Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mother Theresa's spiritual darkness: faith is about TRUST,... not certitude and clarity

This is an interesting article about the current talk of Mother Theresa's spiritual darkness as revealed in a new publication of letters to her spiritual director entitled Come Be My Light.
[ Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light ]

Jesuit Fr. John Kavanaugh is a gifted theologian (for an example of his work see entitled
Following Christ in a Consumer Society:
The Spirituality of Cultural Resistance

'Finding one's heart's desire'
John F. Kavanaugh OCTOBER 1, 2007 AMERICA

There has been much written about Mother Teresa of Calcutta these days. Not only has the 10th anniversary of her death been observed; depths of her interior life have been inspected as well. The publication of her letters to spiritual directors in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., has revealed that the founder of the Missionaries of Charity herself lived in profound spiritual darkness for nearly 50 years.

The public revelation of Mother Teresa’s interior crisis (much of the documentation appeared on the Internet news site in 2002, while the cause for her canonization was moving forward) has struck some as a cruel betrayal of her desire not to have her letters published. Others were shaken by what seemed to be her loss of faith or by God’s harshness with her. Some have linked her experience with the harrowing purifications of high mystical prayer.

The most voluble response has likely been that of Christopher Hitchens. An often brilliant polemicist and eminently readable essayist, Hitchens is perhaps the most prominent of nonbelievers to have recently published an anti-theist manifesto. His best-seller is titled God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. But over a decade ago he wrote The Missionary Position, a searing and often mean indictment of Mother Teresa, whom he dubbed the "Ghoul of Calcutta."

There is a puzzling zeal in Hitchens’s fascination with Mother Teresa and his seizure of every media opportunity to disparage her. He opined in the Time magazine cover story (a remarkably balanced article) that she was like a die-hard, disillusioned Communist carrying on even though things were falling apart. On television news shows he attributed her perseverance to the fact that "advisors egged her on because she was a great marketing tool."
Apparently the only good thing he can see in her life is what he thinks was her loss of faith. Thus, from his two-page opinion piece in Newsweek one gets the sense that Hitchens has discovered a strange sympathy for "this troubled and miserable lady." But first he must convince himself that she has really lost her faith. Thus he moves from his first paragraph’s guarded "all but lost her own faith" and "for all practical purposes ceased to believe," to his ringing conclusive indictment of "a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe."

Hitchens gave a much more accurate description of Mother Teresa’s crisis during a three-hour interview on C-Span’s "Book TV." Correcting himself after asserting her loss of faith he said, "If not a loss of faith, a great loss of certainty." Precisely.
The problem (and Hitchens could not have suspected it) is that Mother Teresa never had certainty. At least that’s what she told me.

In Calcutta during December 1975 and for a few days in the following March, I was doing the "long experiment of humble ministry" that Jesuits undertake during their last year of formation. On those days when I celebrated the Eucharist at the Missionaries of Charity motherhouse and worked at the House of the Dying, I had a number of conversations with Mother Teresa.

Two of them still inhabit my life. Our first talk concerned my worry that I should not go back to the comfort and riches of being a university professor in the United States. She told me to go back. "There is far greater poverty there. The greatest poverty is the absence of love."
Much more puzzling was a comment she made shortly before I left Calcutta. I had asked her to pray for me. She said "for what?" "For clarity," I pled. And she immediately said no, she would not pray for that. I complained that she seemed always to have clarity and certitude. "I’ve never had clarity and certitude," she said. "I only have trust. I’ll pray that you trust."
So Hitchens is correct on at least one count. Mother Teresa was living with a "great loss of certainty"—about herself, about her relationship to Christ, about her fate, about her very God. The feeling of not having faith is quite different from not having faith. Otherwise it would not be so harrowing to the believer, who cries out with nothing but trust.

It would be good if all of us, believer and nonbeliever alike, could learn once and for all that whatever faith is, it is not a crutch. Sometimes in faith, you have nothing to lean on. Nor is the "feeling" or consolation of faith something we can conjure up on our own. If anyone had such powers of conjuring it would be Mother Teresa. So much for feel-good religion—that "opiate of the masses." Morphine is much more effective.

The real story, the deepest subtext, in Mother Teresa’s "dark night" is not that God was purifying her. God was actually giving her her heart’s desire.

