Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

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Habit’s out of style but catechism is “still funny.”

sister's christmas catechism

Actress Nonie Newton Riley plays Sister in the upcoming Long Wharf Theater production of “Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold,” which will run from Dec. 8-20 at the New Haven theater ( The show is just one in a series of catechism comedies featuring Riley, who travels the country playing a role she considers something of a vocation: “I’ve done nothing but this for the last 15 years of my life.”

Click below to hear the episode:


Also, please take a moment to donate the WESU-FM’s fall/winter pledge drive. Mention “Reasonably Catholic” with your donation of any size and I’ll send you your choice of the Catholic-themed books listed in the previous blog post. Thanks!



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Ain’t too proud to beg!

BeggingPlease give to WESU during our fall pledge drive by going to and clicking on Donate Now.

For a donation of any amount, mention “Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith” and/ or contact me through this website, and  I’ll send you your choice of the following books:

Peace and Good: Through the Year with Francis of Assisi, by (Reasonably Catholic guest) Pat McCloskey, OFM
The Vatican Diaries: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church, by John Thavis
Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons, by Mike Aquilina
Spiritual A.D.D: Overcoming Spiritual Deficit Disorder, by Hank Kunneman
Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places, by Joe McHugh
Love Never Fails: 120 Reflections, by Debra Herbeck
Integrating Ecofeminism, Globalization, and World Religions, by (Reasonably Catholic guest) Rosemary Radford Ruether
America, Amerikkka: Elect Nation and Imperial Violence, by Rosemary Radford Ruether
Christianity and Social Systems: Historical Constructions and Ethical Challenges, by Rosemary Radford Ruether
My Struggle with Faith, by Joseph F. Girzone
Stories of Jesus: 40 Days of Prayer and Reflection, by Joseph F. Girzone
Celebrating the Spirit of Christmas, written and illustrated by Tim Coffey
Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II, by Richard R. Gaillardetz and Catherine E. Clifford
The Sacraments: Thoughtful Reflections for Catechists, by (former Wesleyan chaplain and Reasonably Catholic guest) Fr. Halbert Weidner
For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action, by (Reaasonably Catholic guest) Charles Camosy
St. Francis, Pope Francis: A Common Vision, by Gina Loehr, with Al Giambrone
150 North American Martyrs You Should Know, by Brian O’Neel
Epic Food Fight: a Bite-Sized History of Salvation, by Fr. Leo Patalinghug
John Paul II: A Short Biography, by Kerry Walters
Made for Love, Loved by God, by Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP
Praise God and Thank Him: Biblical Keys for a Joyful Life, by Jeff Cavins
The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering, by Daniel P. Horan, OFM
Breaking Grand Silence: A Former Catholic Priest Speaks Out, by Marvin Josaitis, PhD
The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream, by (Reasonably Catholic guest) Brian E. Moran
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Catholicism, by Bob O’Gorman, Ph.D. and Mary Faulkner, M.A.
The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage, by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ
Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing, children’s book by Amy Welborn and illustrator Ann Kissane Engelhart
Adventures in Assisi: On the Path with St. Francis, a children’s book by Amy Welborn and ilustrator Ann Kissane Engelhart
The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio: Stories, Letters and Prayers, by Patricia Treece
The Spiritual Genius of Thomas Merton, by Anthony T. Padovano
The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession, by John Cornwell
40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent, by Marcellino D’Ambrosio
When Our Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers, by Marcellino D’Ambrosio
The Spirit of St. Francis: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis
The Princess Guide: Faith Lessons from Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, by Jennessa Tepraccino
Spiritual Reslilience: 30 Days to Refresh Your Soul, by Robert J. Wicks
Sacred Silence: Daily Meditations for Lent, by (Reasonably Catholic guest) Phyllis Zagano
What Do I Say? Talking and Praying with Someone Who Is Dying, by Margrit Anna Banta
Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and Her Graces, by Julie Dortch Cragan
Simply Merton: Wisdom from His Journals, by Linus Mundy
Embracing Edith Stein: Wisdom for Women from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, by Anna Costa
Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe, by Elizabeth MacDonald
Fearless: Stories of the American Saints, by Alice Camille and Paul Boudreau
Pope Francis and Our Call to Joy, by Deane M. Houdek
A Eucharistic Christmas: Advent Meditations on the Presence of Christ
Zealous: Following Jesus with Guidance from St. Paul, by Mark Hart and Christopher Cuddy
Accidental Theoogians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity: Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, by Elizabeth A. Dreyer, with a foreword by Joan Chittister
The Gospels According to St. Francis, by Hilarion Kistner, OFM
Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions, by Fr. John Bartunek
Seven Saints for Seven VirtuesJohn Paul II, Catherine of Siena, Monica, Augustine, Mother Teresa, Agnes, and Joseph, by Jean M. Heimann
Catholics, Wake Up! Be a Spiritual Warrior, by Jesse Romero
Encounter Jesus: From Discovery to Discipleship, by Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR, and Deacon Ralph Poyo
Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Witness, by Randy Hain

