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Posts Tagged ‘Cardinal O’Connor’

It is a well-known phenomenon that generals have a tendency to “Fight the Last War,” meaning that they tend to use the tactics that brought them victory in the last war they fought. The problem is that the enemy usually shows up with new weapons and new tactics. Either the generals adapt, or go down to defeat.

In the war over the HHS Mandate, it seems that the bishops have shown up with Cardinal O’Connor’s playbook from the 1980’s. It won’t work, and they had better grasp that reality today, and with all due urgency.

This past week, Francis Cardinal George of Chicago issued a letter to his faithful warning that the archdiocese will need to get out of the hospital and healthcare business, as well as education, social services, etc., if the Obama administration does not back down. Some excerpts:

Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience.

What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down.

The state is making itself into a church. The bishops didn’t begin this dismaying conflict nor choose its timing. We would love to have it ended as quickly as possible. It’s up to the government to stop the attack.

If you haven’t already purchased the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012, I would suggest you get one as a souvenir. On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank.

There’s much more in the letter. Read it here.

Cardinal George’s tactic here was that of Cardinal O’Connor in the 1980’s, when Mayor Ed Koch passed Executive Order 50 that would have forced the Catholic Church to hire homosexuals in all of our institutions. From Wiki:

O’Connor actively opposed Executive Order 50, a mayoral order issued in 1980 by Mayor Ed Koch, which required all City contractors, including religious entities, to provide services on a non-discriminatory basis with respect to race, creed, age, sex, handicap, as well as “sexual orientation or affectational preference”.[25] After the Salvation Army received a warning from the City that its contracts for child care services would be canceled for refusing to comply with the executive order’s provisions regarding sexual orientation,[26] the Archdiocese of New York and Agudath Israel, an Orthodox Jewish organization, threatened to cancel their contracts with the City if forced to comply.[26] O’Connor maintained that the executive order would cause the Church to appear to condone homosexual practices and lifestyle.[27][27] Writing in Catholic New York in January 1985, O’Connor characterized the order as “an exceedingly dangerous precedent [that would] invite unacceptable governmental intrusion into and excessive entanglement with the Church’s conducting of its own internal affairs.” Drawing the traditional Catholic distinction between homosexual “inclinations” and “behavior”, he stated that “we do not believe that homosexual behavior … should be elevated to a protected category.”[28]

The Church won its case in court, but O’Connor was willing to close our schools and child care agencies if we lost, forcing a city just inching back from bankruptcy to pick up the cost.

Different times.

Back then, I was in my early 20’s. The bulk of voters were the Greatest Generation, then in their 50’s, and the generations who preceded them. In other words, most voters actually had education in civics, and most men came from a generation when military service was regarded as a rite of passage into manhood. They valued the Constitution, and a thug such as Barak Obama never would have made it past being a city councilman from a radical district. Back then, voters understood the need for fiscal responsibility and Ed Koch would have had his goose cooked if he threatened the fragile economic recovery of the city, or if he incurred a threat made good by Cardinal O’Connor.

Different times.

Today the bishops are in contention with a Democrat Party headed by a president who wants them to abandon the field in every sector: education, social services, healthcare…

Today the bishops are in contention with a Democrat Party headed by a president who have added ten trillion dollars of debt to the nation in two years. That they don’t care at all about fiscal responsibility is an understatement.

Today the bishops are in contention with a Democrat Party headed by a president who understand that the bulk of the voters who stood behind Cardinal O’Connor almost thirty years ago are dead. In their place are the Baby Boomers, the children and grandchildren of the Boomers who are largely ignorant of American History, civics, or the Constitution.

Today the bishops are in contention with a Democrat Party headed by a president who are catering to the pervasive narcissism and hedoniosm of a society that stands in shameful contrast with the Greatest Generation that backed O’Connor. That’s why the HHS mandate has a good chance of prevailing.

Cardinal George is no fool, and he understands what he’s up against with the Democrats and Obama:

The provision of health care should not demand “giving up” religious liberty. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

He’s right. However, the tactics need to change. We do not have a half-century to fight this one as we did the Cold War. We have until November. If Obama is reelected, we’ll lose our tax-exempt status and be stripped of all our agencies by a president who hates who we are and what we stand for. This is no longer a fight over a facet of Obamacare.

It never was, and the bishops need to awaken to that reality. This is a new Marxism, as Cardinal George alluded to. If Obama backs down and the bishops claim victory they will live to regret being duped in so monumental a manner. A Marxist has declared war on the only Church with enough institutional infrastructure to pose a threat to his party’s agenda.