Every Missionaries of Charity community I have visited has a large crucifix with the words "I thirst" over it. It is that broken man on the cross that Mother Teresa most wanted to identify with, the same Jesus she could see in the most bereft and seemingly unloved of her brothers and sisters on earth. In one of her desperate cries to Jesus she wrote, "Lord my God, who am I that you should forsake me?" Is it possible that she could not see that her very words were the same as those uttered by the man on the cross she so longed to be with? Could she not realize that she had finally found union with the man who cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Perhaps it is best that she did not appreciate the intensity with which her prayers were answered. Freed from her darkness, she would have left him to his cross. Such can be the paradox of finding one’s heart’s desire.

John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., is a professor of philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A brief catechism on eucharistic adoration (part 1)

A Brief Catechism on Eucharistic Adoration (including website resources).
By Chris DiTomo

1. What should children and young people be taught about Jesus’ presence among us—in other words, where IS Jesus now… today?

Of course we need to teach our children that God is present everywhere (Psalm 139:1-12)… and therefore that we can invoke God’s presence in prayer at any time whether we are with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13), in a church, in the privacy of our room (Matthew 6:6), or in the beauty of nature (Psalm 97:6; Daniel 3:29-68). God is also present in His Word—the Holy Scriptures.

However, we must also teach them that we meet the Holy Trinity in a special way through the sacraments—and most especially in the Holy Eucharist. During the Mass, the priest extends his hands and calls down the Holy Spirit to transform the gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Son of God Jesus, re-presenting that one offering of sacrifice to the Father that happened at Calvary nearly 2,000 years ago!

Of course, Jesus Christ is substantially present during the Holy Mass. As the priest—acting in the person of Jesus Christ—speaks the words of consecrations (“This is my body… this is my blood…”) the bread and wine are transformed into the most precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The technical term for this great wonder is “transubstantiation.” This is a complex philosophical term that simply states that while the outward appearance and qualities of the bread and wine remain (for example, the appearance, color, shape, smell, taste of the bread and wine, including the chemical properties of the alcohol, etc.) the inward SUBSTANCE (what the thing most truly is in its essence or nature) has changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. So that when we receive what seems like mere bread and wine during Holy Communion at Mass—we are actually taking into our bodies God himself—the Creator of the world—Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the world—crucified, risen, glorified, ascended into Heaven—the undivided Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Too amazing for words!!!

But, the wonder does not end there! Jesus remains present in the consecrated “species” (the transformed bread and wine). We reserve the Holy Eucharist, or “the Blessed Sacrament”, in the form of the hosts in a beautifully crafted and adorned cabinet called the tabernacle. Before the time of Jesus, the Israelites kept the signs of God’s presence—the 10 Commandment tablets, the “manna” bread that came down from heaven to miraculously feed them while in the desert, and the staff of the high priest Aaron—in a beautifully constructed box called the Ark of the Covenant (see Exodus 25-27, etc.). The Ark was kept in a tent (“tabernacle”) and carried by the Israelites wherever they went as the most sacred resting place of God’s presence among His people (they even took it with them into battle!). Eventually, King Solomon built a temple to house the Ark.

You might want to point out the tabernacle in the Church to the children. You should remind the children that they should always genuflect and can make the sign of the cross while entering a church or when passing in front of the tabernacle. This is a sign of respect for Jesus’ presence. The tabernacle can always be identified by the red sanctuary candle which is always kept burning night and day as a symbol of Jesus’ abiding presence (Scripture also recounts how God showed his presence to the Israelites in the form of a column of fire as He led them out during the Exodus from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 14:24, etc.).

Therefore, while we can pray to God anywhere… we can pray to God and sit in the presence of Jesus in a special way when we spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle of any Catholic Church.

When we want to pray before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in an even more special way, a priest places a sacred Host in what is called a monstrance. [Word comes from a Latin term. Think of the word “de-monstrate” meaning to display or show.] We have monstrances in display cases both at St. Patrick and St. Joseph’s churches. We have regular “holy hours” of Eucharistic adoration at St. Patrick’s (every Friday from 11 until noon) and at St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s during the first week of the month.
The Blessed Sacrament is placed in a little glass window so that people can gaze directly upon Jesus as they adore Him. The monstrance is another precious vessel made of gold that is often in the shape of a sun with rays extending out. Before the time of Jesus pagans used to worship the sun (some pagans still do this today). Now we recognize that Jesus is the only God—he is the Son of God and also the “Sun” of God because just as the sun returns each day—overcoming the dark night by rising in the East, Jesus Christ our Lord and messiah will one day return at the end of the world (Daniel 7:13-14; Mark 14:61-64). He will then completely be “the light of the World” (John 1:9; 8:1), so that we can truly be the “children of light” that we are called to be (Ephesians 5:8). Eucharistic adoration, like the Mass, is a foretaste of the Heavenly Jerusalem, where “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). When we look upon our Lord, we are practicing for our life in Heaven: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). J

2. How else can we describe the ways that Jesus is present?

“[Children and young people] are to be taught and trained to realize that Jesus Christ is indeed at the right hand of His heavenly Father. But Jesus Christ is also:
completely now on earth, present in the Blessed Sacrament, offering Himself in the Sacrifice of the Mass and received by us-His Body in our bodies in Holy Communion.” --Fr. John Hardon, S.J., 2000 address The Greatest Need in the World Today—Forming the Eucharistic Faith and Love of Children, full text available on .

