Monday, January 15, 2018

Raymond Arroyo and the Piano Men

It looks like I have some follow-up material to the piece I wrote the other day on Stephan Walford. I wrote because I saw a comment that dismissed Walford as a piano teacher and not a theologian, implying that ordinary Catholics have no place in discussions and debates concerning the Church.

I actually thought that it was mainly a combox thing but it seems that even Raymond Arroyo has resorted to this same dismissive tactic and is riding the "piano teacher and not a theologian" bandwagon. In a recent discussion with Fr. Gerald Murray on a segment of The World Over, Arroyo is quoted as saying.

"Now I should say, I've done some research on Mr. Walford. Near as I can tell he is a piano teacher with no other credentials, theologically or otherwise, except for a papal visit with his family"

Either Mr. Arroyo's researching skills are severely lacking, which would then make me question his qualifications as a broadcaster and reporter, or he deliberately misrepresented Stephen Walford personally. Even a cursory, rudimentary google search would have revealed that Walford is, indeed a piano teacher but also a Catholic writer and author. It would seem to me that Arroyo made a deliberate omission in order to make Stephen Walford appear to be inconsequential.

Not only did they deliberately misrepresent Mr. Walford himself they also misrepresented his arguments. Arroyo equated Walford's position as one who sees the Church as a political institution that changes its policies with each new elected official. Father Murray said that Mr. Walford was taking the position of saying that adultery can be a good thing. Walford's writing reflects neither of those positions. In fact, Arroyo only pulled two quotes from Walford's articles, one that was critical of  himself and another that was critical of Fr. Murray. In essence, Arroyo and Fr. Murray were defending themselves.

I wonder if Mr. Arroyo would find if unfair for someone to disqualify him by asking what kind of theological or ecclesiological credentials you receive from New York University Tisch School of the Arts when you study acting? I am sure he would say that he only reports the news. However as he also includes commentary and his own opinions you might wonder what qualifies him to do so. Or if they invalidated the many lay apostolates of EWTN in such a way? It would indeed be an unfair assessment and a deliberate misrepresentation to make them appear irrelevant.

Another Piano man not a theologian, Scott Eric Alt responds to Arroyo on his Facebook page:

"If Raymond Arroyo wishes to attack Stephen Walford for being a piano teacher but having the audacity to depend the pope (I mean imagine--a Catholic defending the pope; what new paradigm is this?), then let him go after me too. I also teach piano, and I also defend Amoris Laetitia. When's my turn? An attack on one pianist is an attack on all"

Alt does list his occupation on Facebook as piano teacher. He also formally taught writing and literature. He has been writing in the area of apologetics for years. In September he wrote a 7 part series correcting the Correctors, refuting the allegations of heresy made by the signatories of the Correctio Filialis. Like Stephen Walford, Scott Eric Alt has often defended the pope against all comers. I wish Arroyo would invite them on the World Over. My money would be on the Piano Men.

Whenever I think about defending the Pope, I am reminded of the bible story of Moses, Aaron and Hur.

Moses therefore said to Joshua, "Pick out certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." So Joshua did as Moses told him; he engaged Amalek in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he left his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses' hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Exodus 17:9-14

The staff of God represents God's authority. As God sends Moses on his mission he institutes Moses' staff as the sign of authority. The staff is used throughout in the signs and the plagues. At the Red Sea, God even asks Moses why they are crying out to him rather than using the authority that he has already given Moses to use the staff to part the Red Sea.(Exodus 14:15-16) In the same way that Moses was chosen as the one in whose hands the staff of authority was solely given, so too has the authority of Jesus Christ been placed in the hands of his Church through the pope and magisterium.

Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses in his human weakness but the staff remained in the hands of Moses. It is important to note what did not occur in this story. Aaron and Hur did not seize the staff, taking it into their own hands. Nor did they begin to berate Moses for his human weakness fearing that he will endanger them all. Joshua does not call up from the battlefield, "Moses, your weakness will be our destruction". Aaron and Hur came along side of Moses by necessity precisely because of human weakness. Joshua did not lose heart and stood firm.

We might want to be mindful of certain attitudes regarding the Pope. If we want to know what happens when we don't uphold the one who holds the staff we need only read Numbers chapters 16 and 17. When the people said to Moses and Aaron "Enough from you! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the Lord is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the Lord's congregation?" God's response involved the perpetrators of this rebellion being swallowed up by the earth, consumed by fire, as well as a scourge upon the people that was stopped in mid wave by the intercession of Aaron at the direction of Moses. Suffice it to say that it is an illustration that indicates that it is the prayers of the Church, the established authority, on our behalf that can turn the tide of the wrath of God even as the blow falls. And when Moses misused the staff it was God alone who dealt with him.

