate the faithful from their bishops, and that Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek be for us a model of charitable forbearance.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Day 6

“In Heaven, faith and hope will exist no more for the mist which obscures our reason will be dispelled…But love; oh we shall be inebriated with it! we shall be drowned, lost in that ocen of divine love, annihilated in that immense charity of the Heart of Jesus! so that charity is a foretaste of Heaven.”– St. Jean Vianney

Saint John Marie Baptist Vianney because of your love of God you showed great charity towards your neighbor. You could not preach on the Love of God without burning tears of love. During your last years, it seemed as though you could not talk about any thing else or live for anything else. Thus you sacrificed yourself to your neighbor by consoling, absolving and sanctifying them to the limits of your strength.

Your charity inspires me to greater love of God, a love which is shown more by acts then by words. Help me to love my neighbor generously as Christ loves them.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray that both bishop and priest may come together imbued with the spirit of your charity in their regard for one another, that within this honest space you may send your Holy Spirit to light their hearts afire with a spirit of mutual submission to whatever your holy will is for them.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Day 5

When we have just received communion, if we were asked what are we taking away to our homes, we might answer, “I am taking away Heaven!” – St. Jean Vianney

O Holy Priest of Ars, whose only comfort in this world was the real presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, was it not your great joy to distribute the Eucharist to the pilgrims who visited you? You refused Communion to the souls who refused to reform but to souls of goodwill you opened wide the doors of the Eucharistic Feast.

You, who each day at Holy Mass received Holy Communion with great love, give me some of your fervor. With freedom from mortal sin, obtain for me a sincere desire to profit from receiving Holy Communion.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray during this novena that Eucharistic zeal may possess both bishop and priest in Amarillo and lift them up to a shared vision for Your Holy Will in this dispute.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be

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Jill Stanek carries the following quote from the rabidly proabort website, RH Reality Check, on her blog. Below is the quote and my response left at Jill’s.

Professional obstacles cited by physicians [who perform abortions] included workplaces with an anti-abortion climate; the surprisingly widespread “no-abortion policies” that quietly exist in many private practices, HMOs, and hospitals across the country; the risk of being pigeonholed as just an abortion provider; and the risk of being ostracized by the local medical community and patient population. On a more personal level, some physicians worried that providing abortions would cause their families to suffer discrimination and even danger.

In addition, many providers are stigmatized by the very patients who come to them for abortions. Physicians who staff specialized abortion clinics report disheartening interactions with patients who ask “How do you do this on a regular basis?” or “Isn’t this really hard for you?” Even though these patients are willing to have abortions, they have absorbed society’s beliefs about abortion providers and convey that to their doctors.

Separation is a hallmark of any stigmatized practice, and the fact that 93% of abortions are now performed at specialized clinics is no accident….

While specialized abortion clinics are often able to cultivate a more positive environment for women in need of services, their complete separation from all other health-care facilities only perpetuates the idea that abortion is not a “normal” part of women’s reproductive health care.

~ Jennifer Coletti, RH Reality Check, September 22

Dear Jennifer,

The processes of becoming a board certified physician and a scientist are exactly the same in both time and effort, differing only in the scientist going to the lab and the physician doing rotations and residency with patients. In my case, 70% of the coursework was identical, so here’s some insight.

It begins with four years of tough undergraduate coursework including full-year courses in physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, calculus, biostatistics, general biology, anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, histology, etc…

Assuming the candidate has made it through all of that with good grades, there comes the Medical College Admission Test, which is akin to putting one’s head into a sausage grinder for 8 hours and hoping to do very well. At this point one is competing with the 30% who made it through pre-med alive.

After admission to medical school, there is a brutal two-year course of basic sciences classes. The pace and workload are so intense that most students EITHER go to class, or read the books. Most simply don’t have time for both.

Then comes the first part of their licensing exam, the USMLE, Part I.

Then comes the exhausting 3rd and 4th year rotations through the various hospital services and more endless hours of study.

Then comes part II of the USMLE.

After graduating with their doctorates, the new doctors enter internship and residency, which can last anywhere from three to seven years, depending on the specialty. Most states still permit the 36 hour shifts for resident physicians, which is exhausting. Somewhere early in that process they take Part III of the USMLE and become full-fledged physicians. After their residency training, candidates then sit for their board exams in the chosen specialty, usually a combination of written and oral.