The Catholic vision of human anthropology, who we are, is lived out in our healthcare and social services, and is inculcated through our educational institutions.

Obama gets that.

Cardinal George left out the fifth, and only viable option. The Church has had war declared on her by the government. She must now rally her faithful to vote out this wicked administration in November. She must coordinate strategy with all people of faith from other religions and Christian denominations. If she doesn’t, we lose everything. If she does, a new administration will not permit her to lose the tax-exempt status for having been forced into political organizing to fight an existential threat from the government. (And there are hundreds of videos of Democrat politicians campaigning in Protestant church pulpits).

The plan as laid out by Cardinal George is yesterday’s strategy. It worked for Cardinal O’Connor in a different age, with a different electorate. It’s time for our normally quiet and pastoral bishops to gird their loins.

This one’s for all the marbles.

UPDATE: Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. responded to this post. His response and my rejoinder here.

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John Cardinal O'Connor

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of John Cardinal O’Connor’s entrance into eternal life. I have not a shred of doubt that he either entered directly into the presence of God, or made an extremely brief layover en-route to tie up a few loose ends. (For my Protestant brothers and sisters, I’m referring to that pesky little Catholic concept of Purgatory)

What has never been in doubt for me is that Cardinal O’Connor was an extraordinary man, called to an extraordinary task, in a very turbulent time in the life of the Church, in the most media-dense diocese on the planet. Also never in doubt was that he succeeded in all that he was called to do.

For a good, tight biography on Cardinal O’Connor, click here. This, from the article:

“Every priest would like to be remembered as a priest and all that it conveys, rather than as a public figure with all that it conveys,” Cardinal O’Connor once reflected when asked how he would like to be remembered. He then added, “I regularly go down to the crypt under St. Patrick’s Cathedral and I look at the tombs of my predecessors. Right in the center is the next marble block with no inscription. That’s reserved for me. And all that’s important when I move into the crypt is that I have served New York as a very good priest.” And a very good priest he was.

Indeed.

Of all the figures in Christian History, Cardinal O’Connor seems most like the Apostle Paul. The New York City that he came to live in was a city proclaimed by the rest of the country to be ungovernable. The movies of the era portray an out-of control metropolis not altogether unlike the Corinth of Paul’s day. I know. I was there in Times Square for seven years working at Covenant House with teen prostitutes. Eighth Avenue, from the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street to 48th Street was called the Minnesota Strip, so named for the countless teens from the midwest running from home and being abducted into prostitution. Porn theaters and video stores numbered literally in the scores. Live sex shows abounded. Drug dealing was brisk business.

This was Archbishop John O’Connor’s new home.

More than almost any cleric of his day, Cardinal O’Connor read the moral landscape with deadly accuracy. He understood that the Church was at that point very much in free-fall with mass defections of priests and religious, laity openly flaunting their use of oral contraception and abortion, cohabitation, and rampant divorce. He saw the moral relativism around the issues concerning marriage, sex and life at both ends of the spectrum as the primary target of the enemy, as these reveal to humanity the inner life of the Trinity when properly lived in marriage.

He wasted no time in setting about articulating with forceful clarity the position of the Church regarding abortion, contraception, cohabitation, fornication, and homosexual sex. This would bring him into a showdown with a very popular Mayor Ed Koch and Governor Mario Cuomo, the latter being a Catholic who challenged the church on abortion. The media would flay O’Connor alive for it.

Though pilloried, I marveled at his evenness, his steely determination and great self-control. I can’t ever remember him lashing out personally at his antagonizers and tormentors, the most hate-filled and vicious of whom were the homosexuals during the early years of the AIDS crisis.

Far from the sweetly plaintive victims of misunderstanding and oppression as they often characterized themselves, the homosexual community waged war against the Cardinal and the Church with a sustained viciousness and brutality that was chilling. They interrupted Sunday Masses by sitting in blocks and then standing with their backs turned to the Cardinal during his homilies to protest his lack of imprimatur on their lifestyle, and his refusal to embrace condoms as a means of facilitating their fornication without consequence.

I was there as an eyewitness on several occasions. Cardinal O’Connor would urge us to pray for them.

The homosexual community’s war was waged over several years, culminating in thousands descending on the Cathedral one Sunday desecrating it at Communion time by throwing condoms all around, and in one instance, crumbling the Blessed Sacrament and throwing it on the ground. 110 protestors were arrested that day.

