Joe Bidens Forehead Makes An Appearance

[Update below]

It’s Ash Wednesday and comic relief has arrived with our illustrious Vice-President Joe Biden!

Biretta tip to Thomas Peters of the American Papist.

Update I: Curiously funny video clip of U.K. Sky News host and self-identified Catholic Kay Burley mistakenly thinks the ashes on Biden’s is a bruise.

0:29 minute mark of the video clip – Kay Burley makes above remark.

…you can skip the intermittent video of VP Biden bloviating about the successful stimulus package until the…

3:06 minute mark of the video clip – Kay Burley’s mea culpa.

YouTube Preview Image

54 Responses to Joe Bidens Forehead Makes An Appearance

  • Did Obama think Biden’s smudge/cross was a fly and try to swat it?

  • Ashes from the burned babies.

  • I had ashes once on my head when I was in court and a judge thought that I didn’t realize my forehead was dirty. He apologized profusely when I told him it was Ash Wednesday and I had just come from Mass.

  • Kristan,

    LOL.

    Don,

    When I first moved to the South to Charlotte, NC, my coworkers were laughing themselves silly all morning when I arrived with ashes on my forehead.

    In the afternoon one of them finally came up to my office, giggling and smirking, and apologetically tried to tell me I had dirt on my forehead.

    I laughed, but that was my first encounter in the U.S. where Catholics weren’t as prominent I suppose in everyday life for my coworkers to have a laugh or too.

    I laughed to. It gave me an opportunity to evangelize and explain the meaning behind the ashes.

  • Yes, but what lies behind that forehead? That is what mystifies me.

  • Back in law school, way before I was Catholic and was still a Southern Baptist, I was (and still am) close friends with another evangelical named “X”. Up to that point in out lives, neither of us had had much exposure to Catholic culture (apart from our 2 Catholic law school roommates and my rarely seen Catholic relatives on my paternal grandmother’s side), having both been raised in thoroughly Protestant enclaves of the Bible-Belt South. However, I was ahead of “X” in my knowledge of things Catholic because of my father’s relatives. So I wasn’t completely in the dark about certain things.

    “X”, on the other hand, was absolutely clueless. His naivete was on full display during our first year of law school when the season of Lent caught him completely unaware. On Ash Wednesday, I was sitting with our Catholic roommates in the student lounge reading the school newspaper when “X” came rushing up to us and told us there was something wrong with that day’s paper. According to “X”, everyone had “newsprint smudged all over their faces”.

  • I have a friend from Lutheran-dominated northern Germany, who had never seen ashes before he moved to the US. He thought aliens had landed.

    I work for a multi-national company, with many Indian and Chinese employees. Ash Wednesday always gives me an opportunity to explain Christianity to them. Nothing like dirt on your forehead to ignite conversation.

  • It’s a shame Joe went to Mass where the priest has no testosterone. Of course, under Abp. Donald Wuerl, any priest who told Joe the truth (“You are a promoter of mass murder, and therefore not a practicing Catholic, and not a sincere penitent.”) would be in heap big trouble. According to Abp. Wuerl, promoting mass murder is NOT a sin. Abp. Wuerl has taught this repeatedly, each time he has declared that pro-aborts like Joe may receive Communion in the Archdiocese of Washington.

  • Sir, if you wish to be a faithful priest, you will not encourage the faithful to think ill of their bishop. That is not the way of Christ.

  • I’m not aware of any law or custom restricting who may receive sacramentals.

  • M.Z.,

    I believe Father Fitzpatrick was making a general statement in regards to Holy Communion.

    But to the point of recieving ashes on the forehead, I’m in agreement with you, I don’t believe there are no restrictions to receiving the ashes.

    Question:

    Can non-Catholics receive the ashes?

  • I’m not a Catholic – but I play one on TV

  • Can non-Catholics receive the ashes?

    Yes. I think our Ash Wednesday mass even made a point of saying anyone is welcome to receive ashes.

  • That’s pretty cool.

    It’s interesting to note that many Protestant denominations are picking up this practice. As well as picking up the practice of fasting and abstinence of Lent and Advent.

  • When I was in Florida a friend of mine who was a Methodist minister would go to get ashed.

  • Yeah, Tito, it is pretty cool, isn’t it? I have a friend who was raised and is Presbyterian, and standing at the threshold of becoming he-cares-not-what as long as it’s not Protestant. One thing he said to me once is that Protestants are mostly either becoming entirely non-Christian or else “discovering” all sorts of things like bringing communion from church to the homebound, and advent wreathes, etc.

