31 March 2012

"All animals are equal..."

Here is the best refutation to the claim that Vanderbilt's administration is applying its non-discrimination policy to "all" student groups.

It reminds me of the seventh commandment of Amimalism from Orwell's Animal Farm: "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." The Greeks at Vanderbilt are certainly more equal than religious groups!

29 March 2012

SET OUT INTO THE DEEP!

It is time for us to set our faces to the future. The university has made its decision, and we have made ours. Let's move on!

How are we called to propose Jesus Christ and to form His disciples in these new circumstances? That is our question now. Let's ask it broadly!

Give me your ideas!

28 March 2012

"In Him, it is always 'Yes'"

"Jesus, the Word made flesh, is truly God-with-us, who has come to live among us and to share our human condition. The Apostle Saint John expresses it in the following way: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14). The expression, "became flesh" points to our human reality in most concrete and tangible way. In Christ, God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy ofhumanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the "Yes" to the love between God and humanity who responds to him. Mary did so as the first fruit of believers with her unreserved "Yes" to the Lord.

For this reason, contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, we cannot fail to turn our eyes to her so as to be filled with wonder, gratitude and love at seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of his creatures. Only from the moment when the Virgin responded to the angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38), did the eternal Word of the Father began his human existence in time. It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double "Yes" to the saving plan of the Father - that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation. God has created us as the fruit of his infinite love; hence,to live in accordance with his will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void. The obedience of faith is true liberty, authentic redemption, which allows us to unite ourselves to the love of Jesus in his determination to conform himself to the will of the Father. Redemption is always this process of the lifting up of the human will to full communion with the divine will (cf. Lectio Divina with the parish priests of Rome, 18 February 2010)."

Pope Benedict in Cuba!

About my patron saint!

Read this wonderful adventure story!

The Man Who Saved the Original Papers of San Juan de la Cruz — Crisis Magazine

27 March 2012

Reason and Heart

Pope Benedict "off the cuff" on the way from Mexico to Cuba:

"And, on one hand, we must begin from the common problem: as today, in this context of our modern rationality, we can rediscover God again as the fundamental orientation of our life, the fundamental hope of our life, the foundation of values that really build a society, and to proclaim a God who responds to our reason, because we see the rationality of the cosmos, we see that that there is something behind, but we do not see how close this God is, how he concerns me and this synthesis of the great and majestic God of the small God who is close to me, orients me, shows me the values of my life which is the nucleus of the evangelization. Hence an essential Christianity, where the fundamental nucleus is really found to live today with all the problems of our time. And on the other hand, to take into account the concrete reality. In Latin America, in general, it is very important that Christianity is never so much something of reason but of the heart. Our Lady of Guadalupe is known and loved by all, because they understand that she is a Mother for all and has been present from the beginning in this new Latin America, after the arrival of the Europeans. And also in Cuba we have Our Lady of Cobre, who touches hearts and all know intuitively that it is true, that this Our Lady helps us, that she exists, that she loves and helps us.
But this intuition of the heart must be linked with the rationality of the faith and with the profundity of the faith that goes beyond reason. We must try not to lose the heart, but to link heart and reason, so that they cooperate, because only thus will man be complete and really be able to help and to work for a better future."

26 March 2012

Best Students. Ever.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. In the course of an ordinary Sunday, they planned a way to surprise me with a celebration during our Sunday supper. It was kind and thoughtful -- just right! I appreciated it very much.

The more time I spend with them, the better I become!


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18 March 2012

Query

Would the Catholic chaplaincy serving Vanderbilt University be turning away from our mission if we did not seek registered student organization status for the upcoming year?

At first glace, the answer is yes. Registered status is the way to go to be a student organization at Vanderbilt. To fail to register is to turn away from our responsibility to reach out to the students. Don't we risk making ourselves even more irrelevant to the life of the ordinary student if we are not a registered student organization? It would be downright odd.

On the other hand, the newly defined non-discrimination policy that religious organizations have to abide by undermines our mission. There are numerous problems for a Catholic organization in the non-discrimination policy. The most obvious is the exclusion of religious criteria for membership and leadership. We are, after all a religious organization! It seems plausible that applying the teaching of the Theology of the Body, for example, could be found in violation of the provisions on sexuality and gender. Who knows? Single sex Bible studies clearly are a violation. Want to look for more?

Taken as a whole, the policy is at odds with our mission as a Catholic organization. We serve not only Vanderbilt but the Catholic Church. For example, am I as a priest here to serve an organization of food, fun, and fellowship? No. I am here to serve the spiritual and sacramental needs of the students, which includes teaching the fullness of the Catholic faith. I am responsible to the administration of Vanderbilt; but first I am responsible to my bishop, who connects us to the Apostolic teaching.