3. How can Jesus be present in the tabernacle at St. Patrick’s and, at the same time, present in the tabernacles of other churches throughout the world?

This is the power of the sacraments. God is not bound by space and time like we are. He can be in many places at once—in deed, God is present anywhere. Jesus instituted the sacraments so that his priests could make him present in this mysterious way to people all over the world at all times.

4. What if it feels weird to kneel in front of a tabernacle or monstrance… it feels like I am worshipping bread?

That might be a natural human reaction. However, just think what you would do if you saw Jesus walking by you… or if Jesus was present in a room? I know that I would sure get on my knees and adore him! That is exactly what people did in the Bible. Now we have to remember, that what looks like bread is no longer truly bread—but is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divnity of Jesus Christ. God Himself is present on that altar during Mass and in that tabernacle or monstrance after Mass. So, we should adore God just like we hope to do for all eternity in heaven. You can also think about what we do at the Mass. Remember that we kneel down as the priest holds us the transformed host—the lamb of God broken for our sins—and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…” At that very moment, we are doing “Eucharistic adoration.” When we kneel before the tabernacle or the monstrance, we are simply extending this wonderful moment for a longer time period.

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A brief catechism on eucharistic adoration (part 2)

A Brief Catechism on Eucharistic Adoration. CPDT

(Part 2 of 2)
5. Why does Jesus Christ remain with us in the humble form of bread and wine?

Who knows? We know that it is the nature of Jesus to be humble—“who, though he was in the form of God, did not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).

Of course, Jesus identified himself as the Bread of Life: ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst… I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh….Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him’ (6:35, 51, 53-56).

Remember that in the Old Testament, one could not even look upon the infinite glory of God lest one die! A child was once asked why God resides in the form of bread and wine—she very wisely said, ‘so that we would not be afraid of Him.’

6. What have the Popes had to say about the importance of Eucharistic adoration?

“On August 12 of [1999] speaking to half a million young people in Denver, Colorado, Pope John II told them:
‘Your pilgrimage will lead you to Christ present in the Holy Eucharist. Praying before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, you can open your hearts to Him, but you should especially listen to what he says to each of you. Christ’s special words to young people are the following:
Do not be afraid. (Mt. 10:31) and Come, follow me. (Mt. 19:21). Who knows what the Lord will ask of you young people of America, sons and daughters of Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania?...’ ” –Fr. John Hardon, S.J., 2000 address The Greatest Need in the World Today—Forming the Eucharistic Faith and Love of Children, full text available on .

Pope Benedict XVI has continued John Paul II’s desire to highlight the importance of adoring the Eucharist in his recent apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:

As Saint Augustine put it: "nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando – no one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it." (191) In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church's supreme act of adoration. (192) Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself. Indeed, "only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature. And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another."

7. How can Eucharistic adoration help encourage a growth in vocations?

If we teach children to place the Eucharist and prayer at the center of their lives then we will no longer have to see parishes closing and Clusters expanding due to a shortage of vocations to the priesthood. We might once again have enough nuns, monks, and brothers to minister at parishes and Catholic schools. We might once again have an increase in fruitful Catholic marriages and churches packed with families for Sunday Mass. In places where parishes foster Eucharistic adoration, young men begin to discern vocations to the priesthood and young women think about the religious life. I have seen this for myself. It really happens!

Related websites:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist:

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist:

(See especially questions 271-294)

Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, paragraphs #66-69 on “Adoration and Eucharistic Devotion”:

* The Real Presence Association:
Real Presence Communications:
Eucharistic Miracles:

* Singles of the Eucharist:
Swallowed Scroll:

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never Stop Learning, Especially About Your Faith!

from author, talk-show host, media specialist Teresa Tomeo's monthly newsletter, 9/03/07 [sentences in bold represent my emphasis]

It's that time of year again. Labor Day holiday marks the unofficial end of summer break and it's time to go back to school. When we think of school days or getting an education many of us tend to think of kids in grade school or those earning a high school or college degree. I've now come to realize that "education" should never stop. I am not speaking of earning an advanced degree or certificate that will add some alphabet soup to your name. That's all fine and good. What I'm talking about is the willingness to learn more, especially about our faith.