Thanks to the following publishers: Franciscan Media, Servant Books, Basic Books, Tate Publishing, Significance Press, Penguin Books, Rowman & Littlefield, Doubleday, Destiny Image, Harvest House Publishers, Liturgical Press, Twenty-Third Publications, and Alpha Books

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St. Peter’s Squares — and a few progressives. The recently concluded synod is said to both expose the fault lines in global Catholicism and lay groundwork for possible change

synod cardinals

Click below to hear the episode:

MattSchmalz_for_blogDeb Rose-MilavecMirim and KateProf. Mat Schmalz, of the College of the Holy Cross, an expert in global Catholicism; Deb Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch; and Miriam Duignan of the Women’s Ordination Conference who, with colleague Kate McElwee, was detained by Rome police to keep them from approaching bishops exiting the synod.

Find Deb’s excellent coverage of the synod at

Love “Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith”? Show WESU-FM some love by donating during our fall pledge drive. Go to The station has cool thank-you gifts to offer, and so do I. Check out the list of books I’ll post on this site soon. Make a donation of any size, choose a book, and I’ll send it along with my thanks!

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On Livin’ the Dream: The Theology of Joy and the Good Life

Click below to hear the episode:



Tom and Matt

The philanthropic John Templeton Foundation, which has a record of funding all manner of inquiries into life’s big questions, has awarded a $4.2 million grant to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture for a three-year investigation into the Theology of Joy and the Good Life. Our guests are Matt Croasman, right, who is director of research and publication of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, as well as one of the founding shepherds of the Elm City Vineyard Church in New Haven, and Tom Krattenmaker, a USA Today columnist and spokesman for Yale Divinity School.
Tom and Matt appeared previously on RC:KF, in two episodes comprising audio from a Yale event titled “Following Jesus as a Secular Progressive.” Matt was the moderator of a discussion between Tom, a secular humanist, and his friend Tony Kriz, a Christian. You can hear those episodes by clicking the links below:

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Recalling Pope Francis’ visit with joy — but praying that he evolves about women

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Rep.-Larson_for_blogMiriamConnecticut’s 1st District Congressman John B. Larson, a Catholic Democrat, reflects on Pope Francis’ visit. Miriam Duignon, an organizer of the Women’s Ordination Conference’s recent Philadelphia convention, explores Pope Francis’ “blind spot” when it comes to ordaining women.

Deb Rose-MilavecInterested in the synod in Rome? Find excellent coverage by signing up for emails at Some examples below of Deb Rose-Milavec’s reporting:

Shields, Bridges and Some Pretty Good Questions

October 5, 2015
Report from Rome
by Deb Rose-Milavec

Shields and Bridges

Not unexpectedly, a bridge-builder and a wielder of shields stood next to each other as the synod kicked off today.

Pope Francis launched the day building bridges and confidence among synod participants for undertaking the messy process of dialogue and discernment that lies ahead.

“In the Synod, the Spirit speaks by means of every person’s tongue,
who lets himself be guided by the God who always surprises, the
God who reveals himself to little ones, who hides from the knowing
and intelligent; the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man
and not vice versa; by the God, who leaves the 99 sheep to look for
the one lost sheep; the God who is always greater than our logic and
our calculations.”

