Friday, June 29, 2012

Judgement Day for the Affordable Care Act

So, the Supreme Court of the United States has spoken and their judgment is that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.  I know that many amongst my friends are now gnashing and grinding their teeth as they proclaim the sky is falling and the court has lost all credibility.  I've got one word for that view: "Uff-da!"
The bishops of the United States have been advocating for some sort of universal healthcare since 1919.  So, in a sense, I welcome movement in this direction.  That is not to ignore the fact that there are portions of this bill, now law, which are deeply flawed.  Bishop Callahan recognizes this in his latest blog entry.
But I would like to address first the idea that the sky is falling.  I looked outside.  It's still there!  The Lord hasn't come in glory yet either.  So, like many other issues in life, we learn how to live with this and continue the work of refining it so as to modify or be rid of those parts which are irredeemably odious (the HHS Mandate).
As for some people declaring the Chief Justice, John Roberts, a traitor, I can only say that we do him an injustice.  We don't know his thinking, which I'm sure will come out in the months to come.  But to doubt his patriotism or his faithfulness is downright cruel and lacking in justice and charity.  We were plenty happy with him when the Hosanna-Tabernacle case was decided as well as the Citizen's United decision.  In fact, when I heard that the Chief Justice was writing the decision I had a sneaking suspicion that the ACA would be upheld.  And yet, I didn't lose hope as a result.  This is because there is a precedent for chief justices siding with a majority with which they would not normally be expected to side precisely so that they could write the decision and thus formulate the grounds which will effect important precedents for battles yet to be fought.  In other words, except the results of this battle in order to win the war that many may not even be aware is looming or being fought.  George Will addresses this most aptly in his contribution for today.  If you are truly interested in some informed analysis of this decision you may want to visit the SCOTUSBlog.  There are a number of articles here which will be of great help in understanding the decision.
Does this mean that I personally and fundamentally agree with the Affordable Care Act?  No.  I'd like for employers, insurers, medical institutions, and individuals to all do the right thing.  The government should act as a safety net for those who are truly in need.  I also believe that government running just about anything is asking for inefficiency and corruption.  However, employers, insurers, medical institutions, and individuals don't always act with justice or prudence.  Therefore, the government HAS stepped in to force the issue.  Pray God the various branches of government can now turn their collective attention to improving the obvious, and not so obvious flaws present in the law as the rule-makers at HHS continue implementing it.
God bless America!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What to wear for a funeral???