If I've learned anything since coming home to the Catholic Church nearly 15 years ago, it's that I have a lot more to learn. I could spend my entire life studying the lives and the writings of the saints, reading the countless and beautiful Church documents, going over the Catechism, but given the vast volume of material available, I would only be scratching the surface.

I was thinking and praying a lot about this recently after I had a discussion, well more of a debate, with a woman at my local gym. We entered into an exchange after she made some vary disparaging comments about Christians and other conservative politicians who don't practice what they preach. She was referring to the controversy involving the senator who was arrested in June for lewd conduct in a men's bathroom at the Minneapolis airport. I suggested that while this case was certainly disturbing, there are plenty of politicians both conservative and liberal who fall under that category and it wasn't fair of her to claim that it only happens to conservative leaders.

I learned this woman had a lot of disdain for Christians, especially Catholic Christians. She was a fallen away Catholic who also expressed a lot of bitterness about the Church and what she thought the Church taught. She claimed she was "educated" and well read but when I pressed her on whether she was getting her information from Catholic sources or the secular media, she admitted she had not cracked open the Catechism or accessed even one article written by a reputable Catholic outlet. Nor had she taken the time to access on-line some of the documents or statements she had problems with. In addition she was angry at the Vatican for reiterating the statement regarding the "one true Church", but had never bothered to read the short and very clear item, "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church". We all know that Church documents are easily available from a number of free sources. When I offered her my business card and the opportunity to send her some information so she could read the documents and "educate" herself she threw up her hands and said emphatically "no I am never coming back to the Catholic Church and I don't want any information." So much for being well-read and "educated."

I went away feeling very sad for this woman who claimed to be informed but had built up such resentment without allowing herself to be open to learning the truth. Speaking of learning however, I also walked away with a few valuable lessons. Her initial comments are a stark reminder that we all need to practice what we preach, especially Christians who hold ourselves to a higher standard. Obviously she has been impacted by bad examples of those who claim to be God-fearing. I was also grateful that I had the opportunity to maybe give her at least a little food for thought because I know enough about my faith to explain why I am Catholic and she had little to say after admitting her lack of research.

So as we enter into the school season, let's not leave the learning to only those in the uniforms carrying the books and the backpacks. Instead we should all continue learning how to be better witnesses by learning more about our faith. As a matter of fact, I think I hear a school bell ringing. So let the education continue.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When Catholics Fight the Church

This is a follow-up article about the resignation of Tom Girsch (pictured to the left with wife Molly--picture is from the DesMoines Register's article on the web), the former football coach of Columbus High School, a Catholic school in Waterloo. Mr. Girsch was forced to submit his resignation because he, while representing the Church as a teacher in a Catholic school, was not living in conformity with Catholic moral teaching and the Precepts of the Church. This article is from the Sept. 3rd issue of the DesMoines Register, I will post the article in its entirety and also will add my own comments (which appear in blue). You can read the article (and the lively and the scathing reader comments) on-line at:
'Fighting church is difficult for us'
Former Waterloo teacher pursues lawsuit over job he lost after Catholic Church declined to annul his first marriage
September 3, 2007

