The Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz Prayer Club

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lincoln diocese in the News

Lincoln Diocese attracts conservative Catholics

The Lincoln Roman Catholic Diocese has a reputation as one of the most conservative dioceses, if not the most conservative, in the country.

That conservatism — many prefer to call it orthodoxy or traditionalism — makes some Catholics uncomfortable, especially when they come to Lincoln from other places. But others praise it, including some who moved here specifically because they were attracted to Catholicism as practiced in the Lincoln Diocese.

Julie and Alton Davis raised their four children in San Antonio and figured they’d stay in Texas their entire life. But after their oldest son, Matt, moved to Lincoln to study for the priesthood, he had such glowing reports about Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and the priests in this diocese, that his parents wanted to move here, too.

Matt decided not to enter the priesthood and married a Nebraska girl. His parents’ first visit to Lincoln was for his wedding in May 1996, just shortly after Bruskewitz issued his famous list of organizations that Catholics were forbidden to join, including several Masonic groups and the Catholic reform group Call to Action, on penalty of excommunication.

“We were really impressed by a man who would exercise such leadership, because it was so unheard of,” Julie Davis said.

They also were impressed with the spirit of piety and devotion in the Catholic churches here. They moved here in 1998, after Julie Davis got a teaching position at Pius X High School. They’re active members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“The priests seem like they’re praying the Mass, not just saying it,” Alton Davis said. “They really seem to mean the words, especially the young priests.”

They liked their priests in San Antonio, but felt some churches there deviated from correct doctrine and practice. When Julie Davis joined a Catholic Women Speak program there, she discovered she was the only woman who took a traditional approach, supporting a male priesthood, the prohibition on artificial birth control and a “non-competitive” role for women in the church.

“I felt we were excluding the real genius of women. I feel we have our own unique gifts,” she said.

Here, Julie Davis is active in Magnificat, a spiritual ministry to women, and is part of a group promoting “Dressing with Dignity,” a campaign encouraging teenage girls to wear more modest clothing.

Marilyn and David Friesen lived in Catholic dioceses in Kansas and Missouri before coming here six years ago. They were attracted mainly by Bruskewitz’s leadership.

“He’s like a good father to the priests,” David Friesen said. “They respect him — they may not agree with everything, but they love him as a father figure. And they try to do things correctly.”

All churches follow the proper order and words of the Mass, not adding or omitting things for the sake of innovation as in some other dioceses where they’ve lived. “They (the priests) want to do things right, which helps the laity be obedient to what is right,” Marilyn Friesen said.

The Friesens came here without jobs, but both now work for the diocese — Marilyn as a secretary in the chancery office and her husband in the Catholic schools administration. They attend St. Teresa’s parish.

Paul Lewandowski has lived in six dioceses and considers Lincoln the best. He believes in the truth of the Christian Gospel and came here because, he said, “I wanted the purest form of that truth.”

Both he and his wife participate in perpetual adoration at North American Martyrs Church. Paul does his hour of prayer in the church at 3 a.m. each Friday. “I would never trade my hour,” he said. “It’s where I find peace in the presence of Jesus.”

The 24-hour prayer vigils are something of a rarity in Catholic churches in other places, he added.

The Lewandowskis have six children, four of whom attend Catholic schools. Lincoln parishes support their parochial schools, and tuition is low compared to Catholic schools in other states, he said. “A good school system is critical to a diocese staying healthy,” he said.

One obvious difference between the Lincoln Diocese and others is that Bruskewitz is the only bishop in the country who does not allow girls to be altar servers. Serving as altar boys can encourage young men to consider the priesthood, which may be one reason Lincoln has a high number of vocations to the priesthood compared with other dioceses, Lewandowski and others said.

“Boys in general are more lazy than women,” Lewandowski said. “Women will step into that role and men will let them.”

But many of the things that appeal to those who have chosen the Lincoln Diocese turn other Catholics off. Several people interviewed by the Journal Star talked about the rigidity of the church here, with little variation in worship style or preaching from parish to parish. They also noted not only the absence of girl altar servers but of lay women as eucharistic ministers, which is common elsewhere.

Louise Baskin, who grew up in the Lincoln Diocese but moved to Colorado nine years ago, said when she began attending a Catholic church in Arvada, Colo., “it was the first time I understood that Mass was a celebration, not solemn, quiet and reverent.”

Rachel Pokora, president of Call to Action-Nebraska, was a eucharistic minister when she lived in Indiana, helping serve communion during Mass. They also regularly received both the wine and bread during communion, while in Lincoln in most services it’s only the bread. Priests in Lincoln are “overly cautious on the eucharist,” she said. “They’re afraid to let it into anyone’s hands. They treat it with respect, but they don’t treat us with respect.”

Baskin disagrees that allowing girls to be altar servers will discourage boys from becoming priests. “Here in Colorado we have an equal number of girls and boys. No one feels left out.”

Her church in Arvada is large, but builds close relationships among parishioners through what she called “small church communities” that meet in people’s homes. Her parish priest gave a talk supporting evolution but also examining the claims of creationism and is planning another on stem cell research.

Karla Jensen, a communications professor at Nebraska Wesleyan who grew up in Scottsbluff, in the Grand Island Diocese, tried attending several Lincoln Catholic churches and felt “the voice of the liberal Catholic” was lacking. “It just didn’t seem like a place for open dialogue. I didn’t feel I would be free to ask questions or openly challenge anything.” Jensen doesn’t attend a Catholic church in Lincoln, but goes to Mass when she is home in Scottsbluff.

Catholic students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln quickly notice that the Lincoln Diocese is more conservative than the church in some other places.

Valentia Obafunwa, a UNL sophomore from Nigeria who has lived here since 2002, said she likes the methods of the Lincoln Diocese more than other dioceses she has seen. She attends St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on campus and is involved in the Fellowship of Catholic Students (FOCUS) at the Newman Catholic Student Center.

“I think the traditionalism is a really good thing,” she said. “Lincoln is a diocese that’s very consistent across the board. There’s no room for personal opinion. The ways and rules are set.”

