Lincoln on Mercy

Tuesday, April 5, AD 2016


I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.

Abraham Lincoln

Running down the origin of this quote was a lot of fun.  It sounded like something that Abraham Lincoln would have said, but I had difficulty finding a source for it.  It is cited all over the internet, but no reference is given other than a speech in 1865, and such a lack of citation is often the sign of a spurious quote.  After some searching I found it.  It is sourced in a conversation that Joseph Gillespie had with Abraham Lincoln.  Gillespie was a fellow member with Lincoln of the Illinois General Assembly.  With Lincoln he helped found the Republican party in Illinois.  Elected a circuit court judge in 1861, he helped set up the Illinois Appellate Court.

During a visit to Washington in Spring of 1864, Gillespie met with Lincoln and,  among other subjects they discussed, Lincoln mentioned the problem of captured paroled Confederate troops who were found in arms before they had properly been exchanged:

These men are liable to be put to death when recaptured for breach of parole.  If we do not do something of that sort, this outrage will be repeated on every occasion…It is indeed a serious question, and I have been more sorely tried by it than any other that has occurred during the war.  It will be an act of great injustice to our soldiers to allow the paroled rebels to be put into the field without exchange.  Such a practice would demoralize almost any army in the world if played off upon them.  It would be nearly impossible to induce them to spare the lives of prisoners they might capture.  On the other hand, these men were no doubt told by their superiors that they had been exchanged and it would be hard to put them to death under any circumstances.  On the whole, my impression is that mercy bears richer fruits than any other attribute.

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21 Responses to Lincoln on Mercy

  • Too bad that mercy quote wasn’t in an earlier letter he could have sent to General Sherman. Reading it again makes me also think this arguments appears to be similar to the thinking behind the Gitmo as a prison creation.

  • “Too bad that mercy quote wasn’t in an earlier letter he could have sent to General Sherman.”

    Lincoln in his conference with Grant and Sherman near the end of the War, when asked what sort of terms they should give, were told by Lincoln that he would suggest “letting them up easy” in regard to surrendering Confederate armies. Sherman gave such generous terms to Joe Johnston, that his terms were repudiated by President Johnson.

  • I think it’s true that LIncoln, having engaged in total war, without mercy or concern for what Catholics call jus in bello, was prepared, when victory was apparent, to be merciful as a pragmatic matter, understanding that politically it is far better to foster reconciliation than exact vengeance.
    He was very prepared to be merciless when he deemed it required of him, as in his treatment of journalists and state legislators and others who opposed his policy of invasion of the south. Or as in his treatment of the Sioux Indians, recounted here:
    He was a mere man, after all, not a god, nor even a saint. He was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish his goal, without regard for the means. Victors write the history, and people generally liked or acquiesced in the goal, so much is forgiven or forgotten.

  • The South was fully destroyed in 1865 and as completely (adjusting for 19th century technology/weaponry) wrecked as were Germany and Japan in 1945. Both sides proved themselves to be willing to “bear any burden and pay any price.” Each side would accept nothing less than total independence or return to the United States/unconditional surrender. As was preordained, even before Sumter, eventually the South was rendered critically deficient in arms, men and ground.
    Civil war, secession and slavery are unmitigated evils. America is blest to be (150+ years) rid of them.
    We will never know. Lincoln may have managed Reconstruction differently than did the radicals.

  • How could prisoners of war acquire weapons before they were released from custody?

  • I think Lincoln would have been much better for the south during Reconstruction than the radical Republicans, whom Andrew Johnson could not control and who imposed martial law on the south and dissolved their governments in 1867, two years *after* the end of the war. Then they disenfranchised former confederates and installed essentially puppet governments in southern states, under which the Civil War amendments were spuriously passed (since they would never pass if former confederates had the franchise) and the states were basically blackmailed into ratifying the amendments as a condition to “readmission” to the union (an odd idea, since the north had insisted for 5 years of war that these states had never *left* the union).
    Lincoln would have set his own policy, which would have been different, and probably milder, than that of the radicals. It would have been an interesting thing to see how Lincoln would have handled the radicals of his own party, and whether he would have been willing, with them, to shoehorn amendments to the constitution by essentially blackmailing prostrate, war-devastated states, or if he would have followed some other course entirely.

  • In Lincoln’s last public address, he gave a preview of his idea of what reconstruction would entail, focusing on Louisiana, where the Radical Republicans were already champing at the bit to impose a harsher solution. He would have had a much lighter hand than the Radicals.
    It’s safe to say that Lincoln would have had a fierce, bitter battle on his hands with a powerful section of his own party. But he also would have had many advantages that Johnson did not–starting with significant party support, the aura of victory and genuine political skills the haplessly combative Johnson lacked in their entirety. More than anything else, the last really crippled Andrew Johnson.

  • We are having technical difficulties on the blog that have prevented me from posting new content today. We are working on it and hopefully we will be back to normal operations by tomorrow.