Tom and Molly Girsch had less than a week of wedded bliss before their lives were thrown into a turmoil that tested their marriage, faith and livelihood.
OK, right off the bat this article sounds like it has a bias towards the couple (who the reader can see in a lovely picture)--you may note that as you read the rest of the article the humanity of the Girsch couple is clear--while the position of "the Church" is not explained well, and is left to appear as a heartless institution.
The simple civil ceremony performed before a handful of friends and family members in their backyard Aug. 4, 2006, launched the Waterloo couple's new life together.
Let us give the technical description of what has happened here. By this action Mr. Girsch publicly initiated what amounts only to an adulterous affair with a woman who is not his wife. That is to say, Mr. Girsch remains validly/sacramentally married to his first civil-marriage wife (a civil divorce does nothing to dissolve the bond established in a sacramental marriage). This second civil marriage is not a sacramental marriage for many reasons. This is what the universal Code of Canon Law has to say about this issue: "A person bound by the bond of a prior marriage, even if it was not consummated, invalidly attempts marriage." (Can. 1085.1) "Even if the prior marriage is invalid or dissolved for any reason, it is not on that account permitted to contract another before the nullity of dissolution of the prior marriage is established legitimately and certainly." (Can. 1085.2)
It also began the end of Tom Girsch's three-decade career as a teacher and coach at Columbus High School, a Catholic school in Waterloo.
Over the next year, Girsch would negotiate a revised contract, the Cedar Valley Catholic Schools' board would take two votes on whether he could stay, and the archbishop would weigh in on the controversy. In the end, for lack of a church annulment, the social studies teacher would be forced to resign.
"The wedding was supposed to be a happy thing," said Molly Girsch. "We had been lucky (in love) once before, and we were overjoyed we could be lucky again."
Molly, 52, was a widow and a substitute teacher at Cedar Valley Catholic Schools. Tom, 59, divorced in 1997. They met through a mutual friend about 10 years ago and were friends before they began dating."
We didn't think the marriage was going to cause trouble," said Tom Girsch. "But a few days after the ceremony, I got called to the office. When I walked in, (school officials) offered congratulations on my marriage and said they were happy for me. Then they asked if I ever got an annulment. I said I hadn't. Then they asked if I was aware that they could terminate me."
After teaching in a Catholic school for some 30 years did Mr. Girsch not realize that by his actions he was violating one of the precepts of the Church and was contracting an invalid marriage? Did he care? Did he bother to ask a priest or fellow Catholic friends for counsel? Did he bother to bring the issue up to the school BEFORE he contracted this second marriage? What did his teacher's manual and contract (which is signed each year by every teacher) say about the need to live in conformity with Catholic moral law and canon law? If I was in the position of the school officials, I would have told Mr. Girsch that I was glad that he found someone he loved, but that I was disappointed that he chose to marry outside of the Church and deny himself the benefits of a possible sacramental marriage.
Church sees teachers as examples of faith.
About half of U.S. Catholics, by the 20th anniversary of their first marriage, have divorced, according a 2002 study. The church does not make public the number of annulments granted.
I am not sure about this. I have read figures before... and they are large. The Church in the U.S. surpasses, by far, all other nations in declarations of nullity. I do not know the percentage of cases that receive a declaration of nullity, but I know that it certainly is not rare! In other words, if I hear that a marriage case, once heard, was not declared null, I would be apt to suspect that the court really could find NO legitimate grounds to recognize the marriage as invalid.
While the Catholic Church recognizes that some marriages fail despite the best efforts of the couple, it views marriage as a sacred covenant that cannot be broken by civil divorce. While parishes give support to divorced Catholics, they may not remarry with church blessing unless they receive an annulment - a determination by church officials that their first marriage was invalid.
This is not some wacko Catholic rule. The Catholic Church received this straight from Our Lord Jesus Christ. Read Matthew 19:1-9: "They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no man must separate... I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." I know that this is a sensitive issue... and divorce is a painful experience. The Church is sympathetic (which is why it offers pastoral support to those who deal with divorce and separation)... but the Church is also duty-bound to hold fast to the teaching of Christ on marriage as exclusive and indissoluble.
Annulments do not nullify the first marriage, but are granted under the criteria that some element of the marital bond, while presumed to be present, actually was lacking when the parties married, according to the Metropolitan Tribunal for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
The statement that "annulments do not nullify the first marriage" can be a bit confusing. An annulment is precisely a declaration of nullity. That is, an annulment is an official recognition by the authoritative Church, upon examination of the facts, that a certain marriage was invalid from the very moment it was contracted. Perhaps the Tribunal meant that the annulment does not annul the original civil marriage--i.e., it does not deem the children of that union as "illegitimate" (that is a chief concern of many Catholics who approach the annulment process.
It might also be good to explain what circumstances could render a sacramental marriage as invalid and null. I am no canon lawyer, but by consulting my copy of the Code, I can mention some of the specific impediments to marriage can include: a man not being of the age of 16, a woman not being of the age of 14 (Can. 1083.1), antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse on the part of the man or the woman (Can. 1084.1), a person bound by the bond of a prior marriage (Can. 1085.1), the marriage of a baptized Catholic and an unbaptized person (Can. 1086.1), those in sacred orders [diaconate, priesthood, etc.] (Can. 1087), those bound by a public perpetual vow of chastity in a religious institute (Can. 1088), those who are held captive against their will for the purpose of marriage (Can. 1089), in a direct line of consanguinity (Can. 1091), those who do not give free consent of the will to the marriage [i.e. no shot-gun weddings] (Can. 1095), and ignorance of the purpose of marriage as a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation (Can. 1096), etc., etc.