By now, 12-15 years have elapsed since the first day of pre-med in undergrad.

Many will choose to go on for advanced training in a highly specialized area of medicine, requiring a two-year post-doctoral fellowship, with yet another certification exam.

Ph.D.’s go through a very similar process.

In all of that sacrifice of time, effort, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in training (and hundreds of thousands more of lost income while in medical/graduate school and residency), we all have a dream that sustains us. We have a vision of ourselves making some significant contribution to the world so that our time here was well spent. We typically have the dream of helping other human beings by relieving their pain and suffering.

Tearing babies to shreds violates every precept that sustains the overwhelming majority of us through all of that frustration and physical exhaustion for almost 20 years of our adult lives. Yes, we regard such practitioners of the Black Art as common butchers and treat them as lepers in the societies of doctors, whose sacred trust it is to uphold the highest standards of our fields of endeavor.

They are lepers and pariahs for good reason. They murder the innocent, the most fundamental violation of the Hippocratic Oath. They butcher women. They do not follow the standard of care in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

They are despised and loathed by us, and their stigma is as great as the betrayal of our collective sense of dignity and decency in the scientific and medical professions.

Efforts by proaborts to force legislation that would force abortion into hospitals will only stiffen the resistance of the medical community and make the alienation and isolation of the abortionist all the more acute. Until such time as they abandon the Black Art, their stigma and their isolation are well-deserved.

Absent any repentance, they are also a foretaste of their eternal condition.

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Day 4

It is a beautiful thought, my children, that we have a sacrament that heals the wounds of our souls! – St. Jean Vianney

O Holy Priest of Ars, you knew how important was a good confession for the Christian life. It was to procure the happy fruits of millions of souls that you agreed to be in an uncomfortable confessional, which was like a prison, up to 15 to 16 hours on certain days.

I will try to develop the habit of frequent confession, to prepare properly each time and to have always regret for my sins, so that the grace of final perseverance but also the sanctification of my soul will be assured. Ask this grace for me.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray during this novena for the refreshment of Father Pavone’s soul during this time of trial.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Day 3

How good is the Good God! The angels sin, and are cast into hell. Man sins, and God promises him a Deliverer. What have we done to deserve this favor? – St. Jean Vianney

Saint John Mary Baptist Vianney, you were so adamant against sin, yet so sympathetic and so ready to welcome the sinner. I come to you today as if you were still alive, as if I were kneeling at your feet and you could hear me. Bend towards me, listen to the repentant confidence for the weaknesses and miserable deeds of mine.

Priest of the Lord, inexhaustible Confessor, obtain for me the horror for sin. You wanted us First to avoid the occasion of sin. I want totake your advice and make the resolution to break bad habits and to avoid the dangerous occasions of sin. Help me today to examine my conscience.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for the pro-life movement’s leaders who need your constant guidance.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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I said I wouldn’t comment again until a resolution had been reached, but this weekend’s developments cannot go unanswered. Some of Father Pavone’s supporters in the pro-life movement have descended on Amarillo, Texas, with tactics normally reserved for the enemies of life. Banners being towed by planes showing aborted babies, and trucks sporting images of aborted babies circling St. Mary’s Cathedral and school, a campaign to vilify Bishop Zurek…

It’s twisted, and it’s wrong. It’s also starting to alienate allies.

Here is a comment from a mother of a child being besieged with such disturbing photos, as written at Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog:

Angry Mom
My children attend St. Mary’s Cathedral School. I wish someone in this group protesting would realize that my kids shouldn’t be able to view these pictures. They are outside of a school. My kids shouldn’t have to be around pictures of dead fetuses. If they have a problem with the bishop’s decision, they need to wait until he comes back, or get a petition going. Hello????

I agree with her. I don’t want my children seeing those images either. They are too young and not ready emotionally for such a sight. This is thuggishness, holding children and parents hostage until the activists get their way.

Is this what Father Pavone is all about? Is this his great life’s work? I think not, but people are asking why he hasn’t called off the dogs.