  • Don, memory tells me the Shermans’ terms to Johnston were rejected by Stanton,contrary to Lincolns directive, indicative of Stantons hatred for the reb’s- and that is why Sherman refused to acknowledge Stanton[snubbed him] in the reviewing stand of the Grand Review day 2 of the Army of the Republic in Washington. I’ve not read of President Johnson having a hand in the reversal of terms; sherman always held halleck first and stanton ultimately for the reversal and embarrassment over the terms offered and forced to be withdrawn from Joe Johnston…… will read back on that after sending this; beautiful glimpse into the man who is Lincoln; myth and all. t-u

  • “Don, memory tells me the Shermans’ terms to Johnston were rejected by Stanton,contrary to Lincolns directive, indicative of Stantons hatred for the reb’s- and that is why Sherman refused to acknowledge Stanton[snubbed him] in the reviewing stand of the Grand Review day 2 of the Army of the Republic in Washington.’

    Sherman bore life long hatred for Stanton for the rejection of the peace terms. However, Sherman had gone far beyond the surrender terms that Grant gave Lee, to dealing with long term policy that had to be decided in Washington. Any President, including Lincoln, would have rejected the terms, and that is what Johnson did. See the link below for a post that I wrote on the subject.

  • “How could prisoners of war acquire weapons before they were released from custody?”

    Paroled prisoners were immediately released. That is what Grant did to Pemberton’s entire army after the fall of Vicksburg. They could not fight again until they had been exchanged with an enemy POW who was released. Grant was dismayed during the fighting at Chattanooga to see among the Confederates captured, men he had paroled at Vicksburg who had not yet been exchanged. The system of parole and exchange broke down in 1864 when the Confederates refused to allow Union colored troops to be part of the system, and when Grant realized that due to his manpower superiority exchanging prisoners benefitted Lee far more than him.

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  • Don – excellent re-direct. I have seen a number of commentators who state that the decision to reject shermans’ terms to Joe Johnston was done at the cabinet level in discussions led by Stanton, but i had forgotten the broader conditions Sherman had included regarding civil affairs in his MOU.

    Most students of that ugly affair between the states recall the animosity between Stanton and Sherman and the famous snub on the review stand- ah those jesuits!

    No where can i find wherein Pes. Johnson, himself, explicitly rejected the proposed terms.
    Can you help?

  • nice try Don, but no cigar- Where does Pres Johnson specifically reject the Sherman terms? was my question- saying it was “Washington ” is too vague…… i contend that it was done at the cabinet level, led by Stanton, hence the animosity between Sherman and Stanton – i would not be surprised to learn it was Grant himself who told Sherman personally , when he traveled to see him 3 days after the cabinet meeting, it was Stanton who took him out at the knees – note this lifting from your post- from G.W.’s diary – the president was invited but he does not mention him being there or even a word quoting the presidents feelings on this- i suggest that is “conspicuous by it’s absence”. G.W. itemizes Stantons objections…… but not one word about the Presidents comments.

    ………..General Grant had just received Sherman’s terms. “They are of such importance,” he wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, “that I think immediate action should be taken on them and that I[sic] should be done by the President in council with his whole cabinet.” He strongly urged them to meet that night. By 6pm, Stanton was calling at the door of Gideon Welles, and two hours later, the meeting commenced.

    “Among the Cabinet and all present there was but one mind on this subject,” recorded Welles in his diary. “The plan was rejected, and Sherman’s arrangement disapproved. Stanton and [Joshuah] Speed were emphatic in their condemnation, though the latter expressed personal friendship for Sherman. General Grant, I was pleased to see, while disapproving what Sherman had done, and decidedly opposed to it, was tender to sensitiveness of his brother officer and abstained from censure. Stanton came charged with specified objections, four in number, counting them off on his fingers. Some of his argument was apt and well, some of it not in good taste nor precisely pertinent. It was decided that General Grant should immediately inform General Sherman that his course was disapproved, and that generals in the field must not take upon themselves to decide on political and civil questions, which belonged to the executive and civil service.”

    I’m not arguing the right or wrong of the rejection of the terms, only who did the rejection? as the basis for some of the hatred between these men. Stantons treatment of Lincoln when alive is another part of this picture me thinks, No where can i find Johnsons hand in the formal rejection but i know where to look – i have to get to a libraryfor J.G. Barrett . more later and best wishes…..

  • “nice try Don, but no cigar- Where does Pres Johnson specifically reject the Sherman terms?”
    Come off it Paul. He was at the cabinet meeting. He was in charge not Stanton. General Grant mentions that the rejection was done pursuant to his order. Are you seriously contending that Johnson did not want the terms rejected or you are arguing now simply for the sake of arguing?

  • i missed where Pres. Johnson was at this particular cabinet meeting. – i have yet to find , after considerable looking, any documented text that states President Johnson was in that cabinet meeting or that he specifically rejected the sherman terms. I did find that Grant asked permission of Johnson [sic] to go tell his ‘ subordinate’ in person about the rejection [rebuke] of terms – and then there is your own post that affirms it was Stanton , under his own signature, who rejected the terms –

    Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington.

    DEAR SIR: I have been furnished a copy of your letter of April 21st to General Grant, signifying your [ YOUR pc, not A.J’s. ,] disapproval of the terms on which General Johnston proposed to disarm and disperse the insurgents, on condition of amnesty, etc. I admit my folly in …..