When school officials suggested that if Girsch sought an annulment he might be allowed to continue to teach, he said he told them he'd have to check with his former wife, current wife and his family. He asked for some time, but by the end of the day, school officials notified him that he had 48 hours to resign or be terminated. The difference between the expectations for Catholic teachers and teachers of other faiths centers around the Roman Catholic Church's beliefs concerning the sacraments and supporting the precepts of the church, according to Jeff Henderson, Dubuque Archdiocese superintendent of schools.
"In the Catholic Church, teachers are referred to as witnesses and examples of faith," Henderson said. "By contract, a teacher also agrees to conduct himself as a moral person, ... to be a community leader and faithful citizen of the church and state, and act accordingly at all times."
Do we have any denial of this by Mr. Girsch?--surely someone who has been teaching in a Catholic school for so long must have been aware of this contractual obligation?
Again, from the Code of Canon Law: "The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life." (Can. 803.2, my emphasis in bold) [by the way, while you should not read certain canons of the Code out of the context of the entire Code, the canons of the Code that deal with Catholic education in schools consist of only 3 pages--they can be read in one sitting, they are available in book form and on the Vatican website ]
"So relieved people stood up for us"
News of the school board's ultimatum spread quickly.
"It was like a tidal wave of e-mail in the Catholic community," said Kathy McCoy, a friend of the Girsch family. "Tom got thousands of supportive e-mail messages from students, current and past, from all over the world."
Cedar Valley officials were also hearing from people, according to George Scully, a Waterloo Catholic. Scully said he believes that uproar led the school and archdiocese to negotiate a revised contract with Tom Girsch.
Their support, while touching, was sadly not informed by the facts about what the Catholic teaching is regarding marriage and what the Catholic school's expectations of its Catholic teachers were.
The agreement, signed Sept. 7, 2006, specified that Tom would immediately seek an annulment through the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. If the annulment wasn't granted, he would submit his resignation, which the school board could accept or reject. He also agreed to work with the school board to "heal the wounds that may have been created by the situation."
Although many Catholics receive annulments, Girsch's request was denied. The annulment proceedings are secret.
Interesting how the reporter describes the annulment proceedings as "secret" rather than "confidential." Would you describe the medical records that your health providers keep or your employee files as "secret" or as confidential? The proceedings and documentation of an marriage case are extremely detailed and personal. Would Mr. Girsch or his first wife want those details opened to investigation and publication by the DesMoines Register? Do we need to have every case decided by a marriage tribunal reviewed and confirmed by a newspaper reporter? "Secret" is a useful word because it invokes the culture of corruption that the Church is constantly flogged with due to the clergy sexual abuse scandal (don't get me wrong, there were true acts of administrative corruption in some cases--but does that mean that everything the Church does is sinister? This is where anti-Catholics can have a field day. Give me a break).
Girsch submitted his resignation to the Cedar Valley school board July 12. He told the board that his resignation was extremely painful, but that he was meeting all the stipulations in the revised contract. Six of Girsch's supporters and his attorney asked the board to reject his resignation.Brendan Quann, attorney for the archdiocese, told board members that it was an unfortunate situation, but that they had to vote not out of sympathy but in favor of the laws of the church, according to the meeting minutes.
"This situation is not about Tom and his performance, but about the precepts of the church and Tom knowing these when he signed the contract," [my emphasis in bold here] said Quann, who went on to warn the board that not accepting the resignation would set a precedent for future special requests.
Right on Mr. Quann. He is right! Does anyone not see the problem here? As a Catholic school one of the school's mission is to pass on the Gospel and the teachings of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. One of those teachings would be regarding the nature of the sacrament of marriage (that it is permanent, ordered to the creation and education of children, and exclusive between 1 man and 1 woman). Now, it is a pretty important task for the Catholic school to educate the students in the meaning of the sacrament of marriage seeing as how the vast majority of its graduates will end up entering into marriage (you hope a valid sacramental marriage--but this is becoming less common). What happens when a student in theology class learns what a true Catholic marriage is and then cynically scoffs at his teacher and says, 'no one believes this, even my social studies teacher Mr. Girsch does not live by that, he is divorced and remarried and he is teaching here!'??? That is an example of hypocrisy (teaching one thing and doing another) and scandal. If Mr. Girsch is as noble as he claims to be, he should recognize this fact and just resign with dignity (instead of adding scandal to scandal).
When the board returned from executive session, the Rev. Lou Jaeger, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, made a motion to regretfully accept the resignation. In a show of hands, Girsch's resignation was rejected, 8-6. The room erupted in applause."
I thought it was over," said Tom Girsch. "I was so relieved that people stood up for us and that everybody was honorable."
Sorry, but I do not see this as an example of honor. Loyalty, certainly, but where is the honor in betraying the mission of a Catholic school, knowingly violating the terms of your contract, and then attacking the Church because they uphold the principles upon which a Catholic school is founded.
His sense of relief evaporated soon after, when Dubuque Archbishop Jerome Hanus sent a letter to the school board insisting that the board follow church law and archdiocesan policy.
Bravo Archbishop Hanus! This is the tough job that bishops are called to do--defend the Faith when it is under attack.
A special board meeting was called for Aug. 6 to reconsider the vote. On Aug. 2, Girsch sued the school and archdiocese, asking the court to bar the second vote and force the board to issue him a contract.