Being unregistered would make the Catholic chaplaincy different. But we are different. We are Catholic. We think that the Catholic faith should inform every aspect of life; that is, we should live by what we believe. What else does "catholic" mean but whole, entire, and universal? That goes for our lives.

The non-discrimination policy represents a more narrow view. Life is to be lived according to nice bureaucratic policies. Can we cram the fullness of truth into the cramped quarters of Vanderbilt's non-discrimination policy? Truth is wild and free! It does not always play nice. It claims and requires things that are at odds with the world and at odds with ourselves. By signing the non-discrimination policy we domesticate the transcendent. How can that be a fulfillment of our mission?

Vanderbilt's new non-discrimination policy actually contradicts a university's mission to seek and to follow the truth. A priori, the university is ruling out the possibility that religion offers truth. Religion can be tolerated only if it gives up claims to truth. We are doing Vanderbilt a favor by pointing out how narrow this policy makes the university.

But back to practicalities. How can we live the fullness of the Catholic faith and offer it to students if we are not a registered student organization? Through institutions and policies? Yes, to the extent we can; but better through witness of life! We are always free to do that. How can we do that on campus? The same way we will do it in life. There will not be a Catholic chaplaincy at your workplace or where you work out or socialize -- maybe not even in your neighborhood. You will let your light shine in your life and with your friends in the faith. Others will be attracted, and you will invite others. The Church, I hope, will be there to offer a rich sacramental and spiritual life. But you will have to work at it!

Could we not do that here? Might that not be better training for real life discipleship? Are we being called out into the deep? It is scary, indeed; but it is also exciting! It is nothing less than an adventure. Does Jesus really mean what He says to rely on Him? Let's find out.

17 March 2012

On the non-discrimination policy

I realized yesterday that I need to communicate more and better about the non-discrimination policy and its effect on Vanderbilt Catholic. I have tried not to talk about it very much because to do so involved so much speculation. Now the policy is finally in writing, along with extensive commentary.

From the policy and commentary, it is established that Vanderbilt Catholic is forbidden to use religious belief and practice as criteria for leadership. Here is a quotation from the official commentary on the policy: "9. Does the University’s nondiscrimination policy permit RSOs to impose faith-based or belief-based requirements for membership or leadership? No." Catholic belief and practice are the only reason for Vanderbilt Catholic to exist. They are the only reason certainly for me to be assigned here as a priest chaplain.

In order to register as a student organization for next year, the leadership of Vanderbilt Catholic is required to sign an affirmation that the policy will be followed. Among other things, this means that religious belief and practice will not be used as criteria for leadership. Such an affirmation would undermine the very identity and mission of Vanderbilt Catholic. It would also be untrue.

Vanderbilt Catholic is Catholic first.


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14 March 2012

Excellent article on you know what!

Not that right reason will have any influence the totalitarian administration of Vanderbilt, but here is a great article on the non-discrimination policy. The title is awesome: "Vanderbilt's Right to Despise Christianity"!

13 March 2012

"Timeless Sex"

I guess that I should not be so reactionary, but we selected this title for my "Love and Responsibility" Week talk in contrast to another program called "Sex in the 21st Century." I don't think that sex changes all that much ;-)

Anyhow, the timeless and natural reality of sex is that children can result from it. As a matter of fact, there is no other natural way to have children. To engage in the act from which procreation can flow, it is necessary for an individual to surrender his autonomy and enter into communion with a complementary human being for the long term. One has to say: "I am not enough" to procreate and raise a child. It takes another, and it takes another who has what I do not have. There is risk in this, but there is so much hope! It is the natural "yes" to communion.

The marital commitment, including the marital act, is thus the natural basis for communion. No wonder it is under attack in a society that values radical autonomy above all else. I fear that is what sex in the 21st century is all about: destroying communion in order to preserve autonomy.

Prayers, please

I am going to stop venting about the manifest injustice of the administration's non-discrimination policy toward religious groups. But feel free to carry on without me ;-)

What we here at Vanderbilt Catholic have to do now is to decide if we must "bear wrongs patiently," as in the spiritual work of mercy, and submit to this injustice for the greater good of continuing to work with students in relative tranquility or whether as a matter of conscience we must not submit to a lie and rather trust in God to show us a new way to carry out His work for the salvation of these students.

I am tormented by temptation and doubt in every direction. I want only the truth. I think that I know what it is, but I realize that my decision in this matter influences many other people. For this reason, I need to be right. So I am praying, and I ask for your prayers, too.

