What did the Cardinal really say?

Cardinal Woelki of Berlin (now transferred to Cologne) has been under fire for his favorable comments on respecting same-sex couples. Personally, I wish he’d be more careful about his comments, but they don’t seem to be as liberal as his critics suggest.

Here’s my casual translation of comments made in an August 2012 interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

The reporter gets into sensitive territory by suggesting that the cardinal has his own “Woelki method”: keeping Catholic teaching untouched while giving practical signs that anything is possible.

Q. Under the “Woelki method”, we’re thinking of your statements at the Mannheim Catholic convention about recognition for homosexual couples. Aren’t you thereby taking a broad perspective on the teaching of the Catholic Church that lived homosexuality contradicts the Creator’s plan?


CARDINAL WOELKI: Wherever people are there for each other, that deserves recognition. With adult children who care for their parents, this is obvious. So when same-sex partners show a comparable degree of care, we can’t deny them respect for it. I recently heard of a young couple, in which one partner took care of the other in a serious illness and accompanied him to the point of death. That is humanly valuable and worth recognizing.


Q: How could this recognition be shown? For example, what possibility is there for openly living homosexual Catholics to be involved in parish councils?


CARDINAL: The Church’s Magisterium has repeatedly clearly and unmistakably established that homosexual acts “are intrinsically disordered”, contradict natural law, and therefore cannot be condoned by our conviction of the faith. Obviously I am not striking out a line of that.


Q: But then what does that mean?
(Woelki takes a long pause and reflects)

Q: Is the question crossing your mind now whether it would hurt things, if we insist so much on this point, or if you might lean even farther out the window if possible?


CARDINAL: For a fact, my words in Mannheim already immediately brought forth criticism. Not to overlook the “Internet Magisterium” with its usual polemical attacks, which, directed against a cardinal, come out even more embittered than they were before, if possible. But further polarization will not get us anywhere, for sure.


Q: Federal policy is close to doing what you called for in Mannheim – more recognition for same-sex couples through a better position in tax law.


CARDINAL: The secular state has the option to order such things for its citizens. This is clear: for us as the Catholic Church it is marriage of man and woman, open to children, the ideal of living together and also the model we support. Also in the Basic Law [the German Federal Constitution] marriage and family stand under special state protection as a natural basic unit of society (and also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Overall, it sounds like the bishop’s method is close to what the reporter thought: the bishop enunciates Catholic teaching clearly as applying to intra-Church matters; but he is unspecific about what society and the state should do. There is Catholic teaching against unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons, and perhaps the bishop is only calling for observance of that. But he gave no guidance about where the state should restrain itself in granting status to same-sex couples.

What’s wrong with art music?

I started directing a choir when I was 22 years old.  I was fresh out of music school and had started a grad degree at Catholic University.  I’m surprised I made it past my first few months.   Most of the choir was over sixty.   Some were Vatican II revolutionaries, the baby-out-with-the-bathwater folks who pronounced “amen” as “aye-men.”    The same people who lived through drastic change during the 60’s were determined that once they crossed over the vernacular and folk music threshold, would never look back and there was nothing new to look forward to.  I suppose no one wanted to turn in to a pillar of salt.   Or they thought that their generation owned the new style and had no desire to sing music that they didn’t own, that wasn’t created on their watch, and didn’t have modern, popular appeal.

And yet art music, especially Latin motets and chant was and is their own, but now like the unwelcome cousin at the family reunion.  Most of our parishioners are college educated and though removed by generations, have roots in Europe.  Why should any suburban parish have wanted to sacrifice Palestrina on the altar of congregational participation?  Because it seemed like the right thing to do in order to sweep in the new order. And now a few decades later, that mindset is pervasive from pastor down to the guy who sits in the back corner and leaves before Mass is over.  Some parishioners don’t even like the idea of a cantor with a trained voice.  Even if the mic is adjusted properly and his voice isn’t shattering eardrums, some people still think a trained musician means the music they sing isn’t authentically of the people.

First, we need to define terms.  Art music and classical music are synonymous. From the New Harvard Dictionary of Music, art music has

…perceived characteristics as poise, balance, proportion, simplicity, formal discipline, and craftsmanship, and universal and objective (rather than idiosyncratic and subjective) expression… a standard or model of excellence, one of enduring value.

Folk music according to the same publication is

Music in oral tradition, often in relatively simple style, primarily of rural provenance, normally performed by non-professionals, used and understood by broad segments of the population and… characteristic of a nation, society or ethnic group and claimed by one of these as its own.