    It’s a real sign of spiritual stirring, and I believe we should eagerly encourage it and judiciously guide it as we’re able.

  • Ryan Haber:

    What you say is true in the case of a bishop who is not scandalizing and dividing the faithfrul. As it is, I don’t agree.

    When a bishop’s public actions are scandalous, the scandal must be resisted and repaired as much as possible. Archbishop Burke has published a full exposition, explaining precisely WHY and HOW Archbishop Wuerl (who is named by Burke) and other bishops are scandalizing the faithful by their refusal to obey Canon 915. Note that I said “obey,” not “enforce.” While Canon 915 has to do with the Eucharist, Joe Biden, as a person who is notoriously ineligible to receive the Eucharist, is also perpetrating a public scandal by flaunting ashes and in general posing as a practicing Catholic. All bishops and priests who are in a position to stop him, or at least to correct him, and thus lessen the deception and scandal, but choose not to do so, are accomplices in scandalizing the Church and society.
    Read:
    http://tinyurl.com/canon915
    http://tinyurl.com/pont915

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick:

    Sir, are you then made judge over bishops? If you are judge over bishops, why shouldn’t your parishioners set themselves up as judge over you. Archbishop Burke is a peer of Archbishop Wuerl’s, and to some extent, in a position of authority over him as Prefect of the Signatura and as a member of the Congregation for Bishops.

    I will leave it to the Archbishop’s peers and superiors to correct him. It is impossible for a subordinate to publicly berate his superiors without undermining the very structure of authority that connects them. We do not instill confidence and love for bishops in general by undermining them in particular. It would be better to observe the error made in simple, objective terms and leave it at that. If animosity prevents us from praying for a person – really praying for him, it is perhaps best not to speak of him either.

    I understand entirely. There are public figures whose existence makes me sputter. That’s my problem. I try to refrain critizing them while I still have a hard time praying for their authentic needs in a sympathetic way, as I would for a sick friend.

    The correction of superiors has been undertaken by some saints, it is true… but there are more Martin Luthers and Girolamo Savonarolas who gave it a whack than there are St Catherine of Sienas. St Francis of Assisi’s example is instructive on the point. I hesitated to say these things to you, Father, because I feel the same trepidation about seeming to criticize a priest that I hope a priest would have with regard to critizing a bishop. If there were a way of approaching you privately, sir, please believe me that I would have done so.

    Very sincerely yours,

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • I would like to point out that this so-called “Fr Vincent Fitzpatrick” is unlikely a priest and unlikely someone with that name. The famous priest with that name is dead, and I think he is putting that name to shame. I would like to ask where he is a priest of and who his Bishop is.

  • I haven’t said a word of judgment about any bishop. I have described actions.

    The scandal I am discussing is eating the heart out of the Church in America. The failure of all but a handful of bishops to carry out their STRICT duty in regard to the scandal of pro-abortion politicians, and those politicians’ sacrilegious Communions, is an open sore, a cancer, a case of leprosy. It is not a secret. It is not a matter of confidentiality. It is all taking place in public, and poisoning the Church.
    Read:
    http://tinyurl.com/canon915
    http://tinyurl.com/pont915

  • “Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick” are you a priest or not? Who is your bishop? Do you know there are canons against pretending to be a priest, if you are not one?

  • “Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick”:

    Certainly many bishops have given scandal over the years, starting with Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter, and many continue to do so. Even to say, “Bishop X did Y and that is scandalous,” is a serious matter because of his office, and you, sir, said a good deal more than that.

    Henry Karlson’s question stands. Are you truly a priest? What is your real name, so that you may be public and honorable rather than anonymous and a snake, and who is your ordinary? Of what diocese or congregation are you a member?

    Please state yourself openly or be quiet, sir.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • I honestly can’t see how seeing the Biden sporting ashes scandalizes anyone. Although it would be of benefit to the faithful if the bishops would use their shepherding powers more forcefully at times when addressing Catholic leaders who actively support abortion, euthenasia, torture, etc., ashes are a sign of repentence and thus an acknowledgement that we are sinners. Further, any practicing Catholic knows that lots of people show up to get ashes on Ash Wednesday who won’t show up again until Easter, if then. How they’d be scandalized by the fact that a politician who does not follow Church teaching is seen with ashes escapes me.