Urging a wholesome re-examination of pastoral practices, he encouraged the participants to be, “a Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.”

This genuine invitation to exploration and discernment of all things new was dampened shortly thereafter by the Relator General, Cardinal Peter Erdo as he wielded a firm defense of all things traditional in his 7300 word report. Making a strong case for safeguarding current teaching, his delivery sounded more like the close of the discussion rather than an opening — as if all the outcomes had been pre-determined.

During the press briefing later in the day with Cardinal Erdo, Archbishop Bruno Forte and Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Cardinal Erdo was challenged several times regarding the finality he seemed to imply on the divorce and remarriage question. One journalist noted that section three of his report did not appear to be a summary of the Instrumentum Laboris as Erdo stated, but, “a stance, a clear stance.” Another asked if Erdo believed the Kasper proposal had lost all support. Erdo seemed to imply it was DOA at this point since there had already been much research on the Kasper model and many conferences on the topic since the 2014 Extraordinary Synod.

Listening to Cardinal Erdo, it would seem the deal is done and everyone should go home.

Of course, we still have Pope Francis.

This synod puts the prelates, especially those clinging to dogma, in a bind. All three Cardinals repeated the mantra, “doctrine cannot change,” a kind of lullaby that seems to calm their nerves while admitting they are here to make some sort of change.

Some pretty good questions

The whole premise of a synod with male celibate clerics making decisions about families was raised twice today, once in the synod press briefing and once at an evening gathering of German prelates and press.

At the synod briefing, an Irish journalist cited Mary McAleese’s recent observation, “…If I wanted expertise on the family, I honestly cannot say that the first thing that would come into my mind would be to call together 300 celibate males who, as far we know, have never raised a child….” He asked the for a response.

Clearly, they had some difficulty doing so. One could almost hear the gulping in the air as Cardinal Vingt-Trois offered the rather weak defense, “We are all members of a family. We have been born of a family. We have lived in the social fabric of a family. We do not live in a family life that is true, but that does not mean we don’t know what it means to be in a family. I do not think it makes what we have to say irrelevant. Neither our limits or weaknesses make us refrain from the task.”

Archbishop Forte followed saying, “We are pastors. We all have a previous experience of service for the church. We are close to the people through confession, daily life. These experiences are a proximity of people living in difficult situations.”

It was a kind of “the king has no clothes” moment, and one had to feel a bit sorry for the fellows. Nothing in their repertoire could help them credibly defend the indefensible process that we know as the synod on the family.

But later, the German prelates came clean on this question thanks to Gudrun Sailer from Radio Vatican. She asked if the panel thought the synod process should be modernized since only 2/3rds voted (male celibates) and 1/3, which includes laity and women did not vote.

Both Cardinal Marx and Bishop Franz-Josef Hermann Bode suggested the

process could and should be changed and that women should have greater decision making roles at the synod and in the Church.

Abbot Jeremias Schroder OSB, Archabbot President of the Benedictine Congregation of Sant’Ottilia, who was also on the panel, talked about the obvious lack of balance created when women are not included in the voting. He observed that three women religious, Sr.Sr. Maureen Kelleher, Sr. Carmen Sammut, SMNDA and Sister Berta María Porras Fallas had been invited as auditors, but had no vote when male superior generals like himself and even a religious brother, Hervé Janson, PFJ, Prior General of the Little Brothers of Jesus, would have a vote. At one point the Superior Generals discussed whether they should give over a number of voting seats to the women religious as a sign of solidarity. They ultimately decided against it, but what a witness that would have been!

The Francis strategy for change; a synod process loosed; and Durocher’s stunning proposal for women

October 6, 2015
Report from Rome
by Deb Rose-Milavec

There are days when you are sure God is having her way. Today was one such day at the synod.

The tone of the voices rising from the great marble synod hall could not have been more different from the tones heard yesterday.

Yesterday, stern warnings fell all around and weighed heavy on hopes for a more generous, just and compassionate Church. Today, elation and even laughter filled the air as we heard that participants talked about all that the Church could be if it dared to risk being one with the God of surprises; the God that is the living, loving source.

