Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

An Orthodox priest salutes Bishop Jenky’s courage

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble
By Fr. Peter-Michael Preble
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One of the fundamental characteristics of a good leader, no, strike that, a great leader is courage. Of all the skills that leaders, especially leaders in the Church, need it is courage. We are faced with an unprecedented attack on religious freedom in this country, and what we need more than anything are leaders who are not afraid to say what needs to be said. We need leaders who put themselves out in front to protect their flocks from attack. We need leaders who will speak the truth in all situations regardless of the consequences of that truth.

I spent twelve years in the Army of the United States, and I served under many leaders. The one thing that distinguished the good ones from the bad ones was courage. I am not talking about courage under fire on the battle-field, but courage to do what had to be done, regardless of the consequences. That is the mark of true leaders: the willingness to risk it all to complete a mission because they know what will happen if they fail. Courageous leaders always have the welfare of those they are leading in the fore-front of their mind and think of themselves only after they think of those they are leading. Their platoon’s or their church’s welfare is more important than their own.

Recently, Daniel Jenky, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Peoria, Illinois preached a sermon in which he said that President Obama was heading down the same road that Hitler and Stalin had taken. He was referring to the change in the HHS mandate that would require religious institutions to provide abortion and contraception coverage regardless of their moral objections. This change, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, is a direct attack on the religious freedom we have always enjoyed in America. I have written on this topic myself and was publicly taken to task by a bishop of my own Church for what I had to say.

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In that April 14 sermon, Bishop Jenky said that the Church will survive what is being done to her and that many “have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide within the confines of their churches.” It is important to note that those governments that have tried to extinguish the church have all fallen, yet the church continues. As Jenky said.

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care…

In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama - with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path….

Every other Roman Catholic bishop in America has made similar statements saying what the Church should be teaching and speaking what her bishops are speaking.

This takes courage! Shortly after Jenky’s sermon, a left-wing, God-hating group filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service citing the sermon as a violation of the IRS tax code in relation to churches. And the faculty of what used to be a Roman Catholic University, Notre Dame, publicly called on Bishop Jenky to retract his statements but so far he is standing by his words.

I believe we have lost sight of the fact that the Church does not change to fit the culture; the Church is supposed to influence the culture and keep the culture on track. When a church changes to fit what society wants her to believe, she has failed in her mission and confused the people. The Church does not decide matters of faith and morals based on opinion polls; the Church decides on what has been revealed to her by the Holy Spirit and through her long tradition. If the culture needs correction, it is up to the Church, and her authentic teachers, the bishops, to bring that culture back on track. I believe we are where we are as a society, because we, the Church, have not been doing our job effectively.

We can look back at the political takeovers of the last century, and see that one of the first things accomplished was the silencing of the Church. When the Nazis rolled into Poland the Roman Catholic Church gave her assent, because Hitler had promised that the Church would not be affected. Soon after the Nazis arrival, that all changed; the Church began to be persecuted.

The socialist plan will not work unless the government is in control of the moral compass of the people. The moral compass of the people is the Church, the authentic Church and her bishops. Right now, with few exceptions, the Roman Catholic Church is fighting this fight on her own. She has the loudest voice, yes, but this is not a simply a Roman Catholic issue, as the liberal media would like us to believe. This is an issue of religious freedom that will affect all of us in America. If we stay silent, we will end up like the Roman Catholic Church in Poland of the 1940s.

To be a leader means to have the courage that it takes to stand up when needed. Leaders cannot be afraid of the political or economic fallout of teaching and upholding what the Church teaches. The Church is to be counter-cultural and to remind people that we do have a moral code, a code that this country was founded on and, if we are not careful, a code that will become a distant memory.

This moral code is very counter-cultural, and most of the adherents to the Orthodox faith are confused on many of the issues that face them every day. The Orthodox faith is not simply a faith practiced on Sunday or when it is convenient another issue that the faithful need to consider but it is a faith that is lived, a faith that is part of the very fabric of our humanity. We can’t separate our life outside the Church from our life inside the Church, because there should be no difference.

What we need now, more than ever before in the history of America, are leaders who are filled with the power and the boldness of the Holy Spirit, as the apostles were on the day of Pentecost. Courageous, Spirit-filled leaders leading the church and say what needs to be said, whether or not it is politically correct and regardless of the fallout. We need leaders who are not afraid to stand up and say that what is being done is not right and who will tell the world we will not be silenced.

But it is not just up to the leaders of the Church. The laity needs to support its leaders when they come under attack. The Church needs to be defended at all levels of society and everyone needs to be involved in this defense of the faith.

The Church needs courageous leaders who are and will be authentic shepherds of their flock and are, in a very real way, willing to lay down their lives for those that God has entrusted to them. Thanks be to God, the Church does have leaders like this, but we need so many more. We need leaders with the courage and conviction of Bishop Jenky, who will stand up and be counted, and take the government and the faithful to task for what they are doing or not doing.