Jason Thiele, a UNL junior, finds the Lincoln Diocese “a little more conservative” than the church in his home town of Clearwater, in northeast Nebraska. “I noticed it right away. I thought it was a little weird at first,” he said.

But he eventually got used to the way things are done here, and regularly attends St. Thomas Aquinas. Thiele said he’s only heard a few negative comments from students.

“There was one time where I remember some of the girls in choir wanted to do a more contemporary type of song for Mass but they didn’t think it would fly,” he said. “It’s usually things like that.”

Despite a national trend toward contemporary music and informal worship as a way to attract young people, the Lincoln Diocese keeps students coming back for traditional Mass. It’s possible Catholic students don’t necessarily want contemporary services, Thiele said.

In fact, he’s just happy to have a close place for worship.

“I wouldn’t say I like it any better or worse,” he said. “Mass is Mass everywhere. It doesn’t make a difference to me, conservative or contemporary.”

Erin LaFleur, a UNL junior, is also involved with FOCUS. Originally from Omaha, LaFleur said many students seem to connect with the more orthodox approach.

“I think we just feed off the energy everyone brings in and allow God’s music and word to flow,” she said.

In an interview, Bruskewitz said he isn’t familiar with what happens in other dioceses around the country. “We hope and pray that we serve God’s people here,” he said. “We do what we’re supposed to do and do it the best we can.”

Since St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward opened nine years ago, most of its students have come from the Lincoln Diocese, but some came from other places because they wanted to serve in this diocese, said Father John Folda, rector. The biggest factor in encouraging vocations here, he said, is that “young men have an opportunity to see young priests who are happy in their priesthood (and) they’re willing to try that experience themselves.”

On the question of women as eucharistic ministers, Bruskewitz said they should only be used in“extraordinary situations where a priest is not available or might have difficulty, such as in taking communion to a female-only ward in a hospital.

Bruskewitz doesn’t take most of the credit for the Lincoln Diocese being so traditional. His predecessor, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, set the tone, which Bruskewitz has continued since he came here in 1992.

The Lincoln Diocese isn’t perfect, he said, but strives to follow Catholic teachings as completely as possible. “It has a great deal to do with the fine quality of the clergy here. We have some wonderful, dedicated priests.”

Thanks to a reader for sending me this.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bishop Bruskewitz at CCI

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz to Catholic Citizens of Illinois: "Let it be our prayer that God will give us here and now, the ability to dare to be different, and to stand for Christ whatever the cost"

CCI NOTES: It was an enormous honor for CCI to host His Excellency Bishop Bruskewitz at our annual awards banquet on October 19, 2006. The Bishop was kind enough to share the text of his remarks, which we have reprinted below in their entirety.


Dear Friends, I thank you most sincerely for your very kind invitation to have me here to address you this evening. I am deeply impressed by your organization, and am particularly happy to see so many of my friends on your advisory board, and my dear friend Father Dudley Day, listed as your chaplain.

I have chosen for the title of my talk Facing the Crisis: Some reflections on the Current Crisis in the Church. It is important, I believe, to place a background against which my reflections will reflect. This has to be, of course, my conviction and I am sure yours, that the Catholic Church is very large with more than 1 billion 500 million of our fellow inhabitants of this planet, all across the globe, being our brothers and sisters in a common faith. We must also never forget that the Church is ever ancient and ever new, and has journeyed through more than two thousand years of human history, facing innumerable trials and difficulties, as well as triumphs and joys, carrying on her garments the dust of the journey, and sometimes on the feet of her members the mud of the trip. The Catholic Church, which is the bride of Jesus Christ, is holy and sinless, although she is composed entirely of sinful human beings, and all her members are required to pray that they be forgiven for their trespasses as they forgive others.

As she journeys through history and into our time and place, the Catholic Church carries deep within her the assurance of Jesus Christ that she will last until the end of time, and they he will be with her until He comes again in glory on the clouds of heaven. As His Mystical Body, she has God Himself, the Holy Spirit, as her informing soul, and as the one who protects and guides her despite the obstacles placed in her way, sometimes by her own disloyal and betraying children, as well as by those who, wittingly or unwittingly, at the source of the gates of hell's projected attempts to prevail against her. These thoughts might enable us to adopt an historical perspective as we consider the present problems and crises that the Church is encountering in this time and place, and will give us the necessary buoyancy to confront these crises which we should perhaps look at as the chastening rod of God, but not allow ourselves to be overcome with pessimism. It is said that the Chinese word for crisis is the same as the word for challenge or opportunity, and perhaps that understanding of the crises that we face will enable us always to be Easter people with Alleluia as our song.

That being said, we should however, realize that the Catholic Church in the United States, and to a large extent throughout the Western World, is facing a very formidable series of crises. Although the Catholic population of the United States is consistently growing, and now exceeds 67 million out of our total American population of 300 million, we have to remember that almost all of the growth has taken place by way of immigration, and almost none or less than none, by natural demographic increase. It should also be pointed out that the number of conversions to the Catholic faith in our country has fallen precipitously in the last forty years. As a matter of fact, it is an aphorism that probably can be statistically verified that the largest religious group in the United States is the Catholic Church, but the second largest is fallen-away Catholics, lapsed, non-practicing, those who have abandoned the Catholic faith. This leakage from the Catholic faith in the United States, which is undeniable, can be attributed to many factors, at least as far as can by observed. Thousands and thousands of Catholics have become Protestants and many thousands more have given up the practice of religion altogether. Except for the total number of Catholics in our country, every other category of Catholic statistics is in decline. There is and continues to be a very steep decline in vocations, a very steep decline in the number of priests, an extremely steep decline in the number of religious, especially women religious. There has been the closing of hundreds of Catholic schools throughout the United States. Many seminaries are closed or have such infinitesimally small enrollments that they ought to be closed. There are many Catholic colleges and universities, some of which are trying to maintain a Catholic identity, but many of which are Catholic in name only. There is a breakdown of authority in the Church, constant and open dissent by people who call themselves theologians; great doctrinal and moral confusion, and Catholics who while professing to belong to the Church are, perhaps, within her pale but outside of her orthodoxy. Catholics in many parts of the United States are confronted by banal, shallow, and irreverent liturgies that have no or only a most remote connection with the holy sacrifice of the Mass. In 1965, all the statistical studies showed that at least 85% or perhaps more of the Catholics in the United States attended mass each Sunday. The present statistical studies show that this has gone to 27% of the Catholics in the United States attending mass on Sundays. This is still in excess of certain countries in Europe such as Belgium and France, but there are some countries in Europe that have a higher Mass attendance than the United States, such as Poland and Italy. Unfortunately, Mass attendance in Ireland is descending rapidly to the tragic American level. Recent studies show, for example, that in the Archdioceses of Newark, in New Jersey, and Boston in Massachusetts, only 17% of those who say that are Catholic go to Mass at all. At the State university of Nebraska, located in Lincoln where I live, and where most of the Catholics who attend that university are not from the Lincoln Diocese, only 25% of the Catholic student body ever attend mass on Sunday, and after freshman year, more than half of the Catholics who attend that State university have lost their faith. In nearby Chicago, here, I believe that the census taken each October by the Archdiocese shows that only 22% of those who claim to be Catholic regularly attend Mass.