A Francis stragegy for change: Small groups will have a critical role in shaping the final document

Seven persons spoke during the daily press briefing about the activities of the morning, but it was Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, Archbishop Claudio M Celli and Fr. Thomas Rosica who really conveyed the sense of hope heard in the synod hall.

According to Rosica, Pope Francis had made the unusual move of intervening in the morning to stress the importance of small group input for fashioning the final document. All would begin with the Instrumentum Laboris but, because so many participants are new, the document’s final form was likely to change a great deal, a Francis signal that the process was wide open. He also stressed the synod was not a one-issue forum.

Interventions for justice and inclusivity

Seventy two Synod participants gave three-minute interventions today. Rosica summarized them and below are some of the most promising from his list.
• Exclusionary language is to be avoided. The Church should not pity gay persons, but recognize them for who they are: our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, colleagues, friends, etc.

• The domination of men over women must be eliminated. For many women and children, home can be a dangerous place, but our Churches can also be dangerous places.
• We need to welcome the huge numbers of unbaptized and ask, “Are we the masters or the servants of the Eucharistic table?” We need a Eucharist that “is not a prize for the perfect, but nourishment for the weak.”

• The Instrumentum Laboris is too focused on the brokenness and not the joys of the family. We need a new anthropology where human nature is seen as good and beautiful and not fallen and broken.

• The family should teach the Church.

• On issues like divorce and remarriage, polygamy, and other cultural challenges, there is no universal solution. Instead there should be discussions and solutions at the regional and continental level.

• The Church should use form three of the general absolution as a clear signal for Catholics to “come home.”
The Synod discussions are not closed

Both Archbishop Celli and Archbishop Durocher stressed the fact that the synod was wide open to input. Durocher shared his view of the natural tensions between bishops.

One of the things that strikes me as I listen to the bishops, is their
awareness of the growing gulf between the culture of marriage
and the teaching of Jesus. Some fear we are losing our way so they
react by emphasizing Church teaching. Others fear we will lose
touch with people who live in the culture and that we will no longer
have an impact in the culture. The teaching of Jesus is a gift for the
world. So how on the one hand do you hold onto the truth but also
dialogue with the world to provoke interaction?

That is why this [synod process] is an important exercise. We need
to bring together those who fear losing the teaching and those who
want to find a way to enter into dialogue with this world.

The Big Finale: Women

During a 90 minute press briefing no one on the seven person panel mentioned the

proposal that Archbishop Durocher made on the synod floor regarding women deacons and expanding women’s roles, not even Archbishop Durocher himself. Omitting such an important story in a daily press briefing is difficult to understand.

But thank goodness, Carol Glatz of Catholic News Service broke the story. Here is the straight scoop.

Speaking to participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 6, Archbishop Durocher said he dedicated his three-minute intervention to the role of women in the church — one of the many themes highlighted in the synod’s working document.

… he said the synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female
deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in church life.

Where possible, qualified women should be given higher positions
and decision-making authority within church structures and new
opportunities in ministry.

Discussing a number of proposals he offered the synod fathers
to think about, he said, “I think we should really start looking seriously
at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate
in the church’s tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry.”

He reminded the synod fathers that in the apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” in 1981, St. John Paul II basically told the church that “we
have to make a concerted and clear effort to make sure that there is no
more degradation of women in our world, particularly in marriage. And I
said, ‘
Well, here we are 30 years later and we’re still facing these kinds of numbers.'”

He said he recommended one thing they could do to address this problem was, “as a synod, clearly state that you cannot justify the domination of men over women — certainly not violence — through biblical interpretation,” particularly incorrect interpretations of St. Paul’s call for women to be submissive to their husbands.

Read the whole article by Glatz. She also also interviewed the Archbishop later in the day.

This is a stunning event and a stunning proposal. FutureChurch, always working to expand the roles and ministry of women, is launching a petition to support Archbishop Durocher’s proposal during the synod and to make as many people aware of it as possible.