Bishop Zurek didn’t come to town and immediately change course, which is still his episcopal prerogative, anyway. He allowed Father Pavone to continue on in his ministry and launched an investigation of the finances and the prudential use of monies after receiving complaints from clergy and laity alike. That’s his responsibility.

Then he took further action (however clumsily and uncharitably) when he didn’t like the answers he was getting, which is also his responsibility. And now, here we are. Trucks sporting pictures of murdered babies circling a Catholic school until Father Pavone’s friends get their way.


This is not how the Holy Spirit works. He unites. He does not divide.

It also might just work, but it will come at a terrible, terrible price. It is already creating a split in the pro-life community and causing Father Pavone to lose more stature than Bishop Zurek could with ten more letters like the first. It’s called a Pyrrhic Victory. From Wikkipedia:

The phrase is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius:

The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.

In both of Pyrrhus’s victories, the Romans suffered greater casualties than Pyrrhus did. However, the Romans had a much larger supply of men from which to draw soldiers, so their casualties did less damage to their war effort than Pyrrhus’s casualties did to his.

The bishops are watching and taking careful note. We want more involvement from them, more outspokenness. We want more priests involved in the pro-life cause. How many bishops in their right mind would consent to further involvement if they suspect that this circus would arrive at their door should they dare to discharge the duties of their office, should the need arise?

The beauty of Priests for Life has been the visage of priests sent by their bishops to bring the heart of the Church to this fight. Priests acting in communion with their bishops, strengthening the hearts of the faithful who wage spiritual and political war on the storm troopers from Hell itself.

This siege on the Cathedral and children in Amarillo is a distortion of that visage. It suggests a loss of mission and perspective. We Catholics like our priests in union with their bishops. This has become ugly.

Father Pavone needs to call off the dogs. He needs to stress respect for his bishop in all matters. He needs to lead the movement in prayerful discernment and focus the faint of heart on God’s providence, which is boundless. He needs to protect the children at St. Mary’s School, especially as he is a priest of that diocese, and they are being assaulted in his name.

Not so far from Amarillo is the site of one of the great Pyrrhic victories in American history, The Alamo.

General Santa Anna had himself a victory there, even though he lost twice as many men as the Texians. However, he was perceived as so cruel that the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo” would lead to his defeat shortly thereafter.

Making war on children in order to muscle a bishop into submission to activists has the potential to make Amarillo not only Father Pavone’s Alamo, but ours as well.

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Today is Day 2 of our novena.

Day 1 here.

Day 2

When we pray with attention, with humility of mind and of heart, we quit the earth, we rise to Heaven, we penetrate the Bosom of God, we go and converse with the angels and the saints. – St. Jean Vianney

Saint John Marie Baptist Vianney, what confidence the people had in your prayers! You could not leave your old rectory or your humble church without being surrounded by imploring souls, who appealed to you as they would have appealed to Jesus Himself during His earthly life. And you, O good Saint, gave them hope by your words, which were full of love for God.

You, who had always counted entirely on the heart of God, obtain for me a deep filial trust in His Providence. As the hope of divine goods fills my heart, give me courage and help me to always obey the Commandments of God.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for all those whose faith is shaken by this rupture between a priest and his bishop, that these two men may come to understand that the faith of the faithful is an equal concern alongside zeal for the unborn.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Today we begin the novena to Saint John Vianney for the intentions of Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. We begin on the feast of another priest who was recalled for a time, Saint Padre Pio.

Day 1

“We have not deserved to pray – but God, in his goodness, has permitted us to speak with Him.” – St. Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars

Saint John Marie Baptist Vianney you were born of a deeply religious mother; from her you received the Holy Faith; you learned to love God and to pray. At a young age, you were seen kneeling in the front of the statue of Mary. Your soul was supernaturally carried towards the things on High. Despite the high cost, you answered your vocation! Against many obstacles and contradictions, you had to fight and suffer to become the perfect priest which you were. But your deep spirit of faith supported you in all these battles.
O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray during this novena for the restoration of the father-son relationship between Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek, that strengthened in the priestly regard for one another the faithful may be strengthened in heart.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be

Day 2 here.