I need not point out to a wonderful group such as yours, that some of the leading proponents of such horrors as abortion, including partial birth abortion, are Catholic senators or senators who claim to be Catholic, and their names are quite familiar to you and I am certain that they are also very dedicated to such monstrous practices such as human cloning for therapeutic purposes, and embryonic human cell research. The picture, when one steps back and looks at it from some distance, can be quite bleak, and in many ways a source of anxiety and perhaps, desperate despondency. On the other hand, it can also be an opportunity to re-determine and reinvigorate our own faith, so that

we can answer the question in the affirmative, that Jesus left unanswered in Sacred Scripture. "When the Son of Man comes again, will he find any faith on earth?"

Unless there is a strong realization among practicing Catholics that there is a crisis, and that this crisis deserves our resolute determination to confront it and overcome it, we will not get very far, except to descend further into the bleakness of this sad kind of winter. Unless the patient realizes he is sick, he will not expose his wounds to the necessary healing medicine that would provide a cure for his problems.

There are, of course, many causes for these ecclesiastical crises in which we are involved. There are many causes outside of the Church. We live, for example, in a culture that is dominated by materialism and hedonism, invisibly and imperceptibly the values of those things creep in the lives and attitudes of all, including Catholics. Even the healthiest fish cannot swim along in polluted waters. In our country, especially, a serious misunderstanding of freedom has turned freedom into license, and we live in a pan-sexual and irresponsible age, in which pleasure, comfort, and material possessions appear to be the goals of human existence. Lacking solid catechetical teaching, it is very easy for people, especially young people to be lured into that kind of attitude and condition their entire life-style by such an attitude.

As Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say, "Most poisons are quite sweet to the lips. It is only when they are ingested that they destroy one."

However, we would certainly be blind to reality if we did not also realize that there are many causes of the current crises within the church herself, and the children of the Church who are in large measure betraying her, being one of the principal causes. First of all, the creed is absolutely the basis of what we are and what we do. When heretical and erroneous teachings are allowed to run rampant, it is a very short time before total disaster engulfs the entire ecclesiastical enterprise in any one area. We should remember that there was a time when North Africa was almost entirely Christian, almost entirely Catholic. Today, one can journey across North Africa from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt and find very little, if any, Catholic presence in most locations on that shore of the Mediterranean Sea. We should not think this cannot happen here. Although we are promised that the Church will endure until the end of time, we have no promise that it will be enduring in North America.

A great amount of dissent and turmoil has come about because of a very serious misunderstanding of the Second Vatican Council. The documents of the Second Vatican Council are excellent. All of the documents deserve careful study and careful consideration in all their implications and all their nuances. The intentions of the Popes of the Council, Blessed John XXIII and Pope Paul VI are also quite clear in their writings and speeches and in all the things they saw as derivative from the Council. The Council in itself we consider a great act of the Holy Spirit. However, what happened was (and I speak from first-hand experience because I was in Rome at the conclusion of the Council) that a great number of personages and causes gathered around the Council as a kind of para-Council, which gave, because of their domination of the media, an incredibly wrong impression which persist even to this day, about what the Council was and what it was intended to achieve. For example, one hears very little about the continuity of historic tradition which is inherent in the very actions of the Council and in its documents, that it always understood itself as in organic unity with the previous Councils of the Church, including both the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council which is explicitly affirmed and intended to incorporate in its outlook. This para-Council of advisors, experts and non-Catholic observers bestowed on the media incredibly distorted and even totally inaccurate impressions of the Council, giving to many Catholics even today, expectations for changes that were unrealistic and completely unintended. There was, in a certain sense the rigidities of the past and perhaps some faulty catechetics about issues in the past that made it possible for Catholics to be severely mistaken in what the Council intended and what would be within the capacities of the church to accomplish. The turbulent times of the 1960's especially in North America and Western Europe - with problems of racial justice, war and peace, and similar matters - got mixed up in the minds and hearts of many people and some Catholics were completely led astray, that Pope John's opening the windows to let fresh air into the church was an act they didn't see, which Pope John actually did see, the need for screens on the windows to keep foreign bodies from entering into the Church. Thus, we heard a few years later, Pope Paul VI saying that the very smoke from the fires of hell had crept into and under the window sashes and doors of the Church.

There was also a mistaken notion, even among some people who should have known better, that by removing or changing accidental matters, sometimes considered accretions in ecclesiastical life, it would not affect the substance of that life. I think there was misunderstanding of the Thomistic view of accidents and substances. Sometimes pulling out accidents which inhere in substances disturbs the substances themselves. Among the mistaken notions and distortions that derive from the Council was that of liturgical chaos. We also had a completely mistaken idea of the relationships of non-Catholics, individually and in groups, to the Catholic Church. The decree on ecumenism and the declaration on non-Christian religious, Unitatis Redintegratio and Nostra Aetate became the launching points of what later became, according to our present Holy Father, the dictatorship of relativism; namely, that there is no religious truth, or that religious truth is good for this person, but not necessarily true or good for that person, or while emphasizing that there are oftentimes, positive and truthful elements in other churches and other religious, and other denominations, and other religious experiences, and trying to be positive about that, may have misled a lot of people into thinking that religious truth is simply not contained in its fullness, in all its integrity and beauty only in the Catholic faith, but might also be contained similarly in others.