To read and sign the petition go to:

Francis and DavisFinally, from friend Ann Bacon, comes this DailyNewsBin post by Bill Palmer, headline: “Pope Francis expected to fire the Archbishop who tricked him into meeting Kim Davis.”

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Three-city Papal Lovefest: a recap

Pope loves NY

Click below to hear the episode:


jenniferpope and kevinFred McKay

Estella and MariaRoderigo MongeKarenBrigittepolesitterpope_fiatVictoria

welcomeDonna and AnnO familyCarita Paul Julia PJ Geibjackjack's family

Weldedpraying pilgrimbuffalo wingsJulia and Logan

Maevelive teecourage tee

From top left: In DC: Documentarian Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory whose video can be found at; Channel 3 reporter Kevin Hogan and friend; Rev. Fred McKay in Union Station; in NYC: Estela B. Astacio, who got a hug from Francis, and Maria Beltran, who got a selfie (see below) and a handshake; Roderigo Monge, who did a papal station i.d. for me; and NYU student Karen Monge (no relation as far as they know); German Lutheran Brigitte; modern-day Zacchaeus saying rosary on light pole; Pope Francis waving from the now-famous Fiat; on Amtrak train to Philly: Maureen Morello; Victoria Cessna brought late father’s rosary to St. Pat’s; sign outside Philly bistro trying to tempt Pope with soup; Donna Otto and Ann Hodge, of New Jersey; the Olejniczaks, from Detroit; Carita, Paul, Julia and PJ Geib, from Philly; Jack and parents, who brought up the gifts at a Mass; security measures included welded-shut manhole covers; pious woman to my right during Mass we attended via Jumbotron; buffalo-hot-wing-eating college students to my left; cousins Julia and, from Florida, Logan; Villanova student Maeve Cavanaugh; t-shirt advice

Maria B's selfie

Special thanks to David H. Goldenberg, dean of the University of Hartford’s Hillyer College for generous support of my trip, as well as to Prof. Anthony Rauche, head of the Hillyer Humanities Dept.

Thanks, too, to Leith Johnson for logistical, technical and moral support, as well as for preparing comfort food for me to come home to.

Thanks to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, for media credentials. They will hang on our Christmas tree for years to come.

photo 1photo 2photo 3photo 4Pope Francis is seen on a downtown Jumbotron as he arrives in Philadelphia

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Birds of a feather: Audubon CT bird conservation director lauds Francis’ encyclical on the environment

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Patrick Comins picHE’S FOR THE BIRDS! — Patrick Comins, director of bird conservation for Audubon CT, shown here playing plover calls at the WESU-FM studio, directs our eyes upward in a free-ranging chat about birds near and far and lets us know about the New Haven Migration Festival and Northeast Waterfowl Festival this weekend, Sept. 19 and 20. Find details here:

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The Making of a Modern Pope: Passionist Father John Baptist Pesce traces Francis’ evolution

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Fr John 2  As we wrap up our third year of “Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith,” and with Pope Francis soon to be packing his bags for his USA trip, Passionist Father John Baptist Pesce, a faithful supporter of RC:KF since its launch, reads from his latest research.

In a retreat talk based on months of study and delivered here for the first time, Father John delves beyond the cult of personality around Pope Francis, tracing the successes and failures that turned a quite conservative Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio into the progressive-minded, open-hearted Pope who has captured the world’s attention.

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Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Thomas Merton: 3 complicated Catholic writers

Click below to hear the episode:

Richard_AllevaMary Frances CoadyCommonweal film critic Richard Alleva has been fascinated with Graham Greene since childhood; he explores why loyalty and betrayal are recurring themes in Greene’s work. Mary Frances Coady, author of Merton & Waugh: A Monk, A Crusty Old Man & The Seven Storey Mountain, discusses Waugh’s and Merton’s longtime correspondence and why the friendship ultimately petered out.

A restored version of the 1949 film noir, The Third Man, based on a novel by Graham Greene, who also wrote the screenplay, stars Orson Welles and was directed by Carol Reed. It is is showing at Cinestudio, the theater at Trinity College in Hartford, through Thursday, 8-6-15.


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