  • Yes, Fr. Vincent -

    Just be quiet and humbly submit to all authority, no matter how outrageous, sacrilegious, or obscene. Don’t raise questions and don’t encourage fellow Catholics to do likewise. Just be quiet.

    That’s exactly how Jesus handled the Pharisees, exactly how the saints handled corrupted bishops and popes in the Middle Ages, etc.

    Unless the Bishops, say, start advocating policies that reflect the agenda of Republican instead of Democratic research staff. Then by all means rebel, please, and be quick about it.

  • but there are more Martin Luthers and Girolamo Savonarolas

    Oy!

    A man gets burned at the stake for heresy once — once!! — and for that you see fit to yoke him with Martin Luther?

  • Joe once again shows he has no respect for the Church and its ecclesiology. Which is not surprising, since he came from an agitated past and continues to promote agitation as his response. There is nothing wrong with Biden getting ashes (if he were Eastern, I would ask what he was doing at an Ash Weds service– but that’s something else). The fact that people get upset that he went to church — priceless.

  • No, there’s just a difference between what I call respect, and what you do.

    In my view, a criticism that doesn’t contain vulgar language, that doesn’t question personal motives or judges a person’s soul, that addresses a legitimate concern, is a respectful criticism.

    I might also add, doesn’t raise the irrelevant issue of a person’s past instead of simply addressing the merits of a point or argument.

    And if we don’t have the right to make a respectful criticism, then what are we? Are we men?

    I don’t know what you would consider such. I hope “respect” means more than “keep your mouth shut and do what you are told.”

  • Joe once again shows he has no respect for the Church and its ecclesiology. Which is not surprising, since he came from an agitated past and continues to promote agitation as his response.

    For a few moments I thought you were talking about the Catholic Anarchist.
    ;)

    I think only one person got upset, and that’s stretching that father is commenting about the ashes, but more about reception of Holy Communion.

    I made this post in friendly jest to my favorite VP, not because he did anything wrong.

  • “Just be quiet and humbly submit to all authority, no matter how outrageous, sacrilegious, or obscene. Don’t raise questions and don’t encourage fellow Catholics to do likewise. Just be quiet.”

    Seems you presume much there, and misrepresenting Catholic understanding of authority and respect. And misrepresenting what others are saying in respect to how to deal with issues of concern.

    As for addressing a person’s past, it is important if the habit of the past remains and the person has yet to deal with that habit.

    Respectful criticism is good; your rant wasn’t respectful, nor was this “Fr Vincent’s”.

  • Tito

    Do you know he is a priest? If it is the same person who has posted on Vox Nova, the info behind the nick appears — well, contrary to the that. The way he speaks isn’t like a normal priest, and he appears to have fundamental problems with basic principles of Catholic ecclesiology. I somehow doubt he is a priest, and going with the name as if he were is a violation.

  • Actually, Tom, I rather appreciate Savonarola, at least as an historical figure, if not as a role model. Lol.

    And Joe Hargrave, none of that is what I said. Your parody of me makes me think that you have not got an honest, rational response.

    The importation of American political agenda into this particular conversation is entirely your own doing. I couldn’t care less about the Democrats or Republicans. We do the Church a great disservice by importing particular political paradigms and agendas into her way of thinking and living. We are supposed to be exporting our values into the world. Of course there is a legitimate time and place to express concerns about the life of the Church; the American way of vocal, organized dissent is very appropriate to the American democracy, but very inappropriate to the Catholic Church.

    Vitriol and mockery is never constructive, and is positively unchristian.

    For the record, my challenge to “Fr. Vincent” was to identify himself. I was echoing Henry Karlson, who like me, you, Tito Edwards, and numerous others, posts only under our true identities. Doing so is a sign of integrity. Taking a pseudonym for public debate, particularly in a place where speaking your mind isn’t a shooting crime, is not a mark of integrity.

    As for me, I will obey Christ. He, as God-in-flesh, took great liberties with the Pharisees and had authority to do so. He never pretended that we should do likewise. Rather he commanded us:

    Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. (Matthew 23:1-3)

    And Joe, if you read the accounts of Brigid of Sweden or Catherine of Siena, I think you will find their words both more compelling and more respectful in addressing directly, not snarking on a blog, the men God had placed in authority over them. We have given up faith that God can work conversion through us if we turn from our prayers to ridiculing and backbiting on a blog that the intended victims don’t even read in the first place.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • “misrepresenting Catholic understanding of authority and respect”

    I never presented as such, but your reading skills continue to impress me.