In Nebraska, where I come from, at this time of the year, harvest time, there are a lot of rodents who try to intrude themselves in, feasting on the corn, soybeans, and other products of the fields. This requires the farmers to put out appropriate amounts of rat poison to prevent this from happening. The rat poison that is put out is always 95% healthy, good, wholesome, nourishing food. It is only the 5% in the poison that does the killing. I think that this has been overlooked in the ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues sometimes, that inserted into things which might have elements of truth, are also very serious elements of error that place in jeopardy one's eternal salvation.

On hundred and fifty years ago, Cardinal John Henry Newman confronted the same situation in large extent that we are presently facing. He said, "Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and taste, not an objective fact, not miraculous, and it the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant church or to Catholic, may get good from both, or belong to neither and may fraternize together in spiritual thought and feelings without having any views at all of doctrine in common or seeing any need of them."

It does not take much inquiry or insight to see how this kind of liberalism in religion affects many people of our time. Newman said this liberalism "is the view that the Governor of the world does not intend that we should gain the truth, that we are not more acceptable to God by believing this rather than believing that, that no one is answerable for his opinions, that it is enough that we simply hold what we profess, and that we should follow what seems to us to be true without any fear lest it should not be true, and that we may safely trust to ourselves in matters of faith, and need no other guide."

Newman then says that "the Catholic faith opposes this idea of liberalism in religious. It asserts very emphatically that there is a truth, then, that there is one truth, that religious error is of itself an immoral nature, that its maintainers, unless involuntarily such, are guilty in maintaining it, that the mind is below truth and not above it, and is bound, not to descant upon it, but to venerate it, that truth and falsehood are set before us for the trial of our hearts, that our choice is an awful giving forth of lots on which salvation or its rejection is inscribed, and that before all things it is necessary to hold the Catholic faith, and that he who would be saved must think thus and not otherwise."

What then should be the method by which we face the rises in the Church at this time? There must be, I think, a supreme effort to recapture our Catholic faith in all its orthodox splendor, and to take a stand for Christ as in the olden days. The Church has ever been counter-cultural. She has always and ever been that which stands against the age because she is the custodian of the Deposit of Faith, inherently and intrinsically conservative, as Pope Paul VI observed, because she to maintain the integrity of that faith without distortion or mutilation down through the centuries. It is important that we see the truths of our Catholic faith as liberating realities, and not as some kind of constraint, and that true freedom is linked with truth, and that truth trumps freedom and that unless one is in possession of the truth, one is not actually free. The words of Jesus are always appropriate to every age, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

It is also important in this regard to reinvigorate in ourselves and in all with whom we have any connection, the spirit of obedience. Saint Paul, in his epistle to the Romans speaks about the obedience of faith which we must give to God Who reveals Himself in Christ Jesus. Jesus Himself redeemed us by obedience; not just that He died, but that He was obedient unto death. Obedience means submitting our will to the will of God. The medieval Doctors of the Church always encouraged those who listened to their teaching and preaching to sentire cum ecclesia, that is, to think with and be with the Church.

And so, the question arises, "Where is this church?" It is certainly not situated in Andrew Greeley or Richard McBrien, or Sister Chittester, or in the myriads of other personages and voices whose faces and words appear to dominate the media when it come to Catholic expression. No, Saint Ambrose, long ago, told us where we would find the Church, where she is always situated. He said in Latin, Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna. Where Peter is, there is the church and where the Church is, there is everlasting life. It is especially through apostolic succession, and most particularly in the apostolic succession of the See of Rome, that we are able to reach back through history, and touch, not only the bodies and souls of the apostles, but the One Who sent the apostles forth, that is the Divine Founder of our Catholic religion of the Catholic Church, the Divine Source of all faith, as well as the Object of that faith, Jesus Christ. The great martyrs who preceded us in our Catholic faith were willing to see Jesus as the Person to die for, and we certainly, to be worthy of their memory, must see Him as the Divine Person to live for.

The clash of culture represented by the Muslim demography and onslaught in our time, which reflects the Islamic expansionism of times past, cannot be successfully confronted by an easy-going pluralistic tolerance. It can only be confronted by a reinvigorated Christianity, a reinvigorated Catholic faith. The dynamism, the Tielhardism, the Communism, the Marxism, the Socialism, and countless other isms of the last centuries will never be successfully confronted either, apart from a reinvigorated and grace-filled Catholic faith. This duty to profess again, not just with mouth and words, but with heart and soul, the Catholic faith, the profession of faith, is incumbent, not simply upon priests, religious, and bishops, preoccupied as they are and assailed as they are by abominable scandals in their number and confusion in their thoughts, but also by a laity that takes again very seriously what Chesterton observed. "There are an infinity of angles at which one can fall, but only one at which one can stand." Once the Catholic faith is flaming alive in the hearts of a dedicated laity, they will be able to carry out the function that the Second Vatican Council places upon them, to bring Christ and the truth of his faith and the truth of the faith He founded into the market place, into the work place, into the home and family, into the realm of politics, business, industry, commerce, the professions, arts and culture.

In summary, a laity that will be the salt, the leaven and the light that will penetrate our world. Initially, there were only twelve apostles, largely shabby fishermen from Galilee, who were able, with the grace of God and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to bring the light of Christ to 2000 and more years of human history. Why should we think we are any less capable, provided that we are people of prayer, dedication and devotion, of doing something similar in our time and place. Let it be our prayer that God will give us here and now, the ability to dare to be different, and to stand for Christ whatever the cost, and to convince our world that our Catholic faith is so beautiful that all people would wish it to be true, and then to inform our world in the most certain terms that it is true. Thank you very much.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Feminism and the New Age Movement

An Ordinary Viewpoint
An Occasional Column of Episcopal Comment by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, S.T.D.