The challenge with folk music for Mass is that given this definition, it is meant for specific nations or ethnic groups.  The more we create music specific for a small group of us – even if that group is that Catholic church goers in the USA, the more we depart from the idea the Church is universal.

Still, some think that art music in church is somehow an ugly, unwelcome of everything that we aren’t.  If you think there is something inherently wrong with art music, then imagine this.

In 1498, a french Cardinal picked a man from his congregation at random and handed him a hammer and chisel.  He said, “Over there is a block of Carrara marble, from which I would like you to craft a statue of the Madonna holding the body of Jesus after he is taken down from the cross.  I want this sculpture to be special, therefore I have chosen you – who could have been any man – to carve this stone.  You represent the people, use your vision and it will be that of my whole flock.  A thousand years from now people will still come to see your statue, because it was made by one of the people.”  And the man said, “But I am a butcher, I have never carved stone and would not know where to start.”   The Cardinal replied, “I don’t want an artist.  If this is made by a artist it won’t be authentic.  It won’t express what the people feel or think.”  And the man started to clink clink away at the marble.

Of course this didn’t happen, and wouldn’t have happened in that time.  Michelangelo was commissioned to make the Pietà as the Cardinal’s funeral monument.  Centuries later the Cardinal is largely forgotten, while the Pietà is venerated.  The statue is realistic to the last detail, a merger of the ideals of classical art and the Renaissance style.  It’s moving and most of all is beautiful, undeniably beautiful. It’s been viewed by generations of pilgrims to Rome.  It was beautiful from the start and will be beautiful until the end of time.

So why, if we have models of timeless beauty that propel man toward God, do we venerate the idea that folk music and folk art belongs in church instead of classical art and music?   Ink and pixels have been spent on this, by people who range from professors to cranks.

I’ll keep it simple – if you had the choice between something truly beautiful and timeless that pointed you toward God, instead of music that apes campfire songs, Disney ballads or throbbing rock tunes, why would you choose the latter?   The answer is sadly that many people have lost the idea of art as elevating the spirit and have replaced it with the idea that art should make us feel good in the most superficial sense.

For me, there’s plenty of time outside of Mass to listen to music that makes you feel good.  That doesn’t mean that our Masses and worship of God should sound like the music was snatched out of the recycle bin at Disney Studios.

A thousand years from now, baring catastrophe or mass destruction, people will still visit Rome to see the Pietà.  The Lion King won’t even be a footnote in music history class.


“I cannot; I must not; I will not!”

At the religious freedom rally in San Francisco on Friday, Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S., spoke as follows:

In every age Christians have been challenged to stand up for what they believe. I would like to share with you the story of a little-known Saint. His name is Gaspar del Bufalo. It was 1810. He was only 24 years old, and had been ordained a priest just a short time. But now he was under arrest. Napoleon had conquered Rome and had imprisoned the pope. His intention was to close the churches and to force all the priests to swear allegiance to him.
So there Gaspar stood in front of the prefect. The prefect was a kind old gentleman, who did everything to minimize the event, downplaying it and reducing everything to a mere formality. It was just a harmless bureaucratic exercise.
The important thing was that Gaspar be put at ease, that he should not realize the seriousness of the choice to which he was being called. After all, many priests had already acquiesced and signed the oath of allegiance.
But Gaspar was not listening to the prefect, he was thinking of the blood which Napoleon had already caused to be shed. He was thinking of the imprisonment of the Holy Father, and he was thinking of the violation of liberty and the suppression of independence for the church.
So his response to the prefect was clear and decisive:
I cannot, I must not, I will not!
Just 200 years later, It is a different country and it is a different government. This time it is an American President. He has taken it upon himself to determine what is and is not religious. He has taken it upon himself to determine how I should live my faith in this time and in this place. Should I acquiesce to his demands?
I cannot, I must not, I will not!
The world health organization classifies oral contraceptives as a class one carcinogen right up there with tobacco. And the government wants me to provide this free with healthcare.
I cannot, I must not, I will not!
Women who use oral contraceptives for four years prior to their first full-term pregnancy have a 52% increased risk of developing breast cancer. And the government calls this health care and wants me to provide this for free, well…
I cannot, I must not, I will not!
Oral contraceptives do horrific damage to a woman’s body, and should we call this health-care? Abortion destroys human life and is it reasonable or intelligent for us to call that healthcare?
I cannot, I must not, I will not!
The president proposed a compromise that would allow insurance companies to pay for the contraceptives rather than the church institution. My question, what if I belong to a church institution that is self-insured? I would then be required to pay for this.
I cannot, I must not, I will not!
What if I’m a Catholic business person who is required by my government to provide insurance that violates my conscience?
I cannot, I must not, I will not!
What will it be next and who will it be next? The New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled that it is illegal for a photography business owned by Christians to refuse to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony even though New Mexico law does not permit same-sex marriage. What will they say next? Will they say that it is illegal for me to refuse to do a same-sex marriage. Would we as Catholics allow the state to change one of our sacraments.
I cannot, I must not, I will not!
Saint Gaspar del Bufalo spent four years in prison for his profession of faith. We must pray too, that we have the strength to be firm in our faith.
We are not imposing our values on anyone. The government has dictated that employees at Catholic institutions are provided with free contraception, and that is the imposition on our faith and on our conscience. The government doesn’t want so much to advance the cause of women’s health, but rather, they seek to demonize a faith group that has the “audacity of hope,” that they might live their faith free from government interference and intrusion.
I know it is just a mere formality, just a harmless bureaucratic exercise. I know that the important thing is that we should not realize the seriousness of the choice to which we are being called. After all everybody else is doing it. But let me be perfectly clear:
I cannot, I must not, I will not!