12 March 2012

Reasons to discriminate, Vandy style

The list of permissible forms of discrimination (from the FAQs portion of this page) is particularly Vandy-esque. Of course, money is an acceptable form of discrimination -- see #3! And being smart -- #2. As well as being a good "company man" or woman -- #4 & #5. And what #6 means, being limited and open at the same time -- you've got me. I think it has something to do with Greeks and all those important form of discrimination that they practice like hair style, handbags, Daddy's bank account -- you know, the important stuff. That's all OK with Vanderbilt.

1. Singing groups require students to audition.
2. Honor societies and others have GPA cutoffs
3. Groups may require members to pay dues.
4. Groups may require members to attend meetings regularly.
5. Groups may require that only those students who have been in good standing for a specified period of time or have served on at least one committee are eligible to be officers.
6. Groups may have numerical limits to membership as long as membership is open to all students.

11 March 2012

"All Comers" policy back to "Non-discrimination" policy

The ill-advised use of "all comers" language was quietly scrapped in the "non-discrimination" policy that has finally appeared.

It is a remarkable document worthy of the best tradition of totalitarian double speak! The most amazing statement in it is that nothing has changed, even though such a coercive document has never before appeared. But nothing has changed!

I have to give whomever came up with this thing credit for painting a bull's eye right on the backs of religious groups who believe that their religious identities matter. It "tip toes" all over the place creating all kinds of exceptions so that favored groups are exempt. In particular, the hurtfully discriminatory Greek organizations can continue to discriminate as they have always done whereas religious groups, which are in fact the most open groups on campus, are targeted very carefully. The policy is impressive -- impressive in its duplicity.

Well, it is too soon to say what we will do. We have to think about what the words actually say, and what we can say in response in good conscience.

Go watch this movie to get your conscience in shape for such a crisis:

07 March 2012

It Really Is About Contraception

The controversy embroiling the Catholic Church in the United States and the federal government really is about contraception. Of course in a pluralistic society, the first line of defense is the protection afforded to all citizens: the free exercise of religion. The federal government is barred by the Constitution from burdening the free exercise of religion as it proposes to do in the HHS mandate requiring insurance coverage for morally offensive and medically unnecessary contraceptive practices. This freedom is one that all Americans can rally around. So as a political matter, fight the battle on the grounds of religious freedom; but as a matter of proclaiming the Gospel, stand up for the civilization of love, which is undermined by the use of contraception.

The real issue is contraception itself. The federal government, for example, is happy for us to abstain from meat all we like on the Fridays of Lent. The problem is not our religion but our religion's teaching about this particular topic. The federal government has an agenda to undermine all limits on contraception, and that is why the Catholic Church is a problem. Contraception is the linch pin of a whole array of social experimentation meant to exalt the radical autonomy of the individual at the expense of marriage, family, and society. Contraception is a necessary weapon for a culture of death to disconnect sex from love and responsibility.

Let's not be embarrassed by the beauty and integrity of our Church's teaching on contraception. This is the moment to proclaim it and to defend it. It is a matter of the natural law which we have a duty in charity to share with all -- and now is the chance! When will we have so much of the attention of our county on this issue? This is THE teachable moment! Whether we win or lose the political fight, let's win the fight for souls! Empires come and go, but souls are forever.

Let's claim and propose the beauty of natural love as God created it.

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03 March 2012

Kempmas Carols

As promised, here are your Kempmas carols! If you have forgotten, Kempmas is the Feb. 29 observance of Thomas a Kempis, the author of The Imitation of Christ.

The Devotio Moderna is not the most upbeat school of spirituality, you might have noticed. These young gentlemen did! I am afraid that they have been under the influence of Thomistic (as in Aquinas) theology and Salesian spirituality and are just too happy!

02 March 2012

Spring Break is Here!

Wowza!

We have made it to mid-term and to spring break!

This has been a challenging and wonderful semester. But I am ready for a little rest before we set out into the second half.

Happy Lent!

01 March 2012

And so what?

Vanderbilt's administration is relativistic. And that is news? Of course it is!

I really want to be more than a pebble in the shoe of the administration. I want to be a beacon of light in the darkness!

Despite fits of crankiness, I really am happy. Deeply happy. The students that I work with the most are even happier than I am because they are holier than I am. Let me give you just one example of holy silliness: Kempmas!

What is that? Very good question. Some of the boys who live together in a suite have become, shall I say, obsessed with Thomas a Kempis. They appreciate his rigor, but approach it with something more of a Thomistic (Aquinas, that is) optimism. Noticing that the Roman Martyrology has no saints at all listed for February 29, they claimed it for Thomas a Kempis, hence Kempmas. They even composed dreary carols for the occasion.

I will try to provide links, if I can. It defies explanation. But the joy is infectious.