    Recall April 17 and beyond, just days after the assassination of Mr. Lincoln , ‘Washington’ must have been a very busy place with lots of delegation going on and extra security[ hindrance to movement]- I will not ‘ come off it’ until i am satisfied . You risk appearing at times to be ‘too’ condescending – no research until monday when a library opens.
    once again don, you got some of us thinking…… never argue for the sake of argue ;

    do you not find it peculiar that Gideon Welles in his diary records nothing of what the President had to say, but itemizes 4 things of Stantons, to defend the rejection? We’re talking about bagging some 90,000 confederates here…and peace. I find it very odd that a subordinate would not in the first or last sentence of his letter invoke the authority of his greater, i.e. by Order of the President of the United States etc. etc. Stanton does not do this…… later

  • most excellent! i no longer need to go to the library – i am better for your time and help.
    thank you!

  • in doing some liesurley discovery, i came across this- pretty sure you’ve seen this- 1 more note to come-
    Shreman and Johnston
    battled each other time and time again throughout the Atlanta and Carolinas’ campaigns in 1864 and ’65. But the two men never met in person until 17 April 1865, when, a week after Lee’s surrender to Grant, Johnston decided to surrender almost 90,000 of his and other Confederate troops to Sherman, the largest surrender of the war.
    The two men met three times during the surrender negotiations. Johnston convinced Sherman to try to end the war once and for all by negotiating both military and civil terms. But the document Sherman drew up was rejected by President Johnson and his cabinet, who felt the proposed terms were too lenient with the South, and they insisted that Sherman give Johnston the same terms that Grant gave Lee and not concern himself with civil matters. Sherman wasn’t surprised by the cabinet’s rejection of the proposed terms, and Johnston—ignoring a suggestion from the Confederate secretary of war to fall back with his troops to Georgia—agreed to the Grant-Lee terms, which admittedly were already fairly generous. Sherman also gave Johnston 10 days’ worth of rations for 25,000 men, and the two generals left with a high opinion of each other.

    Johnston never forgot Sherman’s generosity, and the two cultivated a friendship after the war. When Sherman died in 1891, Johnston, then 84 years old, attended his funeral as a pallbearer. It was a cold February day, but when Johnston was told he should put on his hat so he didn’t catch cold, Johnston replied, “If I were in [Sherman’s] place, and he were standing in mine, he would not put on his hat.” Johnston consequently caught a cold at the funeral, which turned into pneumonia, and he died a month later.

  • my last word- confirming your statement; and yes, i cannot spell. note in this recounting, it is Halleck who sends Grant?? – that is purely captains mast stuff, i think. – your thoughts are always welcome and esteemed.

    ← April 20, 1865: Sherman’s mistake — beaten by BreckinridgeApril 22, 1865: Halleck sends Grant to end Sherman’s truce →
    April 21, 1865: Sherman’s agreement with Johnston rejected

    William Tecumseh Sherman

    The New York Times reports that Sherman’s agreement with Johnston was rejected by the President and cabinet in Washington. They sent him Lincoln’s instructions to Grant from March to use as a guide for the surrender renegotiations. A dispatch from Richmond suggests that one goal of Johnston and Breckinridge in the surrender was to provide an opportunity for Jefferson Davis to escape the country with the Confederate treasury. Grant is on his way to take over in North Carolina.

    WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, Saturday, April 22.
    Yesterday evening a bearer of dispatches arrived from Gen. SHERMAN.

    An agreement for a suspension of hostilities, and a memorandum of what is called a basis for peace, had been entered into on the 18th inst., by Gen. SHERMAN with the rebel Gen. JOHNSTON.

    The rebel Gen. BRECKINRIDGE was present at the conference.

    A Cabinet meeting was held at 8 o’clock in the evening, at which the action of Gen. SHERMAN was disapproved by the President, by the Secretary of War, by Gen. GRANT, and by every member of the Cabinet.

    Gen. SHERMAN was ordered to resume hostilities immediately, and was directed that the instructions given by the late President in the following telegram, which was penned by Mr. LINCOLN himself, at the Capitol, on the night of the 3d of March, were approved by President ANDREW JOHNSON, and were reiterated to govern the action of military commanders.

    On the night of the 3d of March, while President LINCOLN and his cabinet were at the Capitol, a telegram from Gen. GRANT was brought to the Secretary of War, informing him that Gen. LEE had requested an interview or conference to make an arrangement for terms of peace.

    The letter of Gen. LEE was published in a letter of DAVIS to the rebel Congress.

    Gen. GRANT’s telegram was submitted to Mr. LINCOLN, who, after pondering a few minutes, took up his pen and wrote with his own hand the following reply, which he submitted to the Secretary of State and Secretary of War.

    It was then dated, addressed and signed by the Secretary of War, and telegraphed to Gen. GRANT.


    WASHINGTON, March 3, 1865 — 12 P.M.
    Lieut.-Gen. Grant:

    The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with Gen. LEE unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. LEE’s army or on some minor and purely military matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.

    EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

And to Amend My Life

Sunday, January 31, AD 2016

Chaplain: I think it’s up to each one of us to interpret what God wants.