On February 3, 2003, the Holy See issued an important document entitled “Jesus Christ, The Water-Bearer of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age”, which is a study and research paper, as well as a significant Catholic instruction, about the New Age Movement. The Roman document asserts, “It must never be forgotten that many of the movements which have fed the New Age are explicitly anti-Christian. Their stance toward Christianity is not neutral but neutralizing. Despite what is often said about an openness to all religious standpoints, traditional Christianity is not sincerely regarded by New Agers as an acceptable alternative. In fact, it is occasionally made abundantly clear that there is no tolerable place for true Christianity in the New Age, and there are even arguments justifying anti-Christian behavior. This opposition initially was confined to the rarefied realms of those who go beyond a superficial attachment to New Age, but has begun more recently to permeate all levels of the ‘alternative culture’, which has an extraordinarily powerful appeal, above all, in sophisticated Western societies.”

It should be remembered, however, “that not everyone or everything in the broad sweep of New Age is linked to the theories of the movement in the same ways. Likewise, the label itself is often misapplied or extended to phenomena which can be categorized in other ways. The term New Age has even been abused to demonize people and practices. It is essential to see whether phenomena linked to this movement, however loosely, reflect or conflict with the Christian vision of God, the human person, and the world. The mere use of the term ‘New Age’ itself means little, if anything. The relationship of the person, group, practice, or commodity to the tenets of Christianity is what counts. Some practices are incorrectly labeled as New Age simply as a marketing strategy to make them sell better, but are not truly associated with its worldview. This only adds to the confusion.”
Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that the New Age in its varied forms “cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous because it negates the revealed contents of Christian Faith, creating confusion for the unwary. (1 Timothy 1:3-4)”.

The Vatican document notes that one of the “feeders” of today’s New Age Movement was 19th century “theosophism”. It was in that century when ancient superstitions such as alchemy, magic, astrology, and traditional esotericism began to be merged and integrated with a scientific search for causal laws, evolutionism, psychology, and the study of comparative religions. Using those ideas and attempting to merge Eastern and Western religious outlooks, a Russian immigrant living in New York, who made money as a “medium” and fortune teller, Madame Helena Blavatsky, with her friend Henry Olcott, founded in 1875 the American Theosophical Society, whose announced purpose was to eliminate all distinctions of race, religion, caste, or color, to promote science, philosophy, and the laws of nature, and to investigate the latent powers in human beings. Their aims included eliminating Christianity as a form of “irrational bigotry”. Of course, “science” for them meant “occult science”, “psychic practices”, and the discovery of “primordial tradition”.

“A prominent component of Blavatsky’s writings involved an attack upon the ‘male God’ of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She urged people to return to the mother-goddess of Hinduism... This continued under the guidance of Anne Besant, who was in the vanguard of the feminist movement.” Although Blavatsky’s doctrines were considered a laughable absurdity at the time, they recently have been revived and promoted by some modern groups under the guise of such terms as “wicca and women’s spirituality”. Some extremist feminist nuns and people such as Joan Chittister, Rosemary R. Reuther, and various members of the Call-to-Action sect carry on this struggle against what they call “patriarchal” Christianity today. They, wittingly or unwittingly, echo theosophist silliness, and sometimes try to insinuate themselves into the Church by disguising themselves as “Catholics”. We should be aware of the danger that these kinds of people with their false and evil feminism imbedded in the New Age can pose to eternal salvation.

Another doctrine of the New Age involves what they call “conscious transformation” with which New Agers oppose “older forms of thought judged to be entrenched in the status quo.” What they have been successful in doing in this regard, according to the Holy See, “is the generalization of ecology as a fascination with and resacralization of the earth, Mother Earth or Gaia, with the missionary zeal characteristic of Green politics.” The New Agers say, “the Earth’s executive agent is the human race as whole, and the harmony and understanding required for responsible governance is increasingly understood to be a global government with a global ethical framework. The warmth of Mother Earth, whose divinity pervades the whole of creation, is held to bridge the gap between creation and the Father-God of Judaism and Christianity, and this removes the prospect of being judged by such a Being.”

The Holy See points out that “in such a vision of a closed universe that contains God and other spiritual beings along with ourselves, we recognize an implicit pantheism. This is a fundamental point which pervades all New Age thought and practice, and conditions in advance any positive assessment where we might be in favor of one or the other aspect of its spirituality. As Christians, we believe, on the contrary, man is essentially a creature and remains so for all eternity, so that an absorption of the human “I” into the divine “I” will never be possible.”

One of the ways to oppose this aspect of the New Age Movement, according to the Holy See, is to “give due recognition to Christian groups which promote care for the earth as God’s creation. Care for the environment in general terms is a timely sign of a fresh concern for what God has given us, perhaps a necessary mark of the Christian stewardship of creation.” However, we must resist other “kinds of deep ecology based on pantheistic and occasionally Gnostic principles. A great deal of what is proposed by the more radical elements of the ecological movement is difficult to reconcile with the Catholic Faith.” The Holy See also tells us that in our efforts as followers of Jesus Christ to oppose the New Age Movement, “it is of paramount importance to start with a good knowledge of Sacred Scripture.”


Thanks to a reader for alerting me to this article and, indeed, this column.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Awesome Photo!

Many thanks to Sparki at Fonticulus Fides for this awesome picture (obviously, click on it for the larger image):

Sparki explained to me the context of the picture:

"In the picture, he is celebrating Mass at Saint Patrick Church in McCool Junction, on Saint Patrick's Day 2006, which was the 100th anniversary of the parish's dedication. The altar had recently been salvaged from a country parish in Iowa that was getting rid of it -- pretty cool, though, isn't it?"

Even the low altar is very beautiful, but the high altar there (even without but especially with the statue of St. Patrick) is simply astonishing. Oh, and I like the bishop...he's definitely a keeper. Oh hell, I wish I could just have the whole deal airlifted to my place.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

More on The Great Cleansing of the Temple of 1996

An Interview With Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz

by Paul Likoudis

In the weeks since Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln issued a formal warning to Catholics who belong to groups which are opposed to the Catholic Church that they are in danger of excommunication, the flurry of national press attention to this unprecedented action has not abated.