    “And misrepresenting what others are saying in respect to how to deal with issues of concern.”

    I was more fair than Ryan was to Fr. V, characterizing his criticism as a “berating” – it was no such thing. It also seems that “thinking ill” of one’s bishop is somehow a greater danger than the potential scandal caused, a notion which is about on the same level of a soldier placing the reputation of one of his officers ahead of a matter that could affect the entire company. In both cases, completely cowardly and unacceptable.

    “As for addressing a person’s past, it is important if the habit of the past remains and the person has yet to deal with that habit.”

    Ah. So you, you are going to lecture me on bad habits. I see.

    You see, Henry, there’s a difference between an argument, and its cause. The validity of an argument can be tested against the objective standards of logic which are independent of any personal, subjective motivation I might hold.

    Those personal, subjective motivations are matters best discussed with one’s priest, one’s family, one’s friends – and they have absolutely no bearing on the validity or invalidity of an argument.

    In a debate, they are what we call an ad hominem – attacking the man, to distract or deflect from the main point. It is a tactic of people I would describe as losers and scoundrels, or at best, people who just aren’t very bright.

    Since I think you’re probably better than that, I trust in the future you will recognize that I am not interested in personal advice from you, and pay basic respect to the elementary rules of a logical debate.

    Consider this a warning. Destroy me on the issues, take a chainsaw of logic to my arguments – but leave the personal insinuations out of it, or your posting privileges here will be taken under review. And if you want to consider that an act of censorship on my part, I can’t stop you. But I’m making a clear distinction here. I welcome any and all criticisms of a person’s actual argument, but I will not tolerate attacks on a person’s character, mine, or anyone else’s.

  • Henry K.,

    I understand and we’ll monitor him for now.

    To be on the safe side I’ll refer to him as a priest.

    Do Eastern Catholics have Ash Wednesday on their liturgical calendars?

  • Tito

    I think Maronites might do something on Ash Weds (I’ve heard something about it before, but I cannot confirm). But Byzantine tradition has Lent start earlier (Sunday evening, Forgiveness Vespers). There is no ashes, rather, there is a Vespers service, an anointing, and a ritual where the priest asks the congregation for forgiveness, and the congregation asks everyone else for forgiveness. Then on Monday, it is a strict day of fast (no meat, no dairy). But we don’t do Ashes. This week is called “Clean Week.” The tradition is to clean out one’s home and to have confession this week ( I plan to go tomorrow – due to all the snow and blizzard, and a few other issues, it’s been about 5 weeks; normally I go once a week).

  • Ryan,

    My response was a mockery of the completely disproportionate response you gave to Father V.

    About the only questionable thing he did was to question the “testosterone” levels of the priest in question. Everything else he said was, as far as I’m concerned, perfectly fine and worthy of more than a lecture more befitting a fifth-grader being admonished for picking his nose in class.

    You said “Vitriol and mockery” is not acceptable – neither is silence in the face of sacrilege. Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple and broke the laws of the Pharisees. If we are to be like Christ, that means knowing when to be mild, and when to be strong.

    “For the record, my challenge to “Fr. Vincent” was to identify himself.”

    That was based on your criticism of his comments, obviously. Your first challenge was whether or not he had any right to say anything about a bishop at all. You said,

    “It would be better to observe the error made in simple, objective terms and leave it at that.”

    Well, he did that and you continued to go off on him.

    “Taking a pseudonym for public debate, particularly in a place where speaking your mind isn’t a shooting crime, is not a mark of integrity.”

    That’s a separate matter, and if you want to pursue it with the man, fine. I’m not interested in that – only the arguments. And there was certainly more to the exchange between you two than this man’s (alleged) anonymity.

    “He, as God-in-flesh, took great liberties with the Pharisees and had authority to do so. He never pretended that we should do likewise.”

    Aren’t we supposed to follow Christ as an example? It obviously doesn’t mean defiance for its own sake, but in defense of the truth. And what Father V. was doing, and what most loyal Catholics who are concerned are doing, is far less than what Christ did to the money changers at the temple.

    This isn’t, moreover, 1000 A.D. during which the argument that the average peasant couldn’t possibly know enough to comment on a Church dispute or teaching had some actual foundation in the conditions of the time. Now, as Fr. V did, we can cite canon law on the internet.

    “We have given up faith that God can work conversion through us if we turn from our prayers to ridiculing and backbiting on a blog that the intended victims don’t even read in the first place.”