I detailed that war against Cardinal O’Connor, and how science has vindicated him, in a four part series entitled, “Of Cardinals, Cathedrals, Condoms, and Cretins”. Click each one below for a read that is simply incredible. No one can understand this man and how viciously he was maligned or how faithful and correct he was absent the context wrought by these articles:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

The more I would read Saint Paul, the more I saw him before me in John O’Connor. Tough, smart, compassionate, unyielding, and faithful to the last. Next time: Roe v. Wade’s worst nightmare, the founder of Sisters of Life.

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John Cardinal O'Connor

Read Part I here.
Part III here.
, Part IV here..

During the late 1980’s a narrative developed about the Catholic hierarchy, condoms, and HIV; A bunch of old celibate men, through their irrational opposition to any form of birth control, refused to teach the lifesaving truth that condoms prevent the transmission of HIV.

The problem is that the narrative is a lie, start to finish.

To begin, the opposition to the use of birth control is anything but irrational. In 1968 Pope Paul VI clearly articulated the Church’s 2,000 year consistent witness to this in Humanae Vitae, a brief but concise document. In paragraph 17, Pope Paul VI proves prescient:

“17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

“Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

Certainly Cardinal O’Connor and the Bishops knew all too well the rise in promiscuity following widespread access to the pill in 1968. They knew the CDC data linked here which show the steady rise in STD rates. (Click on “all slides”). Fast-forwarding to today for a moment, Research out of Harvard agrees with the Church that Condoms can make HIV worse in Africa, among other places.

In the mid-80’s, the New York Times, the self-styled ‘paper of record’ carried several articles which cast a long shadow over the absolutist claims of condom safety by AIDS activists.

On August 24, 1987 the Times reported “20% of Condom Batches Fail”.

On May 12, 1988 the Times reported that 33 million condoms had been recalled in 1987 with a failure rate of 4/1000. The paper failed to reconcile those numbers with the 20% failure rate reported in August of the previous year. The paper did report that the 4/1000 was an improvement over the 4.8/1000 rate in 1986. These rates for domestic condoms were better than the 6.5/1000 in 1987 and 7.3/1000 in 1986 for imported condoms.

On August 18, 1987 the Times ran a major article entitled “Condoms: Experts Fear False Sense Of Security”. From the Article:

“MANY health officials have begun to voice concern that the campaign to encourage condom use to curb the spread of AIDS may be misunderstood, creating a false sense of security in people whose behavior continues to put them in danger.

“Experts say condoms should minimize the spread of the AIDS virus among the heterosexual population, especially when used with spermicides containing nonoxynol-9, which has been found to kill the virus in test tubes. The experts say this justifies recent campaigns promoting the devices.

“But they stress that it is unknown just how much protection condoms offer. The officials note that condoms have been widely rejected as a method of birth control because they frequently fail, and say the devices may be no better – in fact, may be worse – at curtailing AIDS. They warn that sexually active men and women should not assume that they are protected simply because they use prophylactics.”

The article is filled with notable quotes from experts, all expressing doubts.

It was an interesting time. Because the spermicide nonoxynol-9 was found to have killed HIV at high concentrations in test tubes, it was added as a lubricant and fail-safe against condom tearing or slipping. In recent years we have learned two devastating truths.

1. Nonoxynol-9 in the low concentration on condoms is ineffective against HIV.

2. Nonoxynol-9 in the low concentration on condoms causes ulcerations in the vaginas of women who use them frequently, such as sex workers. This means that N-9 does not kill the virus when condoms tear, and facilitates infection by compromising the vaginal and rectal epithelia.

Finally, a week after the desecration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by ACT-UP (reported in Part I), the Times reported that The National Women’s Health Network requested the FDA to remove approval for two new condoms:

“A public-interest health group said today that it had petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw marketing clearance for two new types of condoms because neither had been tested for effectiveness in preventing pregnancy or protecting against disease.

“The National Women’s Health Network, a nonprofit group based in Washington, charged that the Federal agency had erred in approving the devices under a legal provision that waives testing requirements if a new device is substantially like one already approved.”

It was an interesting time. Anti-retroviral medications were being hastened to market. New condoms were being hastened to market all in a desperate attempt to throw the entire arsenal at this virus. But desperate measures can have unintended consequences.

In time, what will be most remembered is the stubborn insistence of so many to having sex outside of a life’s commitment to mutual monogamy with ONE individual in the face of a disease that is so devastating.

Where were the AIDS activists when these reports were being published by the Times? They were busy crafting calumnies against men who read the Times and knew better, celibacy notwithstanding. These lies have become part of the HIV/AIDS lore. How many have gone to their deaths because of their false assurances and convenient scapegoating? Such activism in the name Public Health has been devastating.