Newspaper, television, and radio reporters are still requesting interviews with Bishop Bruskewitz, and THE WANDERER joined the queue last week to ask the bishop questions about what implications his action might have for other dioceses.

Q. How are you and the Diocese of Lincoln coping with all the national attention you've both received recently?

A. I think we are coping quite well. The national attention was unexpected and unintended, but we are able to manage our lives well notwithstanding it all.

Q. Did your action create as much controversy in Lincoln as it did outside the diocese?

A. My impression is that it did not. The national uproar was disproportionate to whatever attention was paid within Lincoln. I thought the Diocese of Lincoln was extremely supportive of the extrasynodal legislation that was passed, and I have the impression that the priests of the diocese are in accord with the legislation. The overwhelming majority of the lay faithful are in accord with the legislation as well.

We have found some of the national attention to be a source of amusement. [The National Catholic Reporter] said we were "floundering in an atmosphere of fear." When I mentioned this to the priests of the diocese for the Chrism Mass, it evoked
prolonged laughter.

Q. Do you think the warning you issued was "extreme" or drastic?

A. No. I think it was serious. It was serious because we are dealing with serious issues, that is, putting in peril one's Catholic faith, or being a member of an organization whose principles are incompatible with the Catholic faith.

Q. Isn't it true that the excommunication of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre did not apply to his followers or individual members? Is your decree, by including Catholics who belong to the St. Pius X Society, going beyond what the Vatican decree does?

A. The sanction of interdict and excommunication that is in the legislation of the Diocese of Lincoln applies to membership on the part of people who are in or of the Diocese of Lincoln in the Society of St. Pius X and/or the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel. Both have been fraudulently advertising themselves in Lincoln as "in full union with Rome," causing confusion, ambiguity, and uncertainty on the part of many of the faithful in Lincoln, and giving rise to many serious questions which the legislation was intended to answer.

Q. Are you surprised that none of your brother bishops have publicly supported you?

A. No. I am not surprised and I don't expect any nor have I asked for any. I am reassured, however, by many private communications from bishops of their support.

Q. Would you agree that there are reasons for the ordinary Catholic to be confused by your action, since you have warned your flock that involvement in certain groups is dangerous to their faith, but other bishops have endorsed those same groups, such as Call to Action?

A. The legislation that I enacted for the Diocese of Lincoln is not meant to apply to other places where other pastoral situations exist which may be quite different from those in the Diocese of Lincoln.

I don't see how legislation which is meant to apply only to Lincoln should cause undue consternation for people who live elsewhere and whom I would urge to follow the legislation that exists in their own diocese.

Q. What advice would you offer to rank-and-file Catholics who might become confused because your actions differ so much from what their own bishop might allow?

A. Once again, I would say that a bishop is a legislator for his own diocese, and therefore his legislation applies only to that diocese. I would not pretend to legislate for any place outside of Lincoln; nor do I have any desire to. Catholics should follow the legislation that applies to their own diocese.

I am not in a position to determine whether some of these organizations are different from one diocese to another, although I suspect they are not. I would also point out that legislation for the universal Church regarding Masonic organizations seems to be for all Catholics everywhere. On Nov. 26th, 1983, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in a Declaration on Masonic Organizations said that Catholics who join these organizations are in a state of serious sin and may not receive Holy Communion. And this declaration was approved and promulgated by the Holy Father.

Q. What would you do if a Catholic in the Diocese of New Ulm, Minn., asked you for your opinion on joining the local chapter of Call to Action?

A. I would say that I have no jurisdiction over any action in New Ulm. I do not know what is going on in New Ulm and would make no statement at all about the situation there.

Q. Isn't it a fact that it is a fundamental duty of bishops to maintain the unity of the Church? How does an individual bishop address the obvious disparities in the Church in regard to discipline and teaching from diocese to diocese?

A. I certainly agree that bishops have a duty to maintain unity in the Church. This unity is basically maintained by full and obedient communion with the head of the college of bishops, the Successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Holy Father.

Diversity of pastoral situations and problems can certainly allow for a diversity of diocesan legislation regarding such issues as groups or organizations which pose a danger to the Catholic faith or which are actually contradictory to the Catholic faith.

Q. To what extent do differences within the Church in one particular country, say, the United States—in discipline and teaching —affect the fundamental unity of the Church?

A. If these differences are about those matters on which Catholics must and should be in agreement, then obviously these differences will be harmful. However, pastoral approaches sometimes can be different and not be harmful to basic unity.

Q. In chapter 1, paragraph 6 of the Pastoral Office of Bishops issued by Vatican 1, it clearly states that bishops "should be solicitous for all the Churches.... They should be especially solicitous for those parts of the world in . . . which the faithful are in danger of falling away from the obligations of the Christian life or even of losing the faith itself."

Doesn't that mean you have a responsibility to show solidarity with Catholics in other dioceses where bishops are actually engaged in deconstructing the faith?

A. I certainly hope that I show solidarity with all Catholics everywhere. However, it would seem to be presumptuous of me to judge that bishops are, as you say it, "deconstructing the faith," particularly when I haven't made a thorough study of these matters or these places and have not been authorized by the Holy Father to make any such study.

I hasten to add that it is the duty of all lay Catholics to bring to the attention of the pastors of the Church their needs, their desires, and their views of ecclesial matters.

This duty is set forth in the chapter on the laity in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, [Lumen Gentium]. So those lay Catholics who see "deconstructing" going on, it seems to me, should exercise their right and duty to make this known to those who they feel are engaged in such activities.

Q. You told [The National Catholic Register] that your action was not intended to touch the jurisdictions of other bishops in other dioceses, but once your action was publicized nationally, you have touched on their jurisdictions and competence, haven't you? To put it simply: How can one be a bad Catholic in one diocese for belonging to a certain group, and a good Catholic in another diocese for belonging to the same group?