Dying Doctor: So people can do anything? They can rape, they can murder, they can steal, all in the name of God, and it’s ok?

Chaplain: That’s not what I’m saying.

Dying Doctor: What are you saying? Because all I’m hearing is some New Age, God is love, one-size-fits-all crap! I don’t have time for this now!

Chaplain: I understand.

Dying Doctor: No, you don’t understand! You don’t understand! How could you possibly say that? No, you listen to me. I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell.

ER:  Atonement-Season 14, Episode 13




David Griffey at Daffey Thoughts brings us the above video which powerfully explains why cheap grace saves absolutely no one.  God is all Just and all Merciful and when we forget either of those attributes we are lost indeed.

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9 Responses to And to Amend My Life

  • Is he a Catholic (never watched the show)? If so, can’t he get a Catholic priest to take Confession? If not, does he really need a minister? For what? To tell him that he might go to hell for an understandable mistake in knowledge? Quibbles and questions aside, I liked the clip.

  • Excellent clip. Very touching. The man seeks redemption but doesn’t know how to get it. It appears he is not a Catholic. Implication: we should be thankful we are Catholics who can find redemption in confession, penance and amendment of our lives.

  • Unfathomable Mercy is Gods great gift.
    He knows each man’s heart!
    The clip is moving indeed and the gift of our Holy Sacraments is priceless. To be a bedside consoler at the end of ones life is a blessing or a curse. I’m glad that this sequence was shared because it is realistic. Having been asked to pray for an Atheist at her request was a moment when blessings abounded.
    She called upon the Holy Name of Jesus over and over after our prayer time. She welcomed Him into her heart before she died.
    Her final destination is unknown but she asked for help.
    This same woman, three years prior, complained about prayers being said at our group home before meals. She won.
    The management discontinued the practice of public prayer before meals. When her time was nearing she begged for heavenly help.

  • The clip brought to mind my 90 year old father’s last days in hospice. It was a short stay and my dad was well taken care of physically and spiritually. A priest visited him for the sacraments and a friend brought Holy Viaticum on several occasions. One afternoon the nursing center chaplain, a female Unitarian minister, stopped by. My mother was so startled, but ever the lady was polite. She explained that we were a practicing Catholic family and thanked her for stopping by. Luckily my convert dad was asleep. He considered it a half baked philosophy, hardly a religion….. The Church of Nothing or maybe trying to be The Church of Everything. My dad was wearing a brown scapula and I knew by his breathing that death was imminent. So I held his hand and read aloud the prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. When I had finished I saw that he had stopped breathing.

  • WOW Cam …. what a tender, gentle moment! – the sacrament of penance is so marvelous i think – wherein i am the prosecutor, the accused, the judge [ thank God Jesus knows me better than me] all at the same time. – i fall short of what i think Jesus expects of me by ommission and comission but i take great comfort in the following and so should you……
    The devotion to Jesus, King of Love began on August 17th, 1922, when Our Lord manifested Himself to Yvonne Beauvais, a young French woman sojourning in the monastery of the Augustinian Canonesses of the Mercy of Jesus at Malestroit in Brittany, France. Addressing Yvonne, Jesus said: Morning and evening say, O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy loving mercy.

    On March 18, 1927, Yvonne Beauvais entered the community of Malestroit, and on September 29, 1931, she pronounced her perpetual vows as Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus. After a life of extraordinary love and of great sufferings accepted in faith, the King of Love called Mother Yvonne-Aimée to Himself on February 3, 1951.

  • He was holding a Rosary, or what looked like one. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is Catholic, or perhaps a lapsed Catholic trying to find the way home? My mother died with a Rosary around her neck, and she was not Catholic. I’m honestly not sure she was much of anything, except abandoned by the Episcopal Church. That was many years ago.

  • DJH.

    Take heart.
    She is a child of our Lady. What she experienced in her church and possible pain she carried, was relinquished at death. Why?
    Somehow a Holy Rosary was placed on her person, and in some marvelous way a Mother she never knew took her by the hand, and introduced her to her Son, the King of Mercy.
    More than nice sentiments… this is a Trust in Jesus. He is the final Judge. Thanks be to God. Peace be upon you.

  • Paul Coffey, thank you for the explanation of the Jesus of Love devotion. I was not familiar with Yvonne Beauvais, the apparition and devotion.
    This is why I enjoy The-American-Catholic posts and comments so much -a wide variety of subjects covered, especially those about our Faith, and many points of view expressed from readers all over the world and of different life and faith experiences.

  • …And To Amend My Life. Amen…The Act of Contrition, a powerful, necessary prayer to be recited before receiving the Holy Eucharist and before bedtime…and in times of potential or real duress.

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving is by Father Francis Fernandez Carvajal from his series on meditations In Conversation with GodDaily Meditations Volume Two: Lent and Eastertide, 1.2:

True conversion is shown by the way we behave.  We show that we really want to improve by the way we do our work or our study.  We show it by the way we behave towards our family; by offering up to God, in the course of the day, little mortifications which make life for those around us more pleasant, and which make our work more effective.  We can also show it by making a careful preparation for and going frequently to Confession.