Throughout Scripture, the image of the shepherd is used as an image of Jesus leading His flock. This image has been repeated throughout the history of the Church in reference to the clergy, who lead the Church as descendants of those very apostles. The shepherd who stands on the hillside is not there for his own gain, but to watch carefully over the flock that God has entrusted to him. He is constantly scanning the horizon for any threat to that flock. He provides the nourishment the flock needs. His first thought in the morning and his last thought at night is about his flock. If left alone, the flock is not able to defend itself. The flock needs the shepherd.

Each bishop of the Church carries a staff like those of the shepherds on the hill-side. That staff is to remind him, and the faithful, that he is there to protect them, nourish them, and lead them at all times. If the shepherd turns away, even for just a moment, he opens the flock up to attack. He needs to be as concerned for the ones in the back of the pack as he is for the ones in the front. The shepherd has to be fearless in the defense of his flock, and he has to be willing to lay down his life to save just one.

We have just completed the holiest week of the Church year. The entire week was spent focusing on the Cross. The hymns of the Church services and the Scripture reads helped us to focus on the events that took place. In a very real way, we walked along side Jesus as He went to His voluntary death. We walked alongside Him as He laid down His life for His flock.

The Romans had used the Cross as a symbol and instrument of terror and death for years. The action of one man, Jesus Christ, transformed it to a symbol of freedom. This symbol we need to cling to. With the Crucifixion of Jesus, the cross changed from a symbol of fear to a symbol of courage. We wear that Cross around our necks as a reminder what Jesus did for us. The Cross has become a symbol of truth, and if we just cling to that symbol, we find the courage that we need.

I was reminded recently that the role of the priest is to be the mediator for his people. When priests or bishops put on their vestments for the liturgy, we are reminded that we are clothing ourselves with the armor of God and preparing for battle. We are warriors in the army of the Lord and we are to use that armor to defend the flock.

More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ called twelve men to follow Him and to continue His teaching as the inheritors of His mission on earth. One of those chosen fell into temptation and sold Him into the hands of the enemy, but the others became the voice that has given us the church we have today.

The earliest settlers of America had the courage to leave all that they knew to come to a harsh and uninviting place, simply because they wanted to be able to practice their faith without government interference. For more than 200 years, that has been the law here in America. Recently, with the stroke of a pen, that liberty and freedom has been taken away. For the first time in the history of America, the government has forced the Church to go against her teachings. The wolf is standing close to the flock. We need leaders who are courageous who are not afraid to place themselves between the wolf and the flock.

After all, this is what Jesus did!

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Lisa Bourne

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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‘His bones are basically like paper’: Parents refuse to abort baby with rare condition

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By Kirsten Anderson

At just 11 weeks old, little Layton Diven is not like other babies. Every time his parents pick him up or cuddle him, there is a chance they will break his bones. In fact, Layton has already suffered more than 20 fractures in his short life – beginning at the moment of his birth.

Layton has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a rare disease that makes his bones brittle and prone to breakage. There are several types of OI, and Layton’s type, OI Type III, is the most severe type found among infants. Most babies born with the disease, like Layton, are born with multiple fractures, especially along the rib cage. Many struggle to breathe or swallow. The incurable disease is progressive, so it will get worse as he gets older.

Layton was diagnosed with OI in the womb, but abortion wasn’t an option for his parents, Chad and Angela Diven, who considered their baby a gift from God, no matter his condition.

“We weren't going to have an abortion, so he was born with the disease,” Angela Diven told KSLA. “God chose me for him, to be his mom, so I have to take that huge responsibility and do what's best for him.”

That responsibility comes with a heavy price. Layton requires 24-hour care, but both Angela and Chad have full-time jobs. He can’t go to regular daycare, because it’s not safe for him.

“You can't just pick him up like a normal baby,” Diven said. “You can't dress him like a normal child; his bones are basically like paper. He can't go to daycare because of his condition. He's medically fragile, and a daycare can't handle him."

Childcare costs are just the beginning, though – the treatments Layton will need throughout his life are expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

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Layton is currently receiving pamidronate IV therapy, which will help to strengthen his bones. But in order to be able to stand or walk, he will need metal rods implanted in his legs – an operation that will cost the Divens $80,000. The OI specialist coordinating Layton’s care is in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Divens live in Louisiana. As he grows, Layton will also require special equipment, such as a wheelchair, along with extensive physical therapy.

Despite the hardships they knew would come, the Divens stepped out in faith to bring Layton into the world. Now, they are reaching out to the internet for help to shoulder the financial burdens that came with their baby blessing. The family has set up both a GoFundMe and a Facebook page called “Lifting Up Layton Diven,” where people can receive updates on Layton’s condition and contribute to the cost of his care.

To donate to baby Layton’s medical trust fund, click here.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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