    I don’t think your “if” follows at all, first of all, because the “victims” are not the only ones intended – how about all of the genuine victims of their scandal? They need to hear the criticisms as well.

    Secondly it doesn’t follow because these things are not mutually exclusive, and who are you to know that the criticism might not be the chosen instrument of God for the conversion of the heart?

  • Joe,

    There is something between silence and vitriol. The fact that silence isn’t acceptable doesn’t mean that vitriol is acceptable. And I am not sure you are right that silence is an unacceptable option.

    We certainly need to know when to be mild and when to be strong. The two aren’t contrary, coincidentally. Jesus, never weak, called himself “gentle and lowly in heart,” (Mt 11:29-30). Furthermore, St. James writes, “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God,” (Ja 1:19-20).

    We are supposed to follow Christ as an example, but not without qualification. After all, we are called to be his disciples, and not Him. Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately? Lolol.

    Commenting on the life of the Church isn’t about education or not being peasants; I commended the examples of medieval saints who commented very vocally on the life of the Church precisely because you mentioned that medieval saints did so. I only added specific names and mentioned that they made their criticisms respectfully and in a manner otherwise appropriate.

    You’re right, Joe, kinda – my original concern with “Fr. Vincent” was how he did what he did. Voicing concern about the state of the Church or about our bishops or even a particular bishop – that’s all legitimate. The way he did it was disrespectful. His psuedonymity is a perfectly legitimate additional concern on the same matter of how he undertakes legitimate actions. If he wishes to object publicly to something another man, whose name is publicly known to the world, let him at least do so with his own proper name likewise publicly known.

    You wrote that you are only interested in the arguments; if by that you mean “Fr Vincent’s” original post, I believe you are stretching the definition of “argument.”

    As Henry Karlson wrote, given the shared name of an earlier, deceased priest, the radically different tone from pretty much anything any priest I’ve ever known has written, and his sudden silence when asked for credentials, I think “Fr Vincent” is itself a stretch.

    I’m sorry, Joe, but I do not think that you will convince me that the kind of comment “Fr Vincent” made constitute the productive or virtuous response of a Christian man to seeing a bishop derelict in his duty.

  • Ryan,

    Re. meekness and courage, mildness and strength:

    “We certainly need to know when to be mild and when to be strong. The two aren’t contrary, coincidentally.”

    And, as I hope you acknowledge, I did not say that they were in an absolute sense – both capacities should co-exist within the same person – but in a situational sense. Some situations call for us to be soft, and others, to be hard. In that moment the two are indeed contrary.

    “Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately?”

    Well, forgive me if I’m not as amused by your joke as you are :)

    Following Christ’s indignation at the defilement of the temple is, obviously, within our means as mortal men.

    “Commenting on the life of the Church isn’t about education or not being peasants”

    It is a little bit, though. Because I would have agreed with clergy of the Middle Ages that people who, because of the limitations of the time, could not read or write (even if they were naturally blessed with intelligence) probably had little to no place in a debate of this kind. Let’s say, it would have been much more cautious and guarded.

    Today we can’t say that. I love the middle ages as much as any historian of the era but the inevitable consequence of literacy is democracy. Now I DON’T think the Church should be a democracy like some on the left do, I totally reject that – but I DO believe that lay Catholics need to have a way to express their grievances and that some degree of accountability has to exist. If doctrinal and liturgical disputes don’t show that, then the sex-abuse scandal does.

    As for Fr. V,

    “he way he did it was disrespectful.”

    In what way, beyond his crack about “testosterone”?

    “You wrote that you are only interested in the arguments; if by that you mean “Fr Vincent’s” original post, I believe you are stretching the definition of “argument.””

    Actually, I mean more his second post, in which he built upon his initial point and included references. That looked like an argument to me.

    So, I’m talking about his second post. And yes, he would have done his cause more good had he began with that instead of sarcasm, as would I. If there is a bad habit here, it is on the part of those of us who would resort to sarcasm first. Whatever faults I see in your approach, at least that isn’t one of them.

  • At Mass last night, I had quite a few who came forward for ashes that, at communion, came up for a blessing instead the bread. Every oak began as a tiny seed.

    I understand that among at least some Hispanics, there is a belief that you will die within a year if you don’t receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. Has anyone else heard that?

  • Patrick,

    Never heard of it. I’ll ask my mother and my aunts about this though.