Of whisper campaigns and broken marriages…

I don’t normally respond to anonymous commentators who leave false email addresses while engaging in whisper campaigns. However, Anonyman (aka “Nothanks@youdonotcare.atall”) provides me with an opportunity to re-visit a piece Jacqui Rapp and I co-authored after the marriage breakdown of several celebrity Catholic couples. Anonyman writes, in response to my post asking whether LC/RC can repent, the following:

The adulterous “professional” never will have to repent. He can divorce his wife with the blessing of the Church, knock up his little baby girl and stay with her for the good of the children and even apply for nullity, which some canonist quack like Vere or his ilk can’t wait to grant. [cut]
I know this to be true. I am living it. Pete knows this to be true as well, but I am sure has some lame excuse. All canonists do.
This story is stupid.

I’m on record several places as to why the surge of annulments among Catholics who did not practice Church teaching in Humanae Vitae: it’s the consequences of theCulture of Death. For instance, see this Catholic Light post from 2003.
But what about the breakdown (or major strain) in marriages among Catholics who accept Church teaching in Humanae Vitae? What about the breakdown in marriages between couples who practice NFP and are active in pro-life and Catholic apostolate (Which I imagine describes most of you reading this blog)?
Some whisperers will find it lame, but here’s my excuse: It’s taken from my experiences watching the breakdown of such marriages… As married laypeople, some people lose sight of the fact God called them to the married state, and not the consecrated or clerical state.
It’s that simple. It’s also tempting to overlook when one believes oneself engaged in God’s work. Yet it’s the reason I’ve dropped off the Catholic circuit and slowed down my writing apostolate since God blessed us with child number four last year. It’s the reason I will blog two or three times a day for a month, then stop for months at a time. As much as I love you, dear readers, my first duty is toward my wife and children.
A couple years ago, Jacqui Rapp – who often co-authors with me on issues concerning marriage, family life, and annulments – and I, noting the breakdown of marriages involving several people in high-profile Catholic and/or pro-life apostolates, wrote the following article: Family Before Apostolate: Pro-Life Activism Begins at Home.
The article was written (originally for Catholics United for the Faith) as a conversation between Jacqui and me. One of Jacqui’s more important points is the following:

As our Lord teaches in the Gospels, “The harvest is bountiful but the workers are few.” It is not unusual for the few to find themselves overworked. Given the persecution of marriage and family within modern society, we can become so committed to combating the culture of death that we lose sight of our own marriages and families. This is one of the reasons the Roman Church has traditionally required her clergy to remain celibate.
Now, this is not to say that the married state is incompatible with ministry or apostolate. Personally, having a family has helped me become more compassionate, while at the same time remaining faithful to the Church’s teaching in my work as a lay canonist. Being married and having children often opens us to graces and personal discoveries not previously experienced. As lay judges, both Pete and I understand certain nuances of marriage and family life that can easily be overlooked by our peers in the world of canon law who are celibate priests..

To which I responded:

In contrast, as married laymen we cannot devote the same time and effort to spreading the Gospel as that devoted by our ordained colleagues. Spouses have needs, as do children. Each of us undertakes these responsibilities toward our respective spouses and future children when we get married. The legitimate needs of spouse and children must come before the needs of our apostolic work.

Coincidentally, given that it just arrived back from the printer yesterday and is being shipped out to bookstores this week, Jacqui and I expanded this essay into the last chapter of our new book on marriage and annulments, which you can order from publisher Saint Anthony Messenger Press here.
So yes, changing diapers and plunging a toilet after my three-year-old flushed his rubber dolphin is rather lame when compared to the cloak-and-dagger excitement of taking on a codename and engaging in whisper campaigns for the Kingdom of God. But as lame as it is, it’s my vocation as one called to the married state.