Jesus said "All power in heaven and earth has been given to me" (Matt 28:18). In Matthew 16 Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom that represent his authority into the hands of Peter and his successors. The gates of the netherworld cannot prevail against that authority. We cannot expect the tide to turn, that we will have the better of the fight if we will not support the arms of the one into whose hands such authority has been given.

This is why my money is on the Piano Men and those like them. Because they understand that there is one way and one way only to have the better of this fight. They understand that you can't equivocate a distinction between upholding the Pope and upholding the teachings of the Church. For it is impossible to support the teachings of the Church without supporting the one into whose hands the guarantee of those teachings has been given. Because they chose to be as Aaron and Hur in supporting the arms of the Pope. They chose to be like Joshua who stood firm and did not lose heart, with confidence in the power of God rather than relying on his own proficiency in battle.

Not so with many of the critics of the Pope who believe that they can wrest the staff from his hands and hold it up themselves without him. Or those who berate him for being human. Or those who fear that human weakness will bring about the collapse of the Church. Or those who believe that it is the proficiency of their arguments or their qualifications and credentials that will win the day. And when they resort to misrepresenting and misapplying the teachings of the Church in order discredit the Pope? When they resort to omissions and misrepresentations in order that his defenders will appear inconsequential and irrelevant?...I gotta say...they're probably on shaky ground.

For what it's worth.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Stephen (Against All Comers) Walford - Just a Piano Man?

I just finished listening to Mark Shea on Connecting the Dots with his guests Stephen Walford and Peter Vere. They engage in a "wide-ranging discussion of Francis, Amoris Laetitia, and the fake “crisis” that has been ginned up about him. " I enjoyed the discussion but that's not why I decided to write this piece. As often happens for me, I become more interested in writing about the reaction to something, than the thing itself. The thing that brought out the blog in me was one of the comments.

"Just FYI, Stephen Walford is a piano teacher, not a theologian.'

It's not the first time I've seen a comment of that nature concerning Mr. Walford. But more on that later.

I "met" Stephen Walford  over 4 years ago. Tim Haines and Wilson Orihuela had him on Vericast to interview him about his book "Heralds of the Second Coming". I was one of the call-in commenters. I very much doubt that he remembers our conversation. A few months ago I read his Open Letter to the Four Dubia Cardinals and thought "hey, I know that guy" remembering his interview with Vericast. So, by "met" and "know" I mean, well, internet and not a personal relationship, unless I just be name dropping.  I like his style and much of what he has to say, though. His articles are intelligent, intelligible and well researched. I have added the parenthetical "against all comers" to his name in a nod to a quote from a sermon by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman.

"Our duty is, - not indeed to mix up Christ's Vicar with this or that party of men, because he in his high station is above all parties, - but to look at his formal deeds, and to follow him whither he goeth, and never to desert him, however we may be tried, but to defend him at all hazards, and against all comers, as a son would a father, and a wife a husband, knowing that his cause is the cause of God."

Walford has certainly taken the words of Cardinal Newman to heart as he has entered into the fray of discussion, debate and controversy with his defense of Pope Francis. He has definitely taken on all comers with the article I previously mentioned, as well as a more recent article The Amoris Laetitia Dissenters.

I have not read every article out there that disagrees with Stephen Walford's arguments. I'm sure some of them have been written in a true spirit of discourse. At least I hope so, anyway. What I am seeing, however, are comments that are meant to dismiss Walford, to diminish him rather than truly debate him. It makes me wonder what the value of their arguments actually are if they have to resort to throwing shade. He's got nothing to contribute, he's just a piano teacher, not a theologian. Just an amateur, a dilettante. My favorite is the headline "Wherein faithful canonist Ed Peters guts papolatrous dilettante Stephen Walford". Well, we have no need to read any further do we? Nor do we need to examine both arguments. We already know who has cred and who doesn't now don't we?

For a Piano Man, Walford is no slouch. Not too long ago he was granted a private audience with the Pope. (Maybe when you publically have the Pope's back he might want to shake your hand. "Thanks for being like Aaron and Hur for me") He has published 2 books and is working on a third. He has written for various publications. Which elicited another combox gem about how he was just a journalist. So says the combox authorities of what is worthy. 

What is that? Elitism? Just plain bougie, pretentious idolatry of the intellect, academia or the titles of men? Who says that a regular Catholic can't know and defend the faith? Who says they can't defend the Pope? Who says they can't make a solid and well formed argument, enter a debate or speak to error or controversy? Who says that a regular Catholic can't grasp theological concepts and nuances? Quite frankly, if that is so than most of the bloggers on the internet might just as well pack up and go home. How many saints, as well, who are now called theologian, not because of credential but because of their love of Christ and his Church and their openness to and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit of that Church, would then be disqualified and dismissed?