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As the new National Director for Medical Students for Life of America, I have as my first priority the goal of establishing a chapter of MSFLA in every medical school in the United States. Our outgoing coordinator, Dominique Monlezun has gotten us off to a great start by helping to start fifteen chapters last year. With your help, we can double or even triple that number over the next twelve months. Here’s where you come in.

There are plenty of pro-life doctors, nurses and medical students out there, but many may feel isolated and alone. They need us. They need our support. They need to meet other pro-life medical students and physicians.

We need them to know who we are at MSFLA, and that there are a great many like-minded professionals such as themselves, and that there’s strength in numbers. If you know of any pro-life doctors, nurses or medical students, please tell them about us and ask them to contact me at my email address:


Other people who might know of medical students and pro-life doctors would be pastors, pre-med students, members of your church, college professors, family members and family friends, classmates, etc.

MSFLA exists to support the needs of pro-life physicians in training, and network them with other like-minded medical professionals. We also have a number of conferences and other events, all aimed at teaching, mentoring and supporting pro-life medical students and resident physicians.

As we all know, the best time for starting a student organization is at the beginning of the school year, which is already underway, so the quicker we can gather the names of pro-life medical students, or the doctors and nurses who may know them, the better we’ll be able to reach out to them and support them.

Looking forward to an avalanche of names!

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Update on Elise

Good News!

Today is Elise’s 16th birthday, and she is celebrating it with some slight but significant movements in her hip flexors and right thigh. She is also celebrating it in one of the premier spinal cord rehabs in the nation, Magee, in Philadelphia. After initially balking at Magee, Elise’s insurance company did the right thing and reconsidered, finally consenting to pay–which gives our loved one the best possible chance at recovery and restoration. They’re to be commended.

Words are wholly inadequate to thank everyone for their prayers. We’ve come through the worst of it in no small measure because of those prayers and all of the love. The movements are significant, as the muscle groups that are coming back are those necessary to at least stand upright with leg braces. With another 70 years before her, the accelerating pace of medical technology (especially adult stem cell therapy), and the power of prayer, I have every confidence that Elise will walk again.

God Bless, all.

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In my first posting on the plight of Father Frank Pavone, I drew the analogy, which gained little traction with fellow pro-lifers, between the Apostle John’s deference to Peter on the first Easter Morning, and the relationship between the pro-life movement and the bishops.

Then, I wrote in response to some ugly, ugly letters and sentiments out there directed at Bishop Zurek, as well as the “Free Father Pavone” website that has been established. Not much luck in the persuasiveness department regarding my belief that we should allow Father Pavone and his bishop a quiet space to work out this situation.

Now I have fellow pro-lifers upset that I will not cosign letters to Bishop Zurek, or speak out against him. (I’m beginning to miss the Zen of working with bacteria that can kill me in one act of carelessness!)

It seems that there are a number of misunderstandings, coupled with rightly held love of Father Pavone that seem to be fueling this fire. My own love of Father Pavone directs that I attempt to assuage people of their misunderstandings, which having done so, should set the ship aright.

My last word on this before a resolution between Father and his bishop.

I don’t expect non-Catholics to understand the unique relationship between a Catholic bishop and his priests, and I apologize for the lacunae in my understanding of Protestant ecclesiology among the varied denominations. I don’t even expect most Catholics to have a good working knowledge of this Presbyteral dynamic, given the appalling state of Catholic catechesis over the past fifty years.

On ordination day, a deacon puts his folded hands inside the hands of the bishop and vows to respect and obey that bishop and all of his successors. That’s a tremendous act of faith on the part of the newly ordained priest. They are sacred vows in a Sacramental Vocation, witnessed by the Church assembled and registered in Heaven for all eternity. As first happened as a deacon, a priest undergoes a radical change in his very human nature that lasts forever.

Married people make their own sacred vows, which are temporal, until death. These too are part of a Sacramental Vocation and are registered in Heaven, given before the Church assembled.

We’re all expected to honor those vows, and in truth, few actually have a clean track record with them. Plenty of priests cross the line from normal grousing about their bishops into uncharitable words, and some into outright defiance. Married people promise, “I will love you, honor you, and cherish you all the days of my life.” Sometimes it gets ugly.