It was an interesting time.

Next Wednesday, we’ll take a deeper look at the scientific data about condoms and consider them against the backdrop of STI/STD rates.

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John Cardinal O'Connor

A little-known anniversary passed very silently on the tenth of this month, the twentieth anniversary of AIDS activist group ACT-UP’s desecration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The New York Times reported the incident. It was the culmination of many smaller-scale desecrations at the Cathedral by gay groups, including Dignity. From 1987-88 I was a seminarian for the Archdiocese of New York, and was present at the Cathedral for Sunday Masses with the Cardinal when Dignity would seat themselves in rows midway down the aisle, then stand with their backs turned to the Cardinal as he gave the homily. They hated him as no other because he was pro-life, because he was a faithful son of the Church and would not give his blessing to the use of condoms for any purpose.

Cardinal O’Connor’s famous rejoinder was, “Good morality is good medicine.” For that singular statement he was regarded as little more than a caveman in Cardinal’s robes. From the Times article:

“Protesters said yesterday’s action was prompted by what they said was Cardinal O’Connor’s growing verbal assault on abortion and on the use of ‘safe sex’ with condoms as a precaution against AIDS.

“In October, the Cardinal expressed his admiration for Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group that frequently blocks entrances to abortion clinics. In a speech at the Vatican in November, he re-stated his view that distributing condoms or clean needles was an inappropriate way to combat the spread of the AIDS virus. In a phrase frequently condemned by demonstrators yesterday, he said, ‘Good morality is good medicine.'”

What the Times did not report was that one protester crumbled the Eucharist at Communion time in an act of desecration never before seen in the cathedral. Protesters also threw condoms all over the cathedral. They were right about one thing, people were dying from this disease. AIDS patients were still considered lepers in many quarters. It was a frightening time.

Earlier that autumn 1989, Fr. Bruce Ritter asked me if I would return to Covenant House, a shelter for homeless teens in Times Square, where I had worked for five years prior to entering the seminary. He explained that he had started a Special Needs Unit for adolescents with HIV/AIDS. Some were already dying in end-stage AIDS. I accepted the offer.

Our unit at the time was the ONLY residential facility in the nation for adolescents with HIV/AIDS. Most of the kids were male prostitutes who contracted the virus from their clients. The disease progressed rapidly in some. We buried one young man not long after I began work on the unit. So, I was not without sympathy for the issue felt so keenly by Dignity and ACT-UP.

I contemplated this during the long night shifts when the kids finally went to sleep. What was the objection, really? Why such venomous hatred directed at the Church? Everyone knew that condoms broke during vaginal sex, more-so during anal sex. This wasn’t a state secret. Having just begun my post-baccalaureate curriculum in science at Columbia University, I found the hatred for the Church on campus palpable. Why?

The answer was: Narcissism. Even in the face of a killer sexually transmitted disease, people wanted their sex. Period. The drive toward self-indulgence was so powerful that it blinded people to the reality that condoms had a pretty significant failure rate, for a variety of reasons: improper and inconsistent use, tearing, slipping.

Then there was the issue of promiscuity in the gay community, the orgies in the bath houses that were eventually closed down as a public health measure. People weren’t interested in changing their behavior. They wanted fornication without consequences and expected, demanded the Church play along. In hindsight, they were looking for political cover.

For those old enough to remember the early years of the AIDS pandemic, it was largely considered a ‘gay’ disease. When it started showing up in the heterosexual community, many gays feared (rightly) a backlash based on that perception of AIDS being a gay disease. What better cover than the Catholic Church? The Bishops weren’t falling for it. They knew better about condoms, and sought to teach the faithful.

In the interim, Cardinal O’Connor quietly set about increasing the number of hospital beds in Catholic hospitals of the Archdiocese dedicated to AIDS patients to well above fifteen percent. He effectively turned Saint Clare’s Hospital on W 52nd Street into an AIDS hospice. Unbeknown to his detractors, the Cardinal went to St. Clare’s once a week in simple clerical garb to wash patients, empty bedpans, and perform priestly pastoral ministry to the dying. On his orders, he was introduced simply as Father John.

Next Wednesday, we’ll take a look at the wisdom and strength behind that humility. We’ll consider the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control data that clearly vindicate Cardinal O’Connor, and lay much blame for this ongoing tragedy at the feet of his most bitter detractors. We’ll see the epidemiological data that expose the great lie about condoms and where we have gone these past twenty years. It isn’t pretty.

Part II here.
Part III here.
Part IV here.

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