Our Lord, himself, entrusted his Church to twelve ordinary men, not theologians. He did that, in the words of St. Paul, that "the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" and "God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God". This indeed has been the way of the Church from the beginning.

I began blogging nearly 5 years ago. I was quite aware that I had no cred and no rep. Quite frankly, I am just a grandma. It was by reading the first encyclical of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, that I became inspired and encouraged to give my faith a voice. I hadn't even read the whole thing but it was this line that was the impetus for me to "go public", as it were. "Those who have opened their hearts to God's love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light." So I took the small talent I had for expressing myself in the written word and stepped outside of my own little life. I began writing a blog, then added a second with a separate theme. I have written about theology, I have written about catechesis and apologetics though I am no formal theologian, catechist or apologists. I have written opinions about situations in the Church. I have researched and studied in order to share the teachings of the Church and I have seen the need to defend the Pope in the current climate. One day I stepped out of my comfort zone and called in to a show on the Vericast Network. The hand holding the phone literally shook the whole time from nervousness and I felt like I stuttered through the whole thing. Speaking in front of people is not my strong point and how am I qualified anyway? I soon became a regular contributor to the conversations on the shows, was asked to write blogs for Vericast and eventually was given my own show on their network. I was given the nickname of Miss Magisterium not because I was an expert on the magisterium but because of my stanch loyalty to, defense of and unwavering confidence in the authority of the Pope and the magisterium.

I guess the Piano Man and I have something in common. We both have taken to heart the words of Cardinal Newman to defend the Pope against all comers. We do it because we know that in defending his cause we defend the cause of Jesus Christ. I know that I trust Jesus and his promises to protect his Church and his Vicar. I believe in the unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that when the rains fall and the floods come, when the wind blows and beats against the Church, the rock on which the Church is built is the one thing that will not fall.

As far as qualifications go? We are Catholics baptized and confirmed in the faith. We are members of the Body of Christ. We are essential links in the chain of witnesses that makes it possible for others to see the face of Jesus in every age.

Pope Francis tells us in Lumen Fidei: The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians; as it spreads, it comes down to us, so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others, in the same way that, in the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles. Faith is passed on we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit. The transmission of the faith not only brings light to men and women in every place; it travels through time, passing from one generation to another. Because faith is born of an encounter which takes place in history and lights up our journey through time, it must be passed on in every age. It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus...As salvation history progresses, it becomes evident that God wants to make everyone share as brothers and sisters in that one blessing, which attains its fullness in Jesus so that all may be one. The boundless love of our Father also comes to us, in Jesus, through our brothers and sisters. Faith teaches us to see that every man an woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God's face shines on me through the faces of my brother and sisters...Finally, faith is one because it is shared by the whole Church, which is one body and one Spirit. In the communion of the subject which is the Church, we receive a common gaze. By professing the same faith, we stand firm on the same rock, we are transformed by the same Spirit of love, we radiate one light and we have a single insight into reality.

I am just a grandma and Stephen Walford is just a piano man. Abraham was just a nomad. Moses was just a guy with a stutter. Gideon's family was the lowest in the family of Manasseh and Gideon was the most insignificant in his father's house. David was just a shepherd. The apostles were just 12 ordinary men. St. Peter was just a fisherman. And our Lord himself? Many saw him as just a carpenter's son.

God will furnish us with all that is good that we might do his will and will carry out what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ. It is God, as well, who works in each one of us for his good purpose and his grace is sufficient.

It's ok Piano Man. You can come sit by me. If you don't mind sitting by a nobody. We will be joined by all the apologist and Pope defenders out there that are just ordinary Catholics. All the people who have entered into public discourse whose background of study was just literature, or music or art  or journalism and not theology. Just moms, just dads, just brothers and sisters in Christ. Knowing that we are blessings to each other. The others, they can throw shade if they want to. Funny thing, but many of those who are so strongly against Pope Francis, who call those who defend him popalators? Who try to diminish and dismiss by throwing shade? Not long ago when they thought there was something in it for them, when they thought they had a Pope who would champion their idea of what the church should be, when they thought they had a Pope that was worthy they sang a different tune. They told us to love the Pope no ifs, ands or buts and quoted the words of Pope Pius X on loving the Pope. Funny thing that.

And how must the Pope be loved? Non verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. [Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth - 1 Jn iii, 18] When one loves a person, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to fulfill his will, to perform his wishes. And if Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, "si quis diligit me, sermonem meum servabit," [if any one love me, he will keep my word - Jn xiv, 23] therefore, in order to demonstrate our love for the Pope, it is necessary to obey him.

Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey - that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope. -Pope Pius X

For what it's worth.

By the way, everybody who sits with me has to put up with that free association thing I have with music. So we're going to enjoy some Billy Joel. It's that quirky thing I got going on. Nobody says that Catholics can't be a little bit quirky.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Eerie and Ominous Seagulls at the Vatican

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's some birds in the air over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, What's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

You know, when a flock of seagulls mounts a protest of the Pope on New Year's Eve it must certainly be a sign of something going down. A sign that we got to beware.

Not the band.

Actual birds. Although there was a band called the Birds, not them either. A literal flock of birds from the Laridae family. This breaking news was brought to us courtesy of Lifesite News. Thank goodness for them because otherwise we may have never been aware. Other news sources have not even reported on the highly organized protest action. Those who defend the Pope most certainly would conspire to bury such breaking news.

The headline reads 'Eerie and ominous' sign appears as Pope Francis visits Vatican Nativity. The article reports.

At exactly the same time as the Pope left St. Peter’s Basilica and walked to the crèche in St. Peter’s Square, a squabble of about 500 seagulls suddenly flew up from behind the basilica and circled around the crèche.
They swarmed above the nativity scene, squawking and squealing for about the exact time it took for the Pope to walk from the basilica to the crèche. They then disappeared into a night sky lit up by an almost full moon.

Gives you chills. They posted this picture of the protesting birds.

I don't see the seagulls either. That doesn't negate the fact that we better stop, children, and listen to what's going down. Apparently the birds were protesting Pope Francis himself and this pontificate in which degradation and squalor continue in the Church, as well as the lurid nature of this year's Nativity Scene. This is truly eerie and ominous stuff. The birds at the Vatican, especially the seagulls, have been trying to tell us something for years and we just haven't been listening or maybe there has just been a deliberate attempt in the Catholic news media to keep us from knowing the truth.

Don't believe me? Well, I've done some research on bird activity at the Vatican going back several years and have connected the dots.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Peace Doves
In January, 2012 Pope Benedict released a peace dove from the a window of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. Begun by Pope St. John Paul II, the gesture has become a yearly custom of the Popes. The bird once released turned around and flew back in the window. Just over a year later Pope Benedict resigned and Pope Francis became our new pope. Surely, that bird was trying to tell us about the uncertain future that we would soon face under the pontificate of the new Pope and flew back into the window in abject terror. Never mind that birds are often confused when being released from windows. It is irrelevant, as well, that the same thing occurred to Pope John Paul II in 2005 and to Pope Benedict the previous year. It is only in hindsight that we can see that a bird doing what  is natural for a bird to do was actually an omen. Which is why it went unnoticed at the time, merely an amusing mishap.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Seagull
The following year, January 2013 Pope Benedict again released the customary peace dove from the window at the Vatican. This time the bird flew off only to be viciously attacked by a seagull. Again the story was reported as merely a kerfuffle. Again, in hindsight, we can see it for the sign that it was. Just weeks later Pope Benedict resigned from the papacy and Pope Francis became our new pope. Surely this seagull was telling us that there would be "no peace for you" during the coming pontificate. Never mind that you can see the seagull outside the window before the Pope releases the dove and it may have been unfortunate timing to release a dove right in front of a predator. Who would have thought that a seagull just might attack another bird that it has preyed upon and eaten in the past. Again, birds acting like birds went ignored. Not unlike the lone seagull that whacked Tippi Hedren in the head in the movie "The Birds" a bird acting like a bird can portend a coming momentous and calamitous event.

Conclave Seagull
Less than 2 months later, in March of 2013, we have another bird trying to tell us something. During the conclave that gathered to elect the new pope a seagull perched atop the chimney of the Sistine Chapel as people waited to see the smoke emitting from that chimney, letting let us know if a new pope had been elected. Never mind that seagulls and other birds probably perch there on a regular basis. This bird was there to tell us something. Most likely he was there to warn us concerning the new pope. His message being that the sole purpose of the new pontificate would be to blow smoke up our butts. According to the bird himself on one of his many twitter feeds he seems more interested in his 15 minutes of fame.

Angry Birds at the Vatican
January, 2014. Pope Francis releases two peace doves from the window of the Vatican. Both doves are again attacked as happened the previous year, this time by a seagull and a crow. Many are now getting the message and see this as a omen of the pontificate of Pope Francis. There are many blogs written concerning the significance of this most recent attack. This was the last time the Pope released the peace doves. The following year he decided to release balloons instead, effectively silencing the birds and the message they have been sent to bring to us.

That is until now when the seagulls decided to rise up and speak truth to power with an eerie and ominous sign.