Today God asks us also for a rather special mortification, which we offer up cheerfully: it is fasting and abstinence, which strengthens our spirit as it mortifies our flesh and our sensuality.  It raises our soul to God.  It gets rid of concupiscence by giving us the strength to overcome and to mortify our passions, and it disposes our heart that it may seek for nothing except to please God in everything.9

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4 Responses to Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

  • A friend who belongs to Opus Dei turned me onto these books during Advent at an Opus Dei Men’s reflection. I can’t say that I have read them everyday, perhaps 85% of the time since.

    Amazing. That’s all I can say. I take them to Mass with me and read them after the after Mass prayers. What a fantastic help. The insights and lessons are inspired. What a great place to get perspective from the Communion of Saints, the Popes and the Magestirium.

    I recommend In Conversation with God to anyone and everyone who wants to increase their faith and understanding (in that order).

    We are dust but if you own these books they won’t get any dust on them.

  • AK,

    I agree.

    The In Conversation With God series has brought me ever closer to God. It is worth someones while to pick up the book and start reading.

    A great way to do something for Lent!

  • Tito,

    I never thought about the statement from your last sentence until this Lent. We all give something up and when we think of it or desire it we turn to God; however, I don’t know too many people who DO SOMETHING for Lent as opposed to NOT doing something. Sure, we may give the money we save from our habit, whether it be beer, chocolate or whatever, but that is not necessarily the same as DOING something.

    I think it is helpful, and these books are great for it, to add something to our spiritual life during Lent and God willing it will become part of us in Easter and beyond.

  • AK,

    I remember the “spirit of Vatican II” rage of “doing” something for Lent instead of “giving” something up.

    In the end I decided to do both (just to be safe!)


Forgiveness, Mercy, and Charity for New York City Saint James Parish

Monday, January 25, AD 2010

[Updates at the bottom of this posting; latest update on 1-26-2010 at 12:24pm CST]

The Catholic blogosphere is currently in an uproar over an event that occurred at Saint James Church on Friday, January 15, 2010 A.D. when a Christian youth group requested and organized an event to draw more young adults into the Catholic Church.  This seemed as an innocuous request since the parish in the past held a classical piano concert in honor of the church’s founder Father Felix Valera.

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42 Responses to Forgiveness, Mercy, and Charity for New York City Saint James Parish

  • Why should there be any “events” at all in a Church? Did anyone bother to ask what the “event” – a word that can signify any number of things – would be?

    Did they know “music” was going to be performed?

    This is pathetic.

  • From the website evidence, the event was advertised weeks ahead of time.

    There was an advertised open bar for an hour and a half before the event, according to secular blogs written by people who were HAPPY about the event. That requires a liquor license, doesn’t it?

    The plywood stage that extended the sanctuary area was clearly pre-built for the event.

    The music was clearly not a piano concert.

    Even if, for the sake of charity, we grant that the fools who played made innocent mistakes concerning using the altar as a table, even if we grant that any kind of secular event (like a piano concert) is acceptable in a church, how did the parish staff and the pastor NOT know this was going on?

    Parish staff were certainly there DURING the event, right?

    I’ve worked in several parishes around the country. In EVERY parish, NOBODY could hold an event in the church without a parish staff member being present to open and lock up, help get last minute items, etc.

    THERE IS NO WAY this happened without the connivance of at least some members of the parish staff.

    It isn’t possible.

    I’m all for granting Christian charity, but there are limits to credulity.

    Sacrilege is worse than pedophilia.

    Someone needs to be fired here.

  • I forgot to add, of course, the kicker to the whole thing.

    This happened in New York City, the town that’s famous for being trusting, leaving doors unlocked all hours of the night, the gracious elegance and piety of the inhabitants, etc.

    Christian charity, remember?

  • Steve,

    I share your concerns about the mismanagement of this by the parish.

    Just one small point, they held a classical piano recital/concert two years ago.

    You may be confusing the concert of this year with that of two years ago.

    Nonetheless there was no one from the parish supervising the concert. The parish priest, Fr. Walter, doesn’t even reside there, he lives in downtown.

    It doesn’t excuse the behavior, just clarifying some points you made.

    As far as the pre-fab stage, I’ll assume your correct.

    Outside of my interview with Father Walter, my only other information comes from your site, which by the way is awesome!

  • Steve,

    I’m with you on this. The whole thing stinks. And just like the other issues I’m complaining about these days, we’re supposed to accept some official explanation from the authorities, some rationalization for their gross incompetence and failure.

    We can’t just admit that these people might have a) deliberately done something bad and b) lied about it.

    And if they didn’t lie about it, the degree of ineptitude is so severe that yes, as you say, someone should be fired anyway.

  • Joe, Steve & et al,

    Who do you fire?

    The priest?


    Monitor this thread if you can, I have to leave for Bible study.

    Everyone’s fired up!

  • It’s George Bush’s fault.

  • Mack,

    Why is everything W’s fault?

    Call a spade a spade, it’s a Freemason conspiracy.


  • I realize the piano concert was a couple of years back, but apparently that is being used as some sort of comparison/excuse for this event.