An entry by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf over at WDTPRS concerning Bishop Morlino (Madison) and the color to be used for funerals has occasioned a memory and a response.
I was a student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, MI when (then) Fr. Morlino was a much loved part time professor (he was also the rector of his home diocese's cathedral - what a guy!).  I recall clearly his talking about how his brother priests looked askance at his use of a purple stole for the annual Mass offered for the repose of the souls of the clergy who had died during the previous year.  His response to the dismay was: "Given what I believe about judgement, purgatory, heaven, & hell you're lucky I'm not wearing black!"  Such was the truthful humor of this faithful and pointedly jovial priest.  No wonder he was made a bishop!
I made a clear choice, in my own priestly ministry, to wear purple for funerals.  Because this is a choice made well within the boundaries of what is allowed by Holy Mother Church (One of my rules of thumb: "What is allowed by holy Mother is not to be disallowed") this is not a blog entry seeking to justify my own decision, nor am I seeking to start a debate.  I am simply adding my own humble insight, or at least, line of thinking to the conversation.
Colors mean something in the Church.  I teach my children that purple (violet) is a color for Preparation and for Penance.  In the English language this works out very well pedagogically because it's the rule of "P's"- Purple = Preparation & Penance.  I explain to the children that the funeral liturgy is also about these "P's".  This becomes most evident when one takes the time to study the orations for the "Funeral Mass outside of Easter".
People are most familiar with purple vestments in the context of the preparatory seasons of Advent and Lent.  In these seasons we prepare for, and make a journey (a Pilgrimage!) towards the great seasons of Christmas and Easter wherein we celebrate the great mysteries of our redemption.  Thus, while purple is not a color of exultation/rejoicing, neither is it a color of despair/horror/misery.  It's somewhere in the middle, not in a "I can't make up my mind" way, but rather in a way that recognizes that I have a "well-founded hope in the resurrection" but my loved one maybe isn't there quite yet and so I need to pray for him and for the forgiveness of his sins.
Thus, we come to penance.  Advent and Lent, especially Lent, are well remembered as a particular time of penance for sins.  We do penance for our sins to demonstrate our awareness that we have fallen short of God's grace and as an effort to do what little we can to make things aright; which, in cooperation with God's grace, is actually quite a lot!
In the context of the funeral liturgy we recognize that we are indeed gathered to assist our dear departed on their journey to heaven.  Through the sacred rites we offer prayers and sacrifice for our departed loved ones for the forgiveness of sins.  One sees very quickly that for the period outside of Easter the prayers direct us very pointedly to ask God for the forgiveness of the sins and vestiges of sin (near-occasions of sin, desire to sin, etc.) left on the soul of the one's we love.
In the seasons of Advent and Lent we are called upon to undertake a holy pilgrimage, a pilgrimage being a sacred journey to a holy place as a physical demonstration of our journey to salvation - the kingdom of heaven.  Is not death the last stage, the last mile if you will, of our journey to heaven.  And in taking that journey, this definitive pilgrimage, do we not take our final steps into everlasting beatitude?
All this being said, there is one time when I will wear white for a funeral - the Easter Season.  As I said above, color speaks.  When one examines the orations for a funeral Mass during the Easter Season there is a firm change in focus away from the forgiveness of sins and towards the resurrection.  I will also wear white during the octave of Christmas, although, I'm not married to that one yet.  It just seems, on a visceral level, to be appropriate.  However, I'm open to arguments either way on that one.
So, these are my thoughts on funeral colors.  Am I against black?  No.  I just don't see it speaking to our contemporary culture in a way that is going to effectively evangelize.  But, again, I'm open to it.  If I ever begin offering the sacred rites in the extraordinary form I'll most definitely find myself in black, and I'm still contemplating it for next All Soul's Day.  We shall see.
Your comments are invited.  Please be charitable.

Fortnight for Freedom - 4

Went to a presentation at UW-La Crosse last night given by Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  An excellent presentation on the dangers to our religious liberty beyond the current spot-light on the HHS mandate.  The evening was marred only by the insistent rantings of a couple of our local atheist-freethinkers.  Thankfully, our diocesan director of ministries, who was emceeing the evening, handled the issue firmly.  Thanks to the Office of Ministries, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, and the Roncalli-Newman Catholic Parish at UW-La Crosse for sponsoring this event.
My only regret is that we didn't fill the hall, which holds about 800 people.  There were probably a little over 500 folks in attendance.  It seems that our Catholic population, and others of good will, are still not aware of how important this issue is.  Thankfully, our bishops are united and will continue to push the issue in the foreseeable future.
There are a couple of links that might be of use to those who are already interested in this issue.  The first is the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington law firm which handles religious liberty cases exclusively.  I notice a number of articles on this website regarding religious freedom and, of course, the HHS mandate (they're representing a number of the suits against the administration in this matter).  The other is a blog from the Ruth Institute, which is dedicated to the defense of marriage.  They have been publishing a series of well-written articles on religious liberty.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom - 3

Some excellent articles on the "Fortnight for Freedom".  First, from the Witherspoon Institute by Messirs Franck & Simon traces the arc from Sts. Thomas More and John Fischer to the founding of the United States.  As some of you know, I consider George Weigel to be always worth reading and so here's something from Crisis Magazine Online.  So, read, enjoy, and PRAY!