You can judge for yourselves. I am just reporting the facts. But don't come crying to me when we look out the window and see this

The birds are determined to be heard. 

There's something happening here
What it is, is becoming more clear
There's some birds in the air over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, What's that sound
Everybody look what's going down


tongue-in-cheek: with ironic or flippant intent; figure of speech used to imply that a statement or other production is humorously or otherwise not seriously intended; a statement witty in some way, particularly to the speaker. The tone or the context of the statement may make it to be taken seriously by the listener.

Sometimes when you write a tongue-in-cheek satirical piece there are those who don't recognize it as such, even though it seems to the writer that the exaggeration in order to expose the truly ridiculous is quite obvious. Anyone who has read my blogs knows that I am a defender of Pope Francis. Hopefully my readers will recognize the tone of this post and not worry that I have gone the way of those who once defended the Pope but now search for the smallest thing with which to criticize him. Some may worry however that since I haven't written in awhile I may have spent that time struggling with my loyalty to Pope Francis and decide to go over to the dark side. Although that seems to be a popular trend recently with some fairly well known apologist.

I began writing this particular blog "A Catholic Mind - For What It's Worth" so I could investigate stories that I thought were being used to manipulate. Which is why I chose the lyric from the Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth"... there's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear. Everybody look what's going down as my tag line. Because I wanted to show people that we really should investigate certain stories more fully before we allow ourselves to be emotionally manipulated into making a negative judgement. Especially when that judgement concerns the Vicar of Christ. In my opinion Lifesite News took a story about birds being birds and turned it into a negative critique of the pope.

Here's what Lifesite News didn't tell you. The city of Rome (not just the Vatican) has a serious seagull problem. They really are a nuisance there. It is a common sight in the evening to see a flock of seagulls take flight. They are going after a feast of bats. They are seagulls being seagulls.  When that so happens to occur when the Pope was out and about it becomes an eerie and ominous sign.

It is a serious matter to turn the minds of the people against a Pope, regardless of whether he is a good one or not. We should pray for those who do so. Especially when they are more interested in the sensational rather than the truth.When reading such stories, before you get chills from the ominous and eerie you might want to check it out. Or you could follow the advice of another Flock of Seagulls.

And I ran
I ran so far away
I just ran
I ran all night and day
I couldn't get away.

As the last line says, sometimes we can't get away from it. But then there is always someone like me who will just write a blog about it.

For What It's Worth

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?"

On July 21, 2017, Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci was named as White House Communications Director, to take office on July 25. Tweets and headlines asked the question...

Anthony Scaramucci, Will you do the Fandango?

Which is a clever word play on a line from the song Bohemian Rhapsody, "Scaramouche, Scaramouche, you will you do the fandango?" I don't think anyone quite realized at the time how truly apropos that characterization would turn out to be. 

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.

Scaramuccia means "little skirmisher", brief fight or controversy of little importance. Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock character of the Italian commedia dell'arte.  He was often beaten for his boasting and cowardice. Scaramouche entertains the audience with grimaces and affected language. Scaramouche can be clever or stupid—as the actor sees fit to portray him. A fandango is a lively Spanish dance typically accompanied by guitars, castanets, hand-clapping or tambourine. A fandango is also a foolish or useless act or thing. In the Urban Dictionary a fandango is described as trying hard to be cool, in an ostentatious overly obvious way, usually with style of dress but also can include mannerisms or behavior. Yep, that about sums it up.

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality

In a true blurring of the lines between life and art we had a summer fling with "the Mooch" that was over almost as soon as it began.  The summer lovin' had me a blast, summer lovin' happened so fast whirlwind of a fandango lasted only ten days and by July 31 Scaramlucci's stint as White House Communications Director had come to an end. 

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances...

Ok, so I'm mixing my Will Shakespeare with my Freddie Mercury. Even so, Anthony Scaramucci exits stage right having played a  fandangoing Scaramouche to the hilt as he saw fit to portray him and holding the record for the shortest stint as White House Communications Director. If indeed he actually was, having never been sworn in as White House staff. After a profanity laced rant, that he thought was off the record, Scaramucci was beaten for his arrogance and boasting.

I am not usually interested in political commentary and analysis. It's not really my forte. What I am interested in is the moral of the story. As a Catholic blogger I am also interested in applying that moral in my life as a Christian. The moral of this story, as I see it, is that you are always representing. There is no such thing as off the record. So the question is not WILL you do a fandango. There is going to be a dance not matter what. The real question is what kind of fandango do you want it to be? Will it be a little skirmish, a brief fight over a controversy of little importance? Or will it have substance and be of lasting value? Will it be a lively dance or a foolish, useless thing? Will it be obvious, ostentatious, self-serving, boasting and arrogant? Or will it humbly serve God and others?

23Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Lk 11:23

As we go about our daily lives, I don' t think we are always aware of the fact that no matter what, as Catholics, we are representing. We are representing the Church, we are representing other Catholics but most of all we are representing Jesus Christ. We don't always realize that in everything we do and say, whether publically or in private, we are either gathering with him or scattering against him. There really is no neutral ground, nothing that is off the record. It isn't a question of whether or not we will give a face to the Gospel but only a matter of what that face will be.

Many of us communicate, as Catholics, on the internet with blogs, in comments sections and on Facebook. We can sometimes hide behind a certain anonymity. We forget that because others can't see our face that we are still representing something, giving a face to something with our words. We forget to ask ourselves whether our affect is that of Jesus Christ. We don't stop to consider if  the language we are using is what he would use. We don't stop to realize that an encounter with us is someone else's encounter with Christ. Often we are representing our own bitterness, anger or fear. We are sometimes getting a kick out off our own cleverness. We belittle those who disagree with us. Our pride and a sense of superiority won't let us see someone else's side. We can often go to the mat to vindicate and justify ourselves. We don't think that we have to answer for our behavior to others.We forget to be cognizant of the fact that because we say we are Catholic there are only two options as to what others will see in that encounter. Either they will see a true representation of Christ or a misrepresentation of him and his gospel. There are really only two outcomes. Either we will gather for Christ or we will scatter against him.

No matter what we are always representing.

There really isn't any question that there will be a fandango. The only question before each of us today is what kind of a fandango will it be?

For what it's worth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Guest Blog Over At Patheos

I have written a guest blog for Steel Magnificat on Patheos

My Pro-Life Paradigm Shift

Talking a little about Fr. Pavone and talking about being pro-life

"My idea of the dignity of the person has become much broader because of this."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

May Baby Choice Finally Be Laid to Rest

I am often a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to stories like this. I like to see them unfold first. More often than not, there are details that emerge over time. The reactions to the story, as well, become part of a bigger picture. So, I wait, I watch, I read most of what has been written and I research related articles. Sometimes I end up writing about it. Sometimes I don’t because I think that others have pretty much said all that can be said. Often far better than I ever could have. In this case, there have been many blogs and articles written. I will be linking to a good many of them at the end of this post. However, I am thinking there is one point of view that may have gotten lost in the shuffle. One voice that still needs to be heard, a voice that cannot speak up for itself. After reading all the articles and connecting all the dots it has occurred to me that there is still one thing that is left to be done.

Many by now are probably aware of the controversy created by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. On Sunday, Father Pavone posted a video on Facebook of the remains of an aborted baby laying naked on an altar. In the video Father Pavone stands behind the altar voicing an appeal that we vote for Donald Trump for president. Which was almost immediately followed by an overwhelming reaction from Catholics denouncing the video as wrong on many levels.

Scott Eric Alt wrote a piece detailing how the action was a desecration of the altar. His article was picked by many outside news sources. Along with Alt, many writers from Patheos such as Mark Shea, Matthew Tyson and Keith Michael Estrada, to name but a few, denounced the video because of the desecration of the altar and the total lack of reverence for the dignity of the human person that should have been shown towards the remains of the baby. Some of them writing several articles each.

One writer, Mary Pezzulo also wrote more than one article on Patheos. A particular post, Has Father Pavone Kept Mummified Human Remains For More Than A Decade?, caught my attention.

In her article Mary writes: Alert reader and commentator Patricia Larson Guilfoyle recently posted the following, on my post about Father Pavone’s desecration of an infant and an altar earlier today:

A dead baby VERY SIMILAR to this one was put on public display in Charlotte before the 2012 Democratic National Convention. When asked what happened to the baby’s remains after the “event,” which featured the baby in an open casket on the sidewalk outside a Catholic church (which was closed at the time), Father Pavone would not say anything other than that he has a memorial to the unborn in New York that his ministry manages. The reason I note the similarity between the two sets of remains is that the bruising and discoloration are due to the effects of a saline abortion, a late-term abortion procedure no longer performed in the U.S. (Dilation & Curettage has been the preferred method since the mid-1990s). More than one person involved with the Charlotte “event” told me the baby’s remains are kept in a container with formaldehyde, and that Father Pavone had custody of the container.

Mary then adds "This is a very good point. When I looked at that photo of the deceased infant, and I don’t recommend you do, I was convinced I’d seen it before too."

It astounded me that there were Catholics that thought that keeping the remains of an aborted baby in formaldehyde, so thatit could be trotted out for various events would by any stretch of the imagination, in any dimension of reality, be deemed acceptable. It astounded me even more to think that Catholics did know this and ignored it for the sake of a cause.  Regardless of how good that cause may be.