    I don’t see how it matches, but I was willing to grant that there could be a comparison just for the sake of discussion.

    I just don’t believe that a priest in New York City would allow an unsupervised event to take place at his parish without any staff being present.

    If a priest in Podunk, Nebraska wouldn’t do it (and I’ve worked in everything from a parish in the sticks to a chancery office), I simply don’t believe a priest in NYC would do it. The “explanation” is not just absurd, it’s insulting.

    How stupid does this priest think we are, to try such an outrageous explanation as “Well, I was misled! And so were all of my staff!”

    How about he gives US a little charity and tells the truth for a change? Or maybe he could fire somebody? Or ask for a transfer to administrative work? Or have the archbishop remove him?

    But, in perfect charity, he can’t honestly expect anyone to believe neither he nor his staff are ultimately responsible for the objectively evil act of sacrilege that was committed.

  • A desecration took place at that church. Mass is not supposed to resume until it is reconsecrated. Any news on that?

  • FYI:
    Declaration on Concerts in Churches
    Vatican 1987

    8. The regulation of the use of churches is stipulated by canon 1210 of the Code of Canon Law:

    “In a sacred place only those things are to be permitted which serve to exercise or promote worship, piety and religion. Anything out of harmony with the holiness the place is forbidden. The Ordinary may, however, for individual cases, permit other uses, provided they are not contrary to the sacred character of the place.”

    The principle that the use of the church must not offend the sacredness of the place determines the criteria by which the doors of a church may be opened to a concert of sacred or religious music, as also the concomitant exclusion of every other type of music. The most beautiful symphonic music, for example, is not in itself of religious character. The definition of sacred or religious music depends explicitly on the original intended use of the musical pieces or songs, and likewise on their content. It is not legitimate to provide for the execution in the church of music which is not of religious inspiration and which was composed with a view to performance in a certain precise secular context, irrespective of whether the music would be judged classical or contemporary, of high quality or of a popular nature. On the one hand, such performances would not respect the sacred character of the church, and on the other, would result in the music being performed in an unfitting context.

    10. When the proposal is made that there should be a concert in a church, the Ordinary is to grant the permission per modum actus. These concerts should be occasional events. This excludes permission for a series of concerts, for example in the case of a festival or a cycle of concerts.

    When the Ordinary considers it to be necessary, he can, in the conditions foreseen in the Code of Canon Law (can. 1222, para. 2) designate a church that is no longer used for divine service, to be an “auditorium” for the performance of sacred or religious music, and also of music not specifically religious but in keeping with the character of the place.

    In this task the bishop should be assisted by the diocesan commission for Liturgy and sacred music.

    In order that the sacred character of a church be conserved in the matter of concerts, the Ordinary can specify that:

    a. Requests are to be made in writing, in good time, indicating the date and time of the proposed concert, the program, giving the works and the names of the composers.
    b. After having received the authorization of the Ordinary, the rectors and parish priests of the churches should arranged details with the choir and orchestra so that the requisite norms are observed.
    c. Entrance to the church must be without payment and open to all.
    d. The performers and the audience must be dressed in a manner which is fitting to the sacred character of the place.
    e. The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary. The greatest respect is to be shown to the altar, the president’s chair and the ambo.
    f. The Blessed Sacrament should be, as far as possible, reserved in a side chapel or in another safe and suitably adorned place (Cf. C.I.C., can 928, par. 4).
    g. The concert should be presented or introduced not only with historical or technical details, but also in a way that fosters a deeper understanding and an interior participation on the part of the listeners.
    h. The organizer of the concert will declare in writing that he accepts legal responsibilities for expenses involved, for leaving the church in order and for any possible damage incurred.

    11. The above practical directives should be of assistance to the bishops and rectors of churches in their pastoral responsibility to maintain the sacred character of their churches, designed for sacred celebrations, prayer and silence.

    Such indications should not be interpreted as a lack of interest in the art of music.

    The treasury of sacred music is a witness to the way in which the Christian faith promotes culture.

    By underlining the true value of sacred or religious music, Christian musicians and members of scholae cantorum should feel that they are being encouraged to continue this tradition and to keep it alive for the service of the faith, as expressed by the Second Vatican Council in its message to artists:

    “Do not hesitate to put your talent at the service of the Divine Truth. The world in which we live has need of beauty in order not to lose hope. Beauty, like truth, fills the heart with joy. And this, thanks to your hands” (Cf. Second Vatican Council, Message to Artists, December 8, 1965).

    Rome, November 5, 1987
    Paul Augustine Card. Mayer, O.S.B.
    Virgilio Noë
    Tit. Archbishop of Voncaria

  • Pingback: Update: What happened at St. James in NYC «
  • Contact the Thomas More Society ( and urge them to get involved. Contact the Archdiocese and St. James and urge them to contact the Thomas More Society. This group led by Panero needs to be brought up on charges and sued.

  • The indie groupies and fans who attended the event began predicting a huge lawsuit against Panero, the guy who organized the event, yesterday evening.

    Today, Catholics on the net are talking lawsuit.

    Videos of the event are quietly being removed from the internet in the hopes of destroying the evidence.