UPDATED: Please give Terri a big hug from us

[Scroll down for the update]
Some sad news about Bob Schindler, one of the most decent Catholic gentlemen my family and I have even been blessed to call our friend. He passed away of a heart attack this past week. Most of you know Bob as a loving father who for years fought to save the life of his daughter Terri Schindler-Schiavo. When the state permitted the man to whom Terri was still legally married (despite the fact he was engaged to another woman) to take Terri’s life, Bob became a leading activist within the pro-life movement for people with disabilities.
Here is what Bobby Schindler, Jr., Bob’s son who is also a pro-life leader, shared about the passing of his father:
Statement from Bobby Schindler Regarding the Death of His Father, Robert Schindler

I am heartbroken over the loss of my father and yet I know at this moment he is rejoicing with my sister, Terri. My dad was a man of integrity, character and compassion who was blessed with a close and loving family. He taught all three of his children to respect and value life and to love our fellow man.
Even at the height of the battle to save my sister Terri’s life, when his patience and temperance was near exhaustion, he managed to display a gentleness of spirit. Yet it was his unfathomable strength that allowed him to shoulder up his own heartache and lead us through our darkest hour.
What greater legacy could a man leave behind?

I can understand your heartbreak, Bobby. Your father was a good man, as Sonya and I learned quickly when we joined your family on the picket line down in Florida. I will never forget Day 6 of the 2003 protest when, with Terri about to pass the point of no return, your father came over to offer us some cold drinks and Sonya a more comfortable seat.
Sonya was nine months pregnant with our second child, but she insisted we keep making the 90 minute trip each day. We asked him how he and Mary were doing.
“Worried,” he replied.
Sonya and I expressed our understanding and sympathy, that it might be too late for Terri.
“Yes, we’re worried about Terri,” Bob said. “But we’re worried about you, Sonya and the new baby too. Her due date is tomorrow, isn’t it? We will be praying for a safe delivery. Let us know if there is anything we can do for you, and make sure you let us as soon as the baby comes.”
I looked into his eyes. He was sincere. I was flabbergasted. His daughter was perilously close to being taken from him, he hadn’t slept in months, fifteen video cameras were stalking him at every second, and he was expressing concern for our little family who had come to support him.
As I struggled to make sense of this, he began to tell me about the birth of each of his children. It was then that I understood. He was a man who practiced what he preached, who was fighting not only for his daughter Terri, but for my daughter who would be born in coming days, for your daughter, for all of our children. I had known that he was sincere, that he wasn’t just show, but until that moment I had not realized the depth of his sincerity and love.
Sorry, the tears won’t allow me to go on much longer.
You’re a good man, Bob. You taught us all what a father’s love for his family really means. I pray you go strait to Heaven because you’ve done your Purgatory here on earth. And when you see Terri, please give her a hug from us.
Rest in the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, my friend.
UPDATE: Here is the original 2003 CL blog entry, written near the “hospice”, shortly after this discussion took place with Bob (Terri is doing fine, her parents are good people). For newer readers, Catholic Light was the main Catholic blog providing hospice-side updates in 2003 when the Florida judiciary ordered Terri Schindler-Schiavo’s feeding tube pulled. Here’s how I described our conversation then. I’m trying to read it myself but can’t get past the tears. It’s too much of a reminder of what a decent and loving father he was:

Terri’s parents are among the kindest and most decent people I have ever met. Before we left to return home, Terri’s father took us aside and asked if he could speak with us because he had heard from some of the nurses and paramedics at the vigil (the ones on our side) that Sonya looked like she was only a few days away from labor. He was concerned we might try and sneak up to the vigil between now and then.
To be honest, this wasn’t an unreal possibility since the hospital is about half-way between where we live and the hospice where Terri is staying. Nevertheless, Mr. Schindler said: “As a father, I’m here for my baby. We really appreciate your prayers and support, but you two need to be there for your baby now. We know you’re with us in prayer. But please come back with the baby as soon as you’re rested and able to travel.” I mention this because it is typical of the wisdom and compassion one finds with Terri’s parents. Even as they undergo such a tremendous cross, they show great consideration in generosity in wanting to make sure we weren’t neglecting our own family needs for the sake of theirs. Needless to say, we were stunned. “How could they even worry about us at a time like this?” Sonya asked. For my own part, I don’t think I could be this self-less if that was my daughter in the hospice. However, this is just one example that reveals the character of Terri’s family.

Thank-you, Bob.