One comment to a blog post does not, however, a reliable source make.  Although it can pique one's interest to investigate further. In my investigation I came across a couple of references from 2006 and 2007

Pavone in July 2006 traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, to brandish a fetus in a jar of formaldehyde, and ultimately bury it, in conjunction with Operation Save America protests of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic. Jackson police commander Lee Vance described Pavone’s possession of the fetus as “a legal issue.” Pavone in the end opted not to bury the fetus, which he said he had shown in protests in several other locations around the country, but vowed to bury it later in the year in Alabama.

And from 2007

Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, said the fetus, which is being preserved in a formaldehyde-like solution, will be buried in Alabama in a few months. Pavone said the fetus was aborted at about 18 weeks. It has been used in demonstrations in New York and Columbus, Ohio, he said, and will be in several more before being buried.

Eventually I discovered an archived article from the Catholic News Herald that details the event in 2012. The following are portions of that article. Emphasis in bold are mine.

Protestors said “Baby Choice” was a victim of a second-trimester saline abortion…The body of the intact Caucasian fetus, at 20-22 weeks gestation, was covered with black spots where the salt solution burned off the top layer of her skin.
The only information that Father Pavone disclosed about the baby, dubbed “Baby Choice,” was that he had acquired her from outside North Carolina and brought her to town so that her funeral could coincide with the demonstration.

“The baby whom we honored last week was entrusted to a colleague of mine, who came to me to ask if we could arrange for burial. When I told this colleague that there would be a memorial service held by Operation Save America, and that I would be speaking at it, she arranged to entrust the body to us for this service,” Father Pavone said in an email Tuesday, adding, “Many of the public events like Operation Save America holds involve memorial services. There may or may not be a baby to bury. Different babies, at different times, have been made available, and we have subsequently had burials for them.”
“Baby Choice” has been the name given to various fetal remains obtained and displayed by anti-abortion groups including Americans Against Abortion, Operation Rescue/Operation Save America and Priest for Life over the past three decades.

The first “Baby Choice” appeared in 1985, and is similar to the baby memorialized in Charlotte last week: a girl at the same gestational age, who died from the same abortion procedure, featuring similar black burn marks on the skin.

Father Pavone said the baby in Charlotte was not the original 1985 “Baby Choice.”

In a July 26 release from Priests for Life, he noted, “It is not often that we have the bodies of aborted babies. Unfortunately, the act by which their lives are dishonored and their bodies dismembered takes those bodies and discards the with the medical waste.

“But once in a while, we are able to retrieve these bodies. When we do so, we give them the honor that others have denied them. The act of violence that killed them is done in secret; we believe that the act of reparation that honors them should be done in public. The cold-hearted killing was done in darkness; the broken-hearted mourning should be done in the bright light of day.”
However, two Operation Rescue/Operation Save America members described the baby as not being recently deceased, saying they have used her in similar demonstrations elsewhere.

Organizers insisted that they treat the baby’s remains with dignity and respect as part of their fight to end abortion.
Dr. Patricia McEwen – whom the Priests for Life office referred inquiries to about “Baby Choice” and now serves with Operation Save America, Life Coalition International and Doctors for Life International – said she first met “Baby Choice” in 1991, and that the baby regularly travels around the country in anti-abortion demonstrations. The baby is the victim of “a very old saline abortion,” McEwen said, and is kept in formaldehyde when not being used in demonstrations.
“We’ve gotten attached to this little one. She’s the evidence of our sins, of our crimes against the little ones,” said evangelist Rusty Lee Thomas of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, who said he once carried “Baby Choice” on a six-month walk across America in 2004. “It’s not like we want to exploit her or anything like that…”

The article goes on to say: Father Pavone said he buried “Baby Choice” on July 29 in Staten Island, N.Y., where Priests for Life is headquartered, in a plot that the organization has reserved…One of the Operation Rescue/Operation Save America protest organizers said he did not know beforehand of plans to lay the baby to rest and said that a symbol such as “Baby Choice” remains important to their cause,
Not all pro-life advocates felt this was appropriate. Later in the article it was noted that:

Maggi Nadol, director of the Diocese of Charlotte’s Respect Life Office, did not attend the demonstration, and there were no other local pro-life leaders visibly present. On Tuesday, Nadal said, “Respect for Life calls us to treat the human body with dignity.” Nadol said she could understand a situation where an open casket was used in a service for an unborn child once. But she expressed concern about it. “If the body is being used as a tool to bring people together, it is deceit.”

It seems that Patricia Larson Guilfoyle's comment on Mary Paluzzo's blog was correct in the fact that the remains of the baby from 2012 were preserved in formaldehyde and used for multiple demonstrations over a period of years. Is it, however, the same remains used in the most recent video?