  • Hey Joe,

    I’m glad we’re both maintaining or regaining civility. I found myself irritated, and have been praying, and think that two men who love the Church as she is can come to some sort of understanding about how to address her features that need, well, let’s just say, more love.

    Meekness, courage, mildness, and strength aren’t contrary to each other. They can’t be, because they are both virtues, and as you note, reconcile in an absolute sense. That being true, they are always reconcilable in the particulars, since the particulars depend upon the absolute. It takes a great deal of sanctity to reconcile apparent opposites – which Christ did in everything he did: always strong, always gentle; always direct, always discreet; always active, always recollected. These things only seem to us to be at odds with each other because we do not understand them deeply enough, we do not know what is at their heart.

    We set aside one virtue for another at great peril to losing them all.

    “Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately?”
    Well, forgive me if I’m not as amused by your joke as you are :)

    Sure. But I think my point still stands. We follow Christ in one sense, in another sense, we are each called to blaze our own trail, to follow his light in our own circumstances. Recourse to WWJD isn’t terribly helpful if the question “What would Jesus do?” is precisely what needs answering. Lolol.

    I agree that people uninformed in a matter shouldn’t discuss it, and those informed should freely admit the point at which their information ends. I wasn’t saying that “Fr Vincent” didn’t know anything, but that he make his contribution to the discussion badly.

    But since we’re on the topic, “Fr Vincent” clearly has not been following news in the DC area. If he had, he would know more. Archbishop Wuerl, whom “Fr Vincent” thinks something of a weakling or liberal intent on punishing anyone with testosterone, has been publicly sparing with the city council because of its increasingly militant and intrusive laws about gay “marriage”. Most recently, they have passed a law prohibiting discrimination in adoption services based on the sexes of a “married” couple. Yesterday the Archbishop and Catholic Charities shut down the Church’s adoption agency here because we cannot comply with the terms of the wicked law in question. This action followed months of wrangling and being vilified over the Church’s refusal to comply with another law requiring spousal benefits for gay “married” couples – I believe that case is now pending in federal court. These aren’t the acts of spineless cowards.

    As for Fr. V,
    “he way he did it was disrespectful.”
    In what way, beyond his crack about “testosterone”?

    “Other than that, how was the theatre, Mrs. Lincoln?” Lol. Sorry, another bad joke, but meant in good fun. His general approach of smearing the archbishop is hardly respectful, and fits in better with the secularist MSM’s approach than with a Christian’s. He also wrote, “According to Abp. Wuerl, promoting mass murder is NOT a sin,” based upon evidence from which it hardly follows.

    “Actually, I mean more his second post, in which he built upon his initial point and included references. That looked like an argument to me.”

    Fair enough. His first one has been a show-stopper for me, which is the principle rhetorical problem with such posts. It is a show-stopper for me because of the more issues underlying it, and so on. Thank you for your compliment, too. I continue to find you an honorable gentleman.

    I think that one of the archbishop’s more admirable and useful qualities in a place as political as DC, though one least likely to endear him to his allies, are his tact, deliberation, and moderation. Fools rush in, and Archbishop Wuerl is no fool; but nor is he a coward, or opposed to the truth, or seeking to undermine the Church.

    One good reason to reserve judgment of the actions of our superiors is that, just like our parents, they often know things – either experience or concrete facts – that we do not, cannot know. Though I certainly do not understand the actions of many of our bishops, I can trust that they know more than I do, and I can – God help me if I cannot – trust that God has put them in authority over me, and not the reverse, for my sanctification and theirs.

    There is some consolation in that, I hope.

    When in conscience I must challenge a clergyman, just as with a brother, it is always best to do so in private, even if the cause of my concern is public. That is, after all, how our Lord instructed us to handle such things. It’s all the more important because any semblence of rebelliousness causes only further scandal.

    It has become a useful spiritual habit of mine to write a letter of support to bishops when they get bad press for doing good things. I’ve written a number of such letters, and am deeply impressed always to have received a personal response.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • Ryan,

    The point about private criticism is valid, but only to a certain extent. There is also something to be said for the argument that a public figure invites public criticism and ought to be subject to public scrutiny.

    Here is a point on which we may disagree.

    “Though I certainly do not understand the actions of many of our bishops, I can trust that they know more than I do”

    This may be true, but as opposed to earlier times, there is nothing they know that we cannot also know. If those responsible for promulgating and enforcing laws do not themselves respect them, then by example and inference they argue that there is really only ONE law; that the strong dominate the weak.

