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Lapsed Catholics

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A few weeks ago, I was at a dinner and one of the people present told me that she had stopped going to Mass. My heart sank. Lord knows, there are often good reasons for people to be frustrated with the Church, but, still, the thought of not going to Mass on Sunday is so incomprehensible to me that whenever I hear of someone leaving, I can’t get my mind around it and my emotional response comes to fore. It makes me very sad.

Sadness may be an appropriate feeling, but it is not a moral, still less an ecclesial, response to this phenomenon. Next week, on March 22 from 3-6 p.m. Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies (where I am currently a visiting fellow) will be sponsoring a symposium on “Lapsed Catholics” to examine this sad phenomenon. The event is co-sponsored by Villanova University’s Center for the Study of Church Management.

RCIA Shout Out

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Last night, I gave the talk on the Triduum for the RCIA at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington. I confess, whenever I talk about the Triduum, about putting ourselves into the event that is the Paschal Mystery, I get choked up at times. And, I also get choked up seeing all these people who want to join the Church: They put in lots of hours thinking about this, learning the catechism, and they are so enthusiastic. I know the neo-phytes think that it is us old folks in the Church who are giving them something by teaching them about the faith, but it is really they who give us old-timers a much more valuable gift: Their faith, in all its freshness, reminds us all that when we hear the Easter Gospel, and the words, "Why do you seek the living amonst the dead? He is not here," we must hear those words as words freshly spoken. So, thank you RCIA neo-phytes and sponsors. It was a joy to share a few hours with you and I look forward to witnessing your baptism at the Great Vigil.

Father Guarnizo Takes On Cardinal Wuerl

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This morning's Washington Post contains quotes from Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who made headlines for denying communion to a woman at her mother's funeral because she was a lesbian. Late last week, he was stripped of his faculties by Cardinal Wuerl because of what the archdiocese termed "credible allegations" of "intimidating behavior" towards parishioners since the event.

Guarnizo not only challenges the woman's accounts of the underlying event. He challenges the archdiocese, arguing that no subsequent activity of his warranted his being stripped of his faculties and that this is all really about his initial decision not to give communion to Barbara Johnson. So, he is calling everyone, except of course himself, a liar. Nice.

The USCCB's Statement on Religious LIberty

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The Administrative Committee of the USCCB, at the close of a two day meeting yesterday, issued a statement on the much-debated subject of HHS mandates and how those mandates are applied to religiously affiliated institutions.

The good news is that there was no extended metaphor about a ham sandwich. I do not say in this jest, although you are permitted to chuckle. The most relevant point of comparison for the statement issued yesterday is with the congressional testimony of Bishop Lori on this subject in the past few weeks. Certainly, the statement issued yesterday is an improvement, although it still has too much political and legal analysis and too little theology for my taste. And, its promise of continued negotiation with the White House, the lack of harsh “war on Catholicism” rhetoric, is all to the good.

MSW at CAP

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This past Monday, I was delighted to be at the Center for American Progress, which hosted an event about my new biography of Jerry Falwell. Here is a link to the video. The event featured E.J. Dionne asking me questions about the book and E.J. is always the best person to have a conversation with, though it was odd having two hundred people listening. That never used to happen at Kramer's!

I should add that the event was co-sponsored by People For the American Way. They kindly opened their archives to me when I was doing my reaearch saving me and the enviroment lots of gas and fumes driving to Lynchburg.

Calling All Western Pennsylvanians!

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Tomorrow night, I will be delivering the twentieth annual lecture at the Institute for Ethics at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. The event is free and open to the public and will begin at 7 p.m. in the John F. Kennedy Student Center Auditorium. I have never been to that campus, and I have never before been asked to give an endowed annual lecture, so I am greatly looking forward to it. The title: "Time for Caesar To Render: How Catholic Social Teaching Can Cure What Afflicts American Politics." Hope to see you there.

Abp Williams To Speak at Synod of Bishops

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This is extraordinary. Pope Benedict XVI has invited Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Anglican Primate of England, to address the Synod of Bishops next autumn on the New Evangelization.

Mind you, the Holy See does not recognize the validity of Anglican orders, including, therefore, the ordination of Williams as a priest or a bishop. Yet, he is being welcomed to speak at the Synod. Sometimes, when divisions from the past seem insurmountable, the way forward is to look forward together, in the same direction. The Holy Father is telling the whole Church something very, very important here. I hope the members of the USCCB Admin Cm te meeting today in Washington think of this example as they try and figure out a way forward regarding the Church's role in our culture. Instead of issuing anathemas or citing past problems, they need to be willing to look forward, together with those who do not share all their opinions already, and see if they can't find a way to get to the same spot on the horizon.

GOP Results: Game On!

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Last night, Mitt Romney was looking for one, or better yet, two victories in the southern states of Alabama and Mississippi so that he could finally declare “Game Over!” Instead, Romney not only lost to Rick Santorum in both states, he also lost to Newt Gingrich, coming in a close third in both states. In Alabama, as of this morning, with 98.4% of precincts reporting, Romney is only trailing Gingrich by about 1,300 votes, so he might yet come in second there. But, no matter the final tally, instead of “Game Over,” the GOP nominating contest is now “Game On.”

You Say Tomato....

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Thomas Peters, over at CatholicVote.org, has taken me and others to task for writing that Father Marcel Guarnizo was suspended from ministry. He points out, citing his father who is a canon lawyer, that suspension is a canonical term, requiring a canonical process. True enough, but the verb "to suspend" is also a word in common English usage and the English language is richer than canonical nomenclature.

In the event, it is a distinction without a difference. Fr. Guarnizo had his faculties stripped and he was put on administrative leave. For most of us, that sounds a lot like a suspension. More to the point, it is not clear why the Archdiocese would initiate a canonical process when Father Guarnizo is not a priest of this archdiocese. Cardinal Wuerl can simply do what he has done - strip his faculties and cut him lose. If Father Guarnizo wants to return to his home diocese, he may do so, and it will be up to his ordinary there, not in Washington, to offer a letter of credentials as to whether or not he is a priest in good standing, to confer faculties with that diocese, etc.

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