    The priest in question violated canon law by scheduling the event in the first place, just as he had violated it with the piano concert a couple of years ago. The difference here is that this violation is egregious, whereas the previous one was “in good taste” and therefore ignored.

    There’s only a difference in degree here, not in kind. This is what happens when pastors ignore or remain ignorant of canon law. The law exists for a reason. You break it, you own it.

    I’m sure the priest is quite repentant, I’m sure he’ll make a good confession over it. I certainly hope he and the archdiocese are successful in any lawsuits against the organizers.

    But there are temporal consequences to sin that has been forgiven. That’s the nature of sin.

    This kind of event has taken place far too often in far too many churches around the country. It needs to stop.

  • There seems to be no Podunk Nebraska. If there were, it is doubtful that such a “concert” would have proceeded under the watchful eye of Bishop Bruskewitz. They could happen only in hick places like Noo Yawk.

    Year ago Ned Rorem asked why churches would expect young people to come to mediocre concerts when they had good concerts of their own.

  • “Podunk” is a Midwestern technical term for “an extremely rural area.” I won’t name the exact town in Nebraska because it would identify the parish, and that’s not on point.

    As someone who worked in a parish that was under Archbishop Curtiss’ authority, let me assure you that this kind of event could only happen with the pastor’s approval. There’s no way it could take place unless the pastor or one of his staff were supervising the event.

    Pastors do not give out keys to the church to any Tom, Dick or Harry who wanders in off the street.

    The pastor, I am sure, is very remorseful, primarily because the video hit Youtube. If know one knew about it, and no one complained about it, he wouldn’t give a fig. The rule, whether in the parish or the diocese is “If no one complains, you have nothing to fear.”

  • I don’t get the problem. I mean, I do, but was this different from ‘Teen Life’?

  • I’m no lawyer, but it’s hard for me to imagine a lawsuit against the promoter having any success. Exactly what is the pastor supposed to in testimony? That he’s a chump who neglected even the most elementary standards of due diligence? Does the law indemnify for that? Can he make the court believe it?

    I appreciate the pastor’s remorse and his call for prayers of reparation, but face it: if you were Archbishop of New York, would you trust this man with the keys to one of your churches? If you do, Archbishop Dolan, can we expect the next underground concert to take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral?

    So far as I can tell, there’s no accountability at any level of the American clergy. Apparently the only way to get fired is for a bishop to point out that he and not the USCCB is the Ordinary of his see.

  • Yeah, LifeTeen has it’s own problems. The founder is not only no longer a priest, he’s no longer a practicing Catholic. I’ve seen rock bands during Mass – a clear and damnable violation of the rubrics, but neither priest nor bishop were opposed to it, so it happened.

    This is really just a logical extension of LifeTeen.

    And, I agree with Romulus. It’s going to be darned hard for the diocese to prosecute this because the pastor gave permission for an event. The best they would probably be able to do is recover physical damages (cost of cleanup), if any.

    I keep running through all the salient facts, because I really don’t want to be uncharitable, but every time I run through the facts, I get the same conclusion.

    I don’t see how – when all the facts are considered – this priest deserves anything but the firestorm he has gotten. If this had happened in the sticks, in a rural parish somewhere, then you could argue the priest was naive – but it happened in Manhattan.

    You could say kids just got out of control – but where was the supervision? Where was the pastor? Where were the cops?

    You can say the pastor got misled – but who gave out the keys that allowed them into the church to begin with, who cleaned up and locked up that night?

    The pastor’s story just doesn’t make any sense, no matter his contrition level.

  • I am a 63-year-old conservative Cathoilc Christian. Like most of us, I’ve done my share of really stupid things. Only by the Grace of God have I gotten beyond some of my past errors and sins.
    Since I was not present when all this happened, I can’t say this pastor was any more wrong in what he did than some things I’ve done in the past. Mistakes have been made, it’s time to forgive and get over it. If Archbishop Dolan is satisfied, so should we all be.
    However, considering the “kumbayah” hootenanny music from the 70’s so prevalent in Catholic services these days, It’s just a natural evolution of the current music styles we see every week. What’s wrong with a little Rock & Roll on a Friday night if we allow such trash on Sunday mornings?

  • “What’s wrong with a little Rock & Roll on a Friday night if we allow such trash on Sunday mornings?”

    Both should be driven out of the house of God with the same fury with which Christ cleared the Temple of money-changers.

  • Tito you write “Nonetheless there was no one from the parish supervising the concert. The parish priest, Fr. Walter, doesn’t even reside there, he lives in downtown.” Surely you know the church IS downtown and the priest lives DOWN THE BLOCK!!!

  • My point is why would you take the liberty of making that statement if you dont know the facts. And I would like to know did the priest just hand over the keys to the church to this band and tell them lock up when they were finished??? Its a small community tito i am sure someone was there and knew what was going on.

  • Grace,

    I do know the facts and reported what was necessary.

    Fr. Walter told me he lives downtown and is a pastor in another church.

    What is the point of your comment?

    The pastor recognized the problem and has dealt with it accordingly.

    Your comment makes almost no sense.