On Aug. 6, Black Hawk County District Judge George Stigler refused to act, stating he didn't want to get involved with church business.
Good decision Judge, it is called the 1st amendment--we don't need the government coercing the Church to act against its conscience.
That evening, the board reversed itself, voting unanimously to accept Girsch's resignation.
Most people in the room interpreted the archbishop's letter as a threat to remove church funding from Cedar Valley schools. They could not survive as a private school, people agreed.
How sad. Do they want to be a "private school" or a "Catholic school"--because that is what they were founded as? "Dumb old bishop ruining our wonderful private school with his fuddy duddy Catholic beliefs."
Girsch left the meeting without a job, and without benefits.
"It's difficult not to be bitter"
"Tom was the face of Columbus High School in this community, and after 32 years, they threw him away without a pension or retirement," said McCoy. "That's great thanks for all the students he's helped. It's difficult not to be bitter."
What is the pension that Catholic teachers ordinarily receive?
When it comes to church matters, the archbishop holds the cards, according to Waterloo attorney Tim Luce, a former Cedar Valley board president. "The archbishop is the president of every corporation in the church. It's a tough deal. This would have been easier if Tom hadn't been such a good teacher," said Luce.
Mr. Luce must have read his Code of Canon Law:
"The Catholic religious instruction and education which are imparted in any school whatsoever or are provided through the various instruments of social communication are subject to the authority of the Church. It is for the conference of bishops to issue general norms about this field of action and for the diocesan bishop to regulate and watch over it." (Can. 804.1 my emphasis in bold)
"The local ordinary [=in this case, the presiding Diocesan bishop] is to be concerned that those who are designated teachers of religious instruction in schools, even in non-Catholic ones, are outstanding in correct doctrine, the witness of a Christian life, and teaching skill." (Can. 804.2 my emphasis in bold)
"For his own diocese, the local ordinary has the right to appoint or approve teachers of religion and even to remove them or demand that they be removed if a reason of religion or morals requires it." (Can. 805, my emphasis in bold)
Thank goodness that the archbishop "holds the cards" because, in this case, HE IS RIGHT and the emotionally-invested school board and personal friends of Mr. Girsch, Mr. Girsch himself, and his lawyer ARE ALL WRONG.
Tom and Molly Girsch have stopped attending St. Edward Catholic Church - where Tom attended as a child and where his children were reared - after their parish priest, the Rev. Jerry Kopacek, spoke about Tom's case from the pulpit.
"Tom was used as an example by name, and I thought it was in poor taste," said Patricia Connell of Waterloo, who attended the Saturday evening service."
Father Kopacek spoke about Tom's divorce and remarriage, that he didn't get an annulment. He said the local school board was given the job of accepting Tom's resignation, and when it did not, the archdiocese had to remind them to follow Catholic doctrine. He used it as a springboard to review church rules on marriage and annulment."
Kopacek denies "giving any details about the nature of the case."
"I would never do that," Kopacek said. "It would be totally inappropriate. I spoke on the general process, what annulment is about. There are a lot of misconceptions."
Fr. Kopacek is right about there being a lot of ignorance and misconceptions about the nature of the annulment process (and, I would add, of the nature of the sacrament of matrimony itself). You can certainly observe that by reading this article and the interview comments. However, one could certainly question his prudence in bringing up the issue, mentioning names, etc. at a time when passions were aflame. (And, having not heard his homily, it is hard to know what he really said.) He was probably trying to address head on an issue that man of his parishoners were obviously preoccupied with. He also probably wanted to defend the teaching of the church and the position that the Archbishop has to take in such a situation. Still, there is a time and manner in which to take on the subject. But again, I was not there so I cannot judge.
Girsch's breach-of-contract lawsuit is pending.
"Fighting the church is difficult for us," he said. "They never want to talk about the legal part of this, they want to push the church part. They wrote a contract stating if I fulfilled it I could teach. I fulfilled it. I won the vote, and it should have been over."
Religion Editor Shirley Ragsdale can be reached at (515) 284-8208 or
Yeah, leave it to the Catholic Church to worry about "the church part" when considering who they allow to teach in their schools (in this case, "the church part" refers to the universal Code of Canon Law, the evanglizing and catechizing mission of a Catholic High School, the integrity of the Catholic teaching that is being passed down, the authority of a bishop, etc.). I also have not seen the contract, but I would need to see it with my own eyes to believe it. Did his contract actually say that if Mr. Girsch simply filed his case for an annulment with the marriage tribunal REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME than his contract would be automatically extended? I just cannot believe that the school would draw up a contract that is so obviously counterintuitive and in violation of Canon Law on a number of counts. If they did--then shame on them--but I would have to see that to believe it.
A Catholic school should be Catholic first... a Catholic school does exist to be simply a "private" school with a good football program. A Catholic school's mission is to educate students
not merely in math, history, and science,... but to hand down the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church. If you want something else, sign your kid up at a "private school."
By the way, I do not mean any of this to be a personal attack on Mr. Girsch. His very public actions, and his legislative action against the Church, has brought up some interesting issues such as the popular understanding of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony among some of the laity and, more importantly, the issues of the mission of a Catholic school, teaching with integrity, and the authority of the bishop. Very few people attempt to present the position of the Church which is why I have attempted to do so here.
By the way, immediately after finishing this LONG post, I went over to "In the Light of the Law", a blog run by Canon Law expert Ed Peters. Peters, unlike myself, actually knows what he is talking about regarding the issue of canon law. Check out his post, with the headline: "NEWS FLASH: Catholic Church expects faithful to follow her rules!":