Father Pavone has presided over many funerals for aborted babies. Often they are open casket public events that coincide with demonstrations. In 2006 or 2007 the baby was named Rebecca; in 2010 there was Abel; 2011 the baby was Esther; we read about baby Choice in 2012; in early 2013 there was Daniel and then Daniel Pavone later that year; Amos was the name of the baby in 2014. In all of these cases the baby is described as intact and from the second trimester. They are also described as heavily bruised and discolored due to a prostaglandin abortion. Were they all the same baby? In the long run it really doesn't matter if there was one baby or several. Either way, the remains of aborted babies, rather then actually being buried, find their final resting place by being preserved in a solution at a memorial and then are "disinterred" when deemed necessary to make a point. It seems this has been a common and ongoing practice. It also seems that it hasn't really been that big of a secret. The rest of us just haven't been paying attention or didn't connect the dots.

Many have speculated that the baby in Father Pavon's video was not actual remains but rather just an image. There are, in fact, two videos. One that was posted on Facebook and another much shorter video that was posted to YouTube. The baby is in a different position in each video so when comparing the two you can see that it is actual remains and not merely an image. Father Pavone says in each of the videos that it is a baby. That was the point after all. However, if there are still doubts, investigated the story and here is part of what they reported.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic clergy activist group, Priests for Life, confirmed that the fetus was real and was given to the organization by a pathologist under a strict agreement on confidentiality, although she was able to tell us that it was aborted in the second trimester of pregnancy. The group has dubbed the fetus "Baby Choice."
In the video, Fr. Pavone has the fetus on an altar, which the spokeswoman said is located in a room that is sometimes used for Mass at the organization's headquarters in Staten Island, New York. The Priests for Life group originally performed a funeral service for the body, which is preserved in formalin and normally kept in a memorial chapel. On the Sunday before the contentious 8 November 2016 presidential election, Fr. Pavone put it on wider display and urged the religious to vote against legal abortion by ousting Democratic lawmakers…

Is this "Baby Choice" the same "Baby Choice" from 2012? It doesn't really matter. It is the treatment of the babies regardless of if there has been one or several.

Father Pavone has said that it is not about his treatment of babies but rather how the abortionists have treated the babies. Respectfully, I beg to differ. It is ALL about the treatment of these babies be it the abortionist's or ours. Their wrong does not make ours right. The very point of pro-life advocacy is predicated on the dignity of every human life. Their dignity in life and their dignity in death. They are persons not symbols. They are not opportunities to advance a cause or to force people to recognize the horrors of abortion. When we receive their bodies we don't own them. We cannot arrogantly determine that they be used for a greater good. How dare we? When we receive their bodies we give them reverence and respect by performing the final work of mercy of burying the dead. Not a temporary burial so that we can take them out and use them for our own purposes. A permanent burial. We then allow them to rest in peace praying that the Lord grant them eternal rest and allow his perpetual light to shine upon them. Anything else is an assault on their person hood and dignity that mirrors in attitude those who assaulted them physically and took their lives.

We will never convince others of the dignity of children in the womb if we treat them as possessions whose bodies we may use according to our own determinations. We can show all of the images and videos we want to try to shock people into the reality of the desecration through abortion. But that is not what  people will see. Instead they will see the hypocrisy of our own disregard of those little bodies and our lack of recognition of that child as a unique, individual person and a child of God.

My purpose in writing this post is to shine a light on this situation in order to advocate for Baby Choice and his/her immediate, final and permanent burial. Cardinal Dolan of the archdiocese of New York does not have a connection to Priests for Life but he may have jurisdiction of the proper interment of this child's remains. Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo Texas is the bishop over Father Pavone. These two bishops may be able to jointly insist that Baby Choice be permanently laid to rest as well as future remains that Father Pavone may receive.

Church regulations state that fetal remains "must be respected just as the remains of other human beings." This would include a timely burial and treating the remains with reverence for the sake of the dignity of the child and that the risk of scandal may be avoided.

I am praying for Father Pavone that the Lord will give him a new understanding regarding this. 

The one thing left to be done is for Baby Choice to finally be laid to rest.

For what it's worth

The following are links to some of the blog posts and writers that have written their opinions on this controversy

Scott Eric Alt - To Give a Defense

Mary Peluzzo - Steel Magnificat

Mark Shea - Catholic and Enjoying It

Keith Michael Estrada - Proper Nomenclature

Matthew Tyson - Mackerel Snapper

Rebecca Bratten Weis - Suspended in Her Jar

Sam Rocha

Anthony Lane - The Impractical Catholic

Elizabeth Scalia