  • He is tha pastor of St. Joseph down the block which merged with St. James last year… I think my comment makes sense and you are not getting all the facts. And what does your reported “what was necessary mean”?
    Tito the pastor made a big mistake..

  • I know that and most importantly the pastor knows that.

    Again, what is the point of your comment?

    I understand your frustration and displeasure, but now is the time to pray for him and the parish in order for them to move on and not allow this to happen again.

    Believe me most of us are not at all happy about what has occurred. But now is not the time to continue to vent.

    If he ignored and refused to acknowledge what happened, then you have a point about being upset and reminding everyone what has happened.

    But he has acknowledged it and is rectifying the situation.

  • So the fact the he knew what really was going on, said he didn’t live in the area and was not the pastor of the church is all rectified by him saying a mass. Okay Tito guess you did get all the facts. thanks for staightening that out for me…

  • Grace,

    He did not know what was going on.

    But if you want to believe that he did know, then that is between you and God.

  • and if the priest wants to believe what he told you thats between him and God…

    Thanks for your time Tito.

  • Grace,

    You are now antagonizing and unconstructive.

    Be careful what you post next or you’ll be placed on moderation.

  • Sorry if I offended anyone I did not mean to be antagonizing i was just stating a fact. I do apologize.

  • Grace,

    No worries.

    Have a great hump day!

  • Will this church be reconsecrated or not?

  • Even though the concert was wrong, it wasn’t enough that the sanctuary needs to be reconsecrated.

  • I think the short answer is “no.”

  • Steve,

    Why not paste a cool Catholic pic as your avatar?

    Makes this website look spiffier!

  • What’s wrong with that nice geometric Muslim design?

  • Steve,

    It’s actually a mudejar design, but I’m not really interested in inter-religious exchange when it comes to icons.

    Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and gothic come to mind as superior replacements!


  • I am saddened of the individuals who believe it is ok to desecrate a church and take advantage of our Parish Priest. It is easy for anyone, believing that this is supposed to be a Christian rock concert to fall for such a lie. I forgive my Parish priest, for anyone can be innocent to fall for such a lie. It would have been a great thing if our Parish had had a Christian Rock concert performed by Kutless to bring our youth to its feet. Seeing the amounts of youngsters in the Parish, I believe, we would have benefited. God states we must forgive, we are human and we are bound to make mistakes, no matter what title we have. This is a wakeup call that we are humans and that we must stay vigilant.

  • Anyone who believes that what happened at St James was caused by a deliberate disregard for the sanctity of the church is making a terrible mistake. I have known Fr. Walter, personally, for over 30 years and he has done all manner of good for countless people every day of his life — but no one blogs about that.

    The parishes he pastors are not cathedrals with big resources and a “grand staff”. The “grand staff” is a few good hearted local people and volunteers who try their best. St James and St Joseph are two, poor, tiny parishes on the lower east side of Manhattan. They serve four culturally diverse communities; a Chinese community, dwindling Italian and English communities, and a Hispanic community. This is the reality of Manhattan. Parish announcements have to written in English, Fujianese, and Spanish. Organizing a simple parish function can range from difficult to nearly impossible due to language and cultural disparity.

    Let’s recap: four different communities, two different facilities — and how many resident priests to serve them?— ONE — Fr Walter. CEO’s of major corporations don’t work that hard. How long can anyone work 24/7 under these conditions without making a single slip in judgement? A week? A month? As far as I know, Fr Walter hasn’t been declared a saint, so I guess bilocation is out of the question. He can’t be everywhere at the same time and has to trust people at some point. Probably the only misstep he took — yes that’s right ONLY misstep — was to trust someone under these circumstances who, unfortunately, failed him. Why has the Archdiocese abandoned St James and placed the burden on one man? After all, St James is a diocesan parish.

    Ok, so let’s witch hunt, without knowing the priest or the parish or “the staff” or how it happened. Let’s gaze into our crystal balls and tell everyone the priest is lying, “the staff” is lying, and someone should be fired. — THAT is egregious; THAT is a lie; and THAT is unkind. We follow the letter of the law and somehow manage to violate the heart of it.

    NO ONE likes what happened at St James. Fr Walter certainly doesn’t, I don’t, and neither does “the staff”.

  • I apologize for bringing this topic back up again, but I just found out what happened in my old parish and would like to add my comment.

    “Why has the Archdiocese abandoned St James and placed the burden on one man?” Fr.Corniel was a one man show in St. James Church prior to St. Joseph’s taking it over. Given the little resources that he had, he did an excellent job of keeping the parish running and the feeling of community within the parish. The Archdiocese should have left him there. I’m not sure how priests are relocated nor who decides, but why doesn’t the Archdiocese equally divide the number of priests amongst the parishes?

    Also, what some people above may or may not know is that St. James has a church hall. Why didn’t Fr. Walter rent that space out instead of the church? When I was an active parishioner in St. James, the church hall was rented out with rules and regulations. During the event, either the pastor would stop by to check how things were going, or he would send an active parishioner.

    With events of such grave severity, there’s always a lot of should have, could have, would have, what’s done is done, and it can’t be undone. Now is the time to rebuild the St. James parish and pray that we can all move on and get past this.