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Video of Youth For Truth Rally against Planned Parenthood in Aurora, IL

Blogger Fighting Irish Thomas has a wonderful video of the the "Youth for Truth" rally that took place in Aurora, IL. to combat the opening of the new Planned Parenthood "abortion fortress."

Check out the video and related news links on his site:


Read this post from a Yahoo discussion board:
The new Planned Parenthood building in Aurora, IL has been dubbed the "Abortion Fortress" [Photo above by EJS]
Take a look:

Get involved:

Join the 40-Day Prayer Vigil For the 40 days before Planned Parenthood's scheduled opening on September 18, Families Against Planned Parenthood are holding a Prayer Vigil at the site (map). Rain or shine, day or night, hot or cold, we will be there praying that Planned Parenthood never opens. Please joins us, and sign up for an hour of prayer.

Participate in a Special Event FRIDAY, September 7, 2007: Candelight Vigil—9:15-10 p.m. The Most Reverend Peter Sartain, Bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, has called for a day of prayer and fasting to for the intention of keeping Planned Parenthood out of our community, September 7. Many parishes will be holding prayer services that evening. All the faithful are invited to gather at the Vigil site from 9:15-10:00 p.m. for a Candelight Vigil to close the day of prayer and fasting.

Remember, those of you who do not live anywhere near the Chicagoland area, you can still observe 9/7 as a day of prayer and fasting for this situation in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayer knows no boundaries.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Out of the Blue: same-sex unions in Iowa

Here is some coverage of the recent events:

From the Chicago Trib:
Iowa judge OKs gay marriages
Ruling, limited to 1 county, soon delayed

KCCI Chanel 8 - Des Moines:

Des Moines Register:

Discussion on Catholic Answers Forum:


The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject of marriage:
[text in bold is my empshasis]

337. What is the plan of God regarding man and woman?
see CCC 1601-1605

God who is love and who created man and woman for love has called them to love. By creating man and woman he called them to an intimate communion of life and of love in marriage: “So that they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6). God said to them in blessing “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

338. For what ends has God instituted Matrimony?
see 1659-1660

The marital union of man and woman, which is founded and endowed with its own proper laws by the Creator, is by its very nature ordered to the communion and good of the couple and to the generation and education of children. According to the original divine plan this conjugal union is indissoluble, as Jesus Christ affirmed: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).

344. What is matrimonial consent?
See 1625-16321662-1663

Matrimonial consent is given when a man and a woman manifest the will to give themselves to each other irrevocably in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love. ...

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Chastity and Homosexuality:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

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