It did for Regina and me some years back, as we missed a thousand checkpoints along the way, resulting in a toxic marriage that came right to the brink of divorce. We slowly, imperceptibly lost our way with one another until we found ourselves in hell. The failings were great and small, and they were mutual. However, we could not escape the solemnity of our vows, which was all we had left after ‘love, honor and cherish’ had been put to flight. If we slid into hell, the journey out was quite a climb; and it required both of us in mutual submission to one another as well as in mutual submission to God’s will for us. Above all, it required frequent sacramental nourishment in Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

At the lowest point, two old priests heard me bellyache for over an hour before they spoke a word. The first asked one simple question:

“When was the last time that you complimented Regina?”

That was sheer brilliance. Go back to where the train derailed.

The second simply stated,

“Gerry, you’re like a son to me, and I witnessed your vows on behalf of the Church. I don’t care what’s gone on between the two of you. I expect you to honor your word to Regina and your God. I expect you to be the sort of man you’ve always aspired to being, and now is when you’ll prove yourself.”

Thus began the journey home. Coming Home has layers of meaning for me, which is why I gave this blog the name. The journey was more than worth it and took us to where we were supposed to be all along.

Father Pavone now finds himself in his own brand of hell in his relationship with his bishop. The dynamic is different from marriage. A priest is an extension of his bishop. He does not possess the fullness of priesthood, as does his bishop. He goes where he is told and does what he is asked to do.

Pope John Paul II taught us that authentic freedom consists in doing what one ought to do, and not what one wants to do.

For all of the immense good that Father Pavone has done, he was not ordained a pro-life activist. He was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest. I was at his ordination. I heard his vows. I saw the chalice and paten placed in his hands. I saw Cardinal O’Connor hand him the Book of the Gospels, signifying his priestly mandates to preach and teach the Gospel and to consecrate the Eucharist.

That blows away everything else on the planet, including the pro-life movement!

Now, to quell the misperception that Bishop Zurek has accused Father Pavone of wrongdoing (aka, malfeasance), I didn’t read those words. I read that Bishop Zurek was questioning the prudential use of large sums of money.

That takes things out of the realm of illegality and places it into the realm of subjective pastoral vision. That makes matters messier. As Father’s bishop, Bishop Zurek bears responsibility and moral culpability for any poor stewardship of large sums of money in a ministry that he has assigned Father Pavone to run.

It’s the vision thing, and Bishop Zurek’s vision and priorities matter. He’s the Apostolic Successor.

So, yes, Father may well have been transparent in his revelations of finances (and I wouldn’t expect anything less from him), but may not have satisfied the subjective vision thing. Who knows?

There are only two men on this planet who know the whole story, and they need a safe, quiet, private place with one another to resolve this situation.

Accent on quiet.

Two priests exhorted me to honorable Christian manhood in honoring my lifetime vows with Regina, despite our mutual failings. Divorce was not an option in their eyes. As Catholics, we understand that the failings are not so important as the humble admission of guilt and the stated desire to reconcile, to allow Jesus to send His Holy Spirit to make all things new.

I exhort two good and holy men to do the same in their father-son relationship, but they can’t unless we drop the torches and pitchforks and allow them the space where each can save face and fulfill their priestly obligations to one another in all charitable forbearance.

That’s a process and not an event.

This is no longer a pro-life issue. This is no longer about Priests for Life. Father Pavone is operating in a much higher realm. He is dealing within the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and his duties as an obedient son to his bishop. There, humility and obedience, not lobbying and blogging, are the coin of the realm.

If we love God more than we love ourselves, He will lead us to honorable restoration of our Sacramental, Vocational duties. I think that’s true for Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. I have every expectation that guided by the Holy Spirit, a restoration of their relationship will produce abundant fruit.

Beginning Friday night (9/23), and every night for nine nights at 8 PM EST, I’ll be hosting the Saint John Vianney Novena for the intentions of Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. All are welcome. If any priest or deacon wishes to guide us with prepared meditations each night, please let me know.

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In Arthur Miller’s 1949 play, Death of a Salesman, protagonist Willy Loman famously declares:

“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit.”

