Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

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An Invitation to Lapsed Catholics

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Fr.-Michael-WhyteFr. Michael Whyte, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in West Simsbury, CT, leads “Awakening Faith,” a group for lapsed Catholics contemplating a return to the Church. Among the reasons people give for having left: dislike of the pastor or parish; objections to certain teachings, doubts about dogma, anger over the Church’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis. He likens membership in the Church to being married: Do you like EVERYTHING about your spouse?

Not to guilt you, but because our conversation touched on the subject of Confession — now known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation — and I promised to post the St. Catherine of Siena schedule, here it is:

Monday from 6-7 pm
Saturday from 4-4:30 pm
Or by appointment by calling 658-1642

For those of you in need of a refresher, the parish’s website offers a primer on how to make a good confession:
In other business, here are links to lay groups’ surveys about Catholicism and family life (in case your bishop didn’t bother to poll you):
* From Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good:
* From the Women’s Ordination Conference:

And now for something completely different, to say the least, sent in by faithful listener Dana, in Amherst, MA:  Pope Francis in a red clown nose:

Pope_in_a_clown_noseWrites Dana: “This man has GOT to be the coolest, most unpretentious and most saintly Pope in modern history!”
Read the related story:–abc-news-topstories.htm

Finally, I can’t resist sharing this excerpt from an actual letter a parishioner sent his pastor when the parish was asked to establish an “emergency fund” for the church:

“Dear Father _______________,

“[I]n your closing comments at the end of Mass, you mentioned about charity beginning at home and how you’d like not to be constantly  operating week-to-week, and to be able to build up a reserve for the inevitable emergency or repair.  All I could think of was, how many of the parishioners you were addressing live day-today and week-to-week, one missed paycheck away from ruin?  How many of them have a reserve built up for the inevitable large repair or family emergency?  If an emergency comes up at church you can make an appeal for an extra collection.  To whom can these families turn when the water heater fails or a car breaks down and there’s no money in the budget?  No cash in the bank?  Maybe even no line of credit, even on a credit card where they’d be faced with double-digit interest.  Despite the dour numbers, income exceeds expenses, by a substantial amount in both years you report.  This is a tribute to your stewardship, but I wonder, seeing that, how high a priority Parishioners on the edge would judge it to be to provide [the parish] with an extra cushion?  They might be thinking, ‘Yes, charity begins at home, and I need to take care of my home and my family.  Come to me when you’re really in trouble.’

“The economists say we’re in recovery, but being ‘in recovery’ by their definition just means we’re up from the absolute bottom.  And the economists don’t care how that recovery’s been distributed among the human beings that have to live in the economy.  Put Bill Gates and me together, and the economists report that on average we’re billionaires.  The reports I’ve heard are that over 90% of the economic gains since the bottom of the crash have gone to the top 1%.  How many one-percenter’s attend [our parish], I wonder?  Unemployment is still over 8% in Connecticut, and many of those employed are underemployed.  Income inequality is the highest it’s been since the Gilded Age.  In the face of these conditions, our Congress has responded with:

  • A roll-back of the Social Security tax break, effectively taxing the working poor an additional two-percent of their income in 2013 compared to 2012.
  • A sequester, equally affecting defense and social services.
  • Budget cuts to food stamps while preserving agricultural subsidies that go to wealthy land owners and multi-national corporations.  They primarily support: corn (largely for cattle feed, high fructose corn syrup and ethanol), wheat, soybeans, sugar beets, (we’re not fat enough, apparently, from the high fructose corn syrup), and milk.
  • Shut down the government, disrupting the economy, and creating needless stress for millions of hard working Americans living paycheck to paycheck to score political points against a plan to provide affordable health care to millions who lack it.

“I also wondered if our country would be in quite as bad a position economically as we are if the leadership of the Catholic Church were advocating for the poor and for social justice with the fervor they seem to reserve only for speaking against same sex marriage, abortion and birth control.  A couple examples:

“The Affordable Care Act has already resulted in coverage of many young people on their parents’ plans.  It’s resulted in rebates where insurance companies were spending less than 80% of premiums providing medical services.  It’s about to prevent denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and denial of claims due to pre-existing conditions uncovered after the fact.  It will almost certainly cover many millions who would otherwise not be able to afford coverage. It would cover many millions more if Republican governors would expand eligibility for Medicaid (to be paid by the federal government).  The Affordable Care Act is a flawed plan, much more complicated and less efficient than it would be to enact a single payer plan (Medicare for all).  It’s flawed in part because it was a compromise.  The Republicans have treated it as if the Democrats and Obama got everything they wanted, and have been sabotaging it at every turn.  In addition to refusing to increase Medicaid, they refuse to provide their citizens with information about the plans.  How has the leadership of the Catholic Church responded?  They’ve complained about having to include coverage for birth control in their plans.  The added coverage doesn’t cost the church extra.  That’s the full extent of the response. Nothing about getting the working poor the health care they need, savings lives, preventing families from going into financial ruin due to any significant accident or illness.   Moreover, at least twenty states already had similar rules in place before the affordable care act.  I believe the Catholic Church operates and has insurance in all of those states, but I never heard protests until it was part of the Affordable Care Act.

“President Bush cuts taxes for the wealthy, turns a surplus into record deficits while times are reasonably good, gets us into a major and immoral wars on fabricated evidence, and tortures captured combatants.  The response from the Church leadership?  I don’t recall any response of any consequence.  John Kerry runs against President Bush.  We hear about how John Kerry should be refused communion because he voted for abortion.  Fair enough, but the unborn aren’t the only lives worthy of support.  President Bush had the support of a number of Catholic Senators and Representatives.  If those voting for bills that include support for abortion are to be denied communion, shouldn’t supporters of torture and immoral wars be denied as well?  Or maybe the person without sin should cast the first stone.

“Women in religious orders ARE advocating for the poor, putting their lives on line.  The response from the Church hierarchy? They basically tell the Sisters shut up, toe the line, and they appoint an overseer to keep an eye on them — what they say, what they do, what they write.  I understand the overseer has just been appointed Archbishop of Hartford.

“Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air and offers me hope that things will change.  I understand he’s sent out a questionnaire to find out what the people of the church are thinking.  An article in the Sunday Courant said the Church in England and Wales have put the questionnaire on line.  So far it appears the American Catholic Bishops seem to believe the questionnaire is meant (only) for them and that the response will come (only) from them.”

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Be heard by the pope: go to

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Hale_for_webWhen a memo came down from the Vatican late last week, asking the world’s bishops to poll the faithful on its views on, among other things, contraception, divorced and remarried Catholics, and gay parenting, in preparation for next October’s synod on the family, our US bishops effectively said, nah. Then the lay group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, picked up the ball. Its survey, which has gone viral, can be found at  Go there. The results will be sent directly to Rome. “You will be heard by the pope,” promises today’s guest, Christopher Hale, senior fellow with the Alliance.

Fr John at 90cake_for_webPassionist Fr. John Baptist Pesce, our hero, turned 90 on Saturday. Ad multos annos!