A. I certainly have no ability or desire to interfere in the jurisdictions or competence of other bishops. I don't believe a national media uproar does that. I think that it is clear in my mind, as a conscientious bishop, that the 12 organizations that I listed are not able to be anything else in the Diocese of Lincoln than a danger or peril to one's Catholic faith or even a contradiction to one's Catholic faith.

It seems difficult to me to understand how they would be different for Catholics in another place unless the nature of the organization is different from place to place.

I already used the example of the Masonic organizations which are prohibited everywhere on earth. Certainly they are prohibited under an implicit interdict, since the declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states that Catholics enrolled in them are guilty of serious sin.

Q. But Catholics all over the country know that Call to Action is composed mostly of priests and nuns, ex-priests and ex-nuns, and people who work for the Catholic Church in chanceries, schools, and so on. If belonging to Call to Action is an excommunicable offense in Lincoln, aren't you telling Catholics everywhere that CTA Catholics are not really Catholic?

A. That may explain why I received some letters with a lot of invective and obscenities from that outfit.

I must say that the overwhelming majority of the letters I received are very supportive. They are running in the hundreds-or-thousands-to-one. I am overwhelmed by the positive response.

Call to Action has as one of its proclaimed purposes the ordaining of women, and that is to go against the Catholic faith. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that this teaching is part of the infallible teaching of the Church. I don't know how anyone can hold a position contrary to the Catholic faith and maintain membership in an organization that is in contradiction to the Catholic faith.

Number 25 of says we are to give religious submission of mind and
will to the Supreme Pontiff. I don't know how this organization can be said to do this.

Furthermore, when it met here in Lincoln, CTA violated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy by inventing a totally different Mass text than any that had been approved by any bishop or Pope. They recited a creed which was at variance with the Creed of the Catholic Church, and which bore little or no resemblance to what Catholics recite or believe.

Q. What are you going to do with all the letters, faxes, and telegrams you received?

A. We are going to keep them on file here, and make them available to those who have a good reason to read them. I have to cry when I read some of these letters. Some are extremely moving, particularly those from parents and devout nuns and wonderful priests who have written letters of remarkable spiritual depth.

Q. Is there a common theme or thread to the letters?

A. Almost all are congratulatory and supportive. Many are also very suspicious of, or antagonistic to, the media presentations. There is also a common theme in almost all the letters warning me of the persecution and suffering I will have to endure for enacting this legislation, but [these messages are] also accompanied by words such as "don't waver," "don't give up," "hang in there."

Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN

Monday, May 29, 2006

Bp. Bruskewitz translates the Compendium

Bishop Bruskewitz Honored for Work on Compendium

LINCOLN (SNR) - On the wall outside the office of Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz is a framed portrait and letter from Pope Benedict XVI, in which the Holy Father confers his Apostolic Blessing and personal thanks to the bishop for his contributions to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Compendium is an easy-to-read summary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Pope John Paul II commissioned in February 2003. Describing the “urgent need to have a brief Catechism for the faithful,” he asked Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, to serve as president of the commission that would create the Compendium.

Originally written in Italian, the Compendium was completed right at the time Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005. He presented the 200-page work to the Church in June 2005.

“It is not a new catechism, but a compendium which faithfully reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the Holy Father said as he introduced the volume during a prayer service in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall. Indeed, the Compendium follows the structure of the Catechism very closely.

Pope Benedict XVI also said that the work is “destined for the whole church.” With that goal in mind, he had already asked several bishops to provide translations of the Compendium into other languages some time earlier.

Then-Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco and Bishop Bruskewitz had been asked to collaborate on a translation for all English-speaking countries of the world.

Archbishop Levada had completed roughly a fourth of the translation work before he was named Prefect of the Doctrine of Faith in May 2005. Bishop Bruskewitz was thereafter responsible for the bulk of the work.

“With the permission of the Holy See,” the bishop said, “I was able to use several religious sisters and priests to polish and edit the work I did.”

The task involved taking the Italian text and translating it into conversational English, staying within the original conversational question-and-answer format. For that aspect of the work, the bishop’s 18 years of living in Italy was useful.

It took several months to complete the translation. “What was somewhat challenging,” Bishop Bruskewitz explained, “was the direction of the Holy See that the vocabulary be as close to Catechism as possible.”

After a round of editing and polishing with his team, Bishop Bruskewitz sent the translation to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. Another round of refinements were made by the Holy See before the English version was made available for publication by bishops’ conferences.

It was published in both hardcover and paperback by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and made available for sale last March. Since then, the Compendium has been selling briskly. The first paperback edition was all but sold out just days after its release, according to the USCCB’s Office of Media Relations. Additional editions have kept stores supplied with copies.

Bishop Bruskewitz anticipated that the Compendium will “stimulate interest in picking up the entire Catechism. It’s very user-friendly, more convenient to use and covers all the bases quite adequately.”

Acknowledging that the Catechism is “a formidable document,” the bishop stressed that catechists and others who will use the Compendium will also want to use the Catechism as they instruct others about the Catholic faith.

“The Compendium summarizes the Catechism and basic points, but does not have the completeness or thoroughness of the Catechism,” he stated.

He sees various potential uses for the Compendium, such as serving as a helpful reference for parents as they instruct their children or any Catholic who is fielding questions about the faith in casual conversations with friends or family.

“I’d recommend it to all Catholics and certainly everyone involved in catechesis,” the bishop said.

The Compendium also includes 15 reproductions of religious art that help illustrate its doctrinal content. “Works of art always ‘speak,’ at least implicitly, of the divine, of the infinity beauty of God,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote.

One appendix addresses traditional catechetical formulas, such as the three theological virtues or the seven deadly sins. The other includes the texts of traditional prayers in both English and Latin.

Upon the Compendium’s presentation last June, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged all Catholics to learn these prayers in Latin, because it would “help Christian faithful of different languages pray together, especially when they gather for special circumstances.”

Bishop Bruskewitz welcomed the invitation. “It’s part of our heritage,” he said. “We live in a global village, and as a result, we find ourselves more frequently than we expect in international gatherings. So a common language of prayer is helpful to us.”