Perhaps Christian Broadcasting Network’s Rev. Pat Robertson should carefully consider those words in light of his recent advice that a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s disease should divorce her and remarry, ensuring that he provide custodial care for the useless wife. Here’s Robertson in his own words, as reported by CBS News:

(AP) Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his “700 Club” viewers that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable because the disease is “a kind of death.”
During the portion of the show where the one-time Republican presidential candidate takes questions from viewers, Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from the incurable neurological disorder.

“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her,” Robertson said.

The chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which airs the “700 Club,” said he wouldn’t “put a guilt trip” on anyone who divorces a spouse who suffers from the illness, but added, “Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer.”

Most Christian denominations at least discourage divorce, citing Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark that equate divorce and remarriage with adultery.

Terry Meeuwsen, Robertson’s co-host, asked him about couples’ marriage vows to take care of each other “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health.”

“If you respect that vow, you say `til death do us part,”‘ Robertson said during the Tuesday broadcast. “This is a kind of death.”

A network spokesman said Wednesday that Robertson had no further statement.


But not all that surprising.

We have embraced narcissism, hedonism, and utilitarianism with an ever-tightening embrace here in the West. To be fair, I understand well the pain and suffering of people watching loved ones succumbing to this dread disease. It is a long and terrible ordeal. I simply cannot imagine going through it as a spouse after a lifetime together. That said, there is another dimension of fairness to this husband that needs to be addressed.

Having spent a lifetime together, he must have some reserves within him to honor his vows, when honoring those vows matters most. Willy Loman said it beautifully.

My dear friend and life’s mentor, Father Luke McCann, also sits in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer’s. When I told him that I was going to propose to Regina, Luke reminded me of Loman’s quote. He cautioned against doing in mid-life what many men slide into:

“You’re getting Regina at age 23, in all of her youthful beauty and promise. You’re getting her best years of industry and energy, and she’ll bear and raise your children. When you get into your fifties, you don’t dump her for a younger model.”

Luke went on,

“Look, Gerry, nobody ever thinks on their wedding day they’re going to get divorced, and it doesn’t just happen. When it does, it’s the result of a thousand missed course corrections along the way.”

I remember that talk like it happened this morning. In a chapter that I wrote in an upcoming book, A Special Mother is Born, I discuss the toxic wasteland that became our marriage when Joseph was as yet undiagnosed with his autism and Regina and I were at one another’s throats over our differences about him. We came right to the brink of divorce, but Luke’s words screamed loud and clear in my mind, as did the vows I made on my wedding day.

Indeed, there were a thousand missed course corrections along the way, and the reconciliation for our mutual failures was a painful process.

What Robertson proposes is something orders of magnitude more ghastly than walking out on a fully functional spouse. He proposes throwing away the peel after having savored the succulence of the fruit. It’s worse than abandonment. I’m not sure there is even a word to describe it.

The vow is until death, and the meaning is clear. Death. Rigor Mortis. Burial.

Not a ‘kind’ of death.

In the Catholic Church, we have evolved a theology of suffering that many of our Protestant brethren have rejected, or don’t fully understand. Saint Paul, in Colossians 1:24 states:

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

Properly understood, we join our sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross to complete His suffering for the sake of the body of the Church. That extends to the body of Christ undergoing their period of purification in Purgatory, as well as for those here on earth.

Suffering perfects us as humans. It calls forth reserves of love, and helps cast our relationships in new models of understanding. It often fosters reconciliation between God and man, as well as between humans. It all depends on how we are pre-disposed to understanding and managing suffering.

When I visit Luke, there are days when he is more lucid than others. There are times when he doesn’t recognize me. I get it, regarding the pain.

None of that justifies a Minister condoning the warehousing of the old model and divorcing her to run off with the next pretty face to come along. The old man’s wife may be leading him to his perfection as a human being. To be certain it is a terrible cross to bear, but Rev. Robertson the supposed scriptural wizzard forgot this little gem from 1 Corinthians 10:13

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

We’re supposed to strengthen one another through prayer and fellowship, not confirm one another in our weakness and despair. In marriage, self-fulfillment takes a back seat to self-sacrifice. My only question for this poor fellow is this:

After a lifetime together, isn’t she worth sacrificing for?

To Reverend Robertson:

You have squandered your moral authority by making a sacred vow fungible. It’s time you left the stage. On your way out, contemplate Loman’s rebuke to you:

“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit.”

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