    Obviously in church matters there is no physical coercion as there is in politics, but the same principle applies. If those responsible for developing, implementing and enforcing rules do not abide by them, then all you have is a naked, raw, exercise of power.

    This is not order, this is not respect, this is not stability and proper hierarchy. This is an affront to our dignity as creatures endowed with reason and moral sense.

    I don’t mean to accuse you, or the bishops for that matter, of going so far. I don’t think you do. But I do think that this is a trap that good-hearted people can fall into, and I would like to avoid.

    “It has become a useful spiritual habit of mine to write a letter of support to bishops when they get bad press for doing good things.”

    I’ve done that myself from time to time. We ought to do both. We ought to be informed and involved as Catholics, as we ought to be as citizens.

  • …getting back to the original post.

    I haven’t watched the video yet but I often get the same response from self proclaiming Catholics at work.

    “You have something on your forehead, oh, Ash Wednesday?. Oh-ya I knew that…”

  • Joe,

    I think the central point of our disagreement is ecclesiological after all.

    “This may be true, but as opposed to earlier times, there is nothing they know that we cannot also know.”

    Joe, nothing could be further from the truth. There is TONS of stuff that we should NOT know as Christians. Canon law requires bishops to keep a safety box with such documents, literally called a secret archives, for his eyes and the eyes of his general vicars only – and their eyes only on a need to know basis. It has nothing to do with our education level, our rights, or the times we live in. It has to do with discretion – perhaps the virtue most sorely lacking in contemporary American culture, and therefore probably in most of us as individuals as well.

    “If those responsible for promulgating and enforcing laws do not themselves respect them, then by example and inference they argue that there is really only ONE law; that the strong dominate the weak.”

    I fully agree. It is not manifest to me that this description applies to the present situation. Moreover, “Fr Vincent” said nothing of anything remotely like it.

    My bishop is not answerable to me. That is a fundamental difference between life in the Church and life in a representative democracy. They just aren’t at all. They are accountable to Jesus Christ, and he will do justice upon them.

    “We ought to be informed and involved as Catholics, as we ought to be as citizens.”

    Again, no. We ought to be informed and involved, but in a very different way than citizens do. We are not citizens of the Church, but sheep in Christ’s flock. I am not advocating a “pray, pay, and obey,” mentality, and tire of the cliche. That has never gone over well with laypeople. I think an angry nun in the sixties invented that one, Joe.

    But we must be very markedly different from the world in how we do so many things.

    “If those responsible for developing, implementing and enforcing rules do not abide by them, then all you have is a naked, raw, exercise of power.
    This is not order, this is not respect, this is not stability and proper hierarchy. This is an affront to our dignity as creatures endowed with reason and moral sense.”

    I fully agree with you. I do not think that this is what is happening.

    All the best.

  • Patrick

    Yup!Just little ol’me.
    tim

    …by the way that’s for the Free Lenten Books tip!
    Awesome

  • Ryan,

    “There is TONS of stuff that we should NOT know as Christians.”

    Maybe on specific matters, sure – “need to know” is usually about the details of specific cases.

    What should be obvious here, though, is that we are talking about what is required from bishops, and what is required from lay people. All Fr. V and others bring up is their duty with relation to canon law, and more broadly, their general obligation to avoid scandals.

    In that sense, and yes, in stark contrast to the situation many years ago, there we absolutely can know.

    “Moreover, “Fr Vincent” said nothing of anything remotely like it.”

    I wasn’t responding to him, though – I was responding to you. And what you seem to be saying at times is that authority is its own justification.

    I said “seem to be”; its how it might be interpreted. And that is why I brought it up, not by way of accusation, but simply to reinforce the main idea.

    ” I think an angry nun in the sixties invented that one, Joe.”

    Invented what? That we ought to be informed and involved? We ought to be. It may be the only defense mechanism we have left.

    “I do not think that this is what is happening.”

    It happens every time someone is told to be quiet and take orders without question. Reason exists to be used, even in the Church. I agree that it is often used in combination with rudeness and disrespect, because people who feel or know they are right also feel entitled to be haughty. This is a failing and it should be admonished.

  • Ryan,

    Just to add – watch Tito’s clip of Cardinal Arinze. He is making an appeal to reason, not authority.

    THAT is what we need. And when bishops defy this reason, when they attack it or deny it, our dignity is on the line in choosing how to respond to it.

    To go too far, or to say too little, each diminishes our dignity.

  • I’m not a theologian, but it is my understanding that ashes are a “sacramental,” NOT a “sacrament.”