The Compendium is available for purchase at many Catholic retailers, non-Catholic bookstores and on-line booksellers. The French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish translations are now available at the Vatican web site ( Bishop Bruskewitz assumes that the English version will also be found there at some point.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bishops Bruskewitz and Corrada

Here's an article and interview from late last year with Bishops Bruskewitz and Corrada.

Q. Your Excellencies, Pope Benedict XVI's pre-Christmas Roman Curia address had a theme of the competing claims, and subsequent struggle, for the true Second Vatican Council. Do you have any comments?

Bishop Corrada: The Holy Father has been following this theme, and he picked it up from Pope John Paul II, but has emphasized it more. I think that Pope Benedict XVI has a very deep insight because of his philosophical and theological formation that the authentic teachings of the Church have to be followed, and that the Church has to come back to certain disciplines that some bishops and many of the faithful and priests have gotten away from.

And that discipline is the discipline of the sacraments, the discipline of the liturgy, and even the discipline of the Latin language. I think that is what he is making reference to, and I think it is wonderful that he is making that emphasis.

I think, of course, that John Paul II [intended that as well]. But this is something that will take a long time. I think this is the battle for the legitimate and genuine Second Vatican Council teachings to be known by bishops and priests and to put it into action. There have been some tendencies that have vitiated the Second Vatican Council with some of the thinking of bishops and theologians.

And it is more than that. It is secularism as an ideology. The Catholic Church sees the secular world as the place of the kingdom. But when secularism as an ideology comes and turns the world into a place where there is no transcendental relationship to God, where there is no respect for the dignity of the human person, with abortion and the whole culture of death, that is where I think this Holy Father is asking us to go back to the culture of life. And the evangelization of the Church needs to be directed in that internal reform if we are going to be effective in the world against the ideology of secularism.

Bishop Bruskewitz: The majority of the Second Vatican Council fathers and the Popes never saw the council as discontinuous and as a rupture with the past. The emphasis was always in accord with the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council — the unbroken continuity of Catholic Tradition, both in doctrine and in many other areas. There are those who understood, and still understand, the Second Vatican Council as some sort of revolutionary destruction of the past — a sort of French Revolution — that we are destroying everything in the past and starting new all over again, with a whole new [liturgical] calendar and everything.

It is not at all what the Second Vatican Council [fathers] understood themselves as doing.

What happened, however, is there was a para-council of periti, of experts, who all dominated through the whole matrix of media representation of what was going on at the council. Because of that, there were horrible distortions in the popular imagination, including the clerical imagination, including the priests. Even they saw this as a complete rupture. Emotionally and psychologically, people who intellectually might understand that the Mass is the same if you offer it in English or in Latin, [nonetheless] thought, "We have a whole new world here, and this doesn't really mean what it said."

We had this whole rising expectation, this para-council that gave this impression to the world that there was this big revolution. So, when this revolution hit some blank walls like "no women priests" and "no married priests," I think what happened was that then these expectations were frustrated. Then, people got all upset and more in a dissenting and rebellious mood.

When the history of the council is explained, it will be clear that Pope John XXIII never thought he was going make a tabula rasa by throwing away everything in the past and starting all anew, that this wasn't his idea at all. In fact, Pope John XXIII was super-traditional in many of the things he said and did.

Q. Like Veterum Sapientia [On the Promotion and Study of Latin, promulgated by Pope John XXIII February 22, 1962]?

Bishop Bruskewitz: Veterum Sapientia means "the wisdom of the ancients."

I don't think John XXIII intended the destruction of everything. That was not his intention at all. Things maybe ran away from him. He was very sick and died, of course, when the council began.

However, there was, and continues to be, a very serious misreading of what was going on. I think when he beatified John XXIII, along with Pius IX, John Paul II had a grasp of that. He was at the council. He understood that this was not what the council said, nor what the intention was.

There are horror stories. For instance, Gregory Baum and some of these left-wing people who left the Church and dissented, they were going around [Rome] on motorcycles with Latin speeches in their saddlebags trying to find bishops who would say them.

And then some bishop would read them [publicly], they were in Latin, so he probably didn't even know what they said, and then they would blast them all over the newspapers: Things like 'The council says no more Purgatory,' among others. There was that sort of outrage that was going on. And in the area of the media, the left-wing liberal dissenting branch took over and prevailed.

Q. Do you think part of the Holy Father's message might encompass a clarifying of what makes up true ecumenism?

Bishop Corrada: The question is well placed. Many bishops and in many parts of the Church in the United States, we have allowed the Church to have "unity" that comes from political tendencies or other religious traditions' tendencies — even Protestantism. [We have allowed that] to direct the dialogue, instead of that dialogue that comes out of the true ecumenism that only the Church can present. True ecumenism is built by the Church itself. It is what the Church does. That is ecumenism.

It does not come from the directions from which so many other groups go on. You will find so many political parties trying to call ecumenical prayer groups and things like that. I think that is totally wrong. I think we need to re-center into true ecumenism, which is what the Church does, and not what other people do. We try to attract them to the fullness of truth. We try not to push them further away from the truth that they might still have either by natural revelation or by religious tradition. We try to bring them closer. I think that is what the Council was trying to emphasize.

We try not to push them further away, but we should try to bring them closer, or at least for them to stay where they are, so that unity and growth can happen so that truth can work itself. But we know this is in the hands of the Holy Spirit. It is not this activism that you have seen in some people, and which has been unfortunate.

Ecumenism is what the Church does by bringing the truth to people through the aid of the Holy Spirit — the mission — so that those who are closer to the Truth come closer and that those farther away are not moving farther by our example or by our way of presenting the Truth.

But the Truth is only one, and it is in the Catholic Church. We have to accept that.

Q. Both the Pope and you mentioned the effect the media had on its representation of the council as a revolution. Does the secular media even understand the Church? Do you believe the misrepresentation of the Church is intentional? Or is it out of naivete and ignorance of the Church?

Bishop Bruskewitz: It is ignorance. They are looking for sensationalism. And sometimes the reporters aren't responsible [for what happens]. It is oftentimes the editors. They like to see conflict and this is what sells their product. Of course, sex and religion are explosive issues, and the more you can put that on the pages, the better it is.