    Sacramentals are objects or actions of significance that carry a blessing with them, and include things like religious medals, rosaries, blessed palms, and holy water. Anyone, including non-Catholics, children who have not yet been baptized or received First Communion, and Catholics not in good standing, may receive a sacramental.

    Receiving ashes is not the same as receiving Communion or any of the other six sacraments. Receiving a SACRAMENT (other than Penance) while not in a state of grace is a mortal sin in and of itself (sacrilege); but it is NOT a sin, as far as I know, to receive a sacramental in that state.

    It is not a sin, for instance, to give a religious medal or blessed object to a lapsed Catholic or one who has married outside the Church, but it would be a sin to knowingly give them Communion or encourage them to receive it without first going to confession or having their marital situation rectified in some manner. I presume the same rule would apply to Catholics who are or may be in an objective state of sin due to their public advocacy of abortion. And I presume the same rule would apply to blessed ashes.

    Again, I’m not a theologian or canon lawyer but I am familiar with the Church’s rules on this matter and I find it very suspicious that “Fr.” Vincent seems to not be aware of this distinction.

  • Yeah, and to be clear, I don’t even agree with Fr. Vincent on this issue.

    I just disagree with the general idea that the possibility that people might “think ill” of their bishop is a higher priority than exposing legitimate malfeasance and defending truth.

    I disagree with, and feel compelled to argue against, even the slightest whiff of the idea that power and authority justify themselves without reference to higher principles, without reason and objective truth.

  • That’s good, Joe, because it’s not what I was arguing. I argue that in the Church authority comes from Jesus Christ and is answerable to Him, and Him through one’s superiors.

    I never said anything remotely like authority is self-justified in the Church. Nothing remotely like it.

    When I joked that a nun made up something, I meant the bit about “pray, pay, and obey.” It was a nice smear employed widely by modernists in the Church during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. I’ve had a bellyful of it; though I admit there is a kernel of truth to it. The period from the 1930s to the 1960s saw a dramatic increase in Priest-as-Prince-of-the-Parish syndrome, and it was a vile debasing of the moral capital accrued by hardworking, holy missionaries in this country during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Unfortunately, Fr. Bluejeans did not end the clericalism but rather compounded it – I spent 3 years in the employ of such a priest who not only wanted to be pampered and obeyed, but also wanted us all to “feel” (i.e., pretend) that he was “one of us.” The handling of the sexual abuse in this country, and of the Church’s finances, is simply a public exposition of the most monumental instance of clericalism yet. Clericalism is essentially an exaggerated sense of the distinction of priests and clergy.

    The solution to that is not:

    (1) The ’60s approach of stand up and make yourself heard, expose the problems in public;

    (2) To pretend that there is no difference between priests and clergy;

    but rather

    (3) To accentuate the difference where it is appropriate, and close the divide whenever at all possible.

    In the liturgy, in spiritual formation of seminarians, etc., the role of the priest should be clearly 100% different from that of his people – our clerics are a priesthood among a priesthood, a sacred people among a holy nation. That should be crystal clear in the conduct of the liturgy and in the rectitude of their lives, which should shine even among us – who should shine before the world.

    In day to day life, without ever abandoning the distinction, we should feel very comfortable with each other and spend gobs of time together.

    That would solve so many problems in the Church. We need to love each other – and that means prayer for each other, spending time together, building each other up.

    That’s not what “Fr. Vincent” was doing in his post. Nothing like it.

    I am in essence saying that if we keep operating as the world does, we can expect the same results within the Church.

  • “I never said anything remotely like authority is self-justified in the Church. Nothing remotely like it.”

    I know that. You were quite clear in your rejection of that. I was stating, for Elaine, what my mindset was when I first commented, before it was AS clear to me.

    My apologies if it came off differently.

    “To accentuate the difference where it is appropriate, and close the divide whenever at all possible.”

    Yes, possible being the key word. At a certain point it may no longer be possible. Then public pressure is an effective tool.

    “That’s not what “Fr. Vincent” was doing in his post. Nothing like it.”

    In his second point, he made a legitimate argument that could have been addressed. It is a shame he could not have made it his first post, but, even so, its there.

  • Oh, my apologies vis-a-vis your response to Elaine. Rereading it, what you wrote in response to her, yeah, it’s all good.

    It’s late. You’re a good man. God bless.

  • Ryan,

    Elaine is a woman.

    Must have been really late for you last night.
    ;)

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