Friday, June 23, 2017

AUSCP Assembly 2017 in Atlanta

Just back from the AUSCP assembly held in Atlanta, GA, June 19-22, 2017.

About 175 members of the Association of US Catholic Priests met for their organization’s sixth annual assembly to focus on “Peacemaking In Our Fractured Society.”

Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM, of Savannah led an optional retreat day prior to the opening of the assembly. Also included in the schedule was a  prayer service led by members of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

Speakers for the assembly included Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta (“Peace Not As The World Gives”), Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFaith Ministries (“Pope Francis and a New Paradigm for Parishes’), and Father Bryan Massingale, professor of theology at Fordham University (“To Redeem the Soul of America”).

Assembly attendees  prioritized goals and resolutions for the association’s focus in the coming year.  The top three goals were: 1) Immigration (promotion of  immigration  reform and urging members to lead parishioners, deanery groups and diocesan agencies in study and prayer about this issue in the United States).

2)  Seminary Formation (establishing  a study group to contribute to the US Catholic Bishops’ current project of reviewing priestly formation, especially in the light of Pope Francis’ challenging priests to revitalize their ministry, e.g., to experience the “smell of the sheep,” to see “the church as a field hospital”).

3) Ordaining Married Men to Priesthood (encouraging our bishops and the USCCB to engage in open discussion about ordination of married men,  viri probati,  to insure adequate response to the needs of our country’s 17,000 parishes regarding  priestly pastors and the Eucharist).

Among other issues under discussion by assembly members were: 1)  a resolution asking US Bishops to develop a national plan for the pastoral care of “priestless parishes,” 2) a request to the USCCB to petition the Holy See for authorization of deacons to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

AUSCP has already established working groups focusing on promoting reformation of the Roman Missal and promotion of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si  initiative, “caring for our common home.”

Members were also asked to pray for the canonizations of : 1) Sister Dorothy Stang, SND de Namur, murdered in Brazil in February of 2005; 2) Father Stanley Rother, first diocesan priest from the United States to be honored as a martyr (assassinated in July of 1981 in Guatemala); 3) Father Augustus Tolton, born in 1854 to enslaved parents in Missouri, and later the first Black man to be publicly recognized as a Roman Catholic priest ordained in the United States; 4) Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap., known in Detroit for  great faith and spiritual counseling and as a worker of miracles, who died in July of 1957.

Assembly members visited Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, where  Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s grandfather and father were pastors, and the site of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral. Nearby is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which includes his boyhood home, surrounding neighborhood, burial site, and a museum. Also in the area is the first Black Catholic Parish in Atlanta, Our Lady of Lourdes, established in 1912, where the assembly members gathered with Archbishop Wilton Gregory as presider for Mass.

Members were introduced to Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, who has agreed to be episcopal moderator for the AUSCP.

Next year’s assembly is set for Albuquerque, June 25-28, 2018, with key-note speakers Father Richard Rohr, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, and Archbishop Wester of Santa Fe.

Founded in 2011, the AUSCP’s mission is  “To be an association of U.S. Catholic priests offering mutual support and a collegial voice through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action on issues affecting Church and society.”  The AUSCP’s vision is  “To be a Priests’ Voice of Hope and Joy within our Pilgrim Church. .”

Further information about AUSCP is available at

Monday, June 12, 2017

Personal Sacrifice vs Government Dole

In the Preamble to the Constitution the Founding Fathers listed the general purposes for which the government of the United States was founded, namely “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

It is highly unlikely that any of those founders would have expected the government of the United States to grow to its present size and to assume control and responsibility over as many issues and elements of public life as it has.

Periodically the citizens of the United States debate whether the government has taken on responsibilities that are beyond the promotion of the General Welfare.

During the time between the publication of this “Frame of Government”  in 1787 and its ratification by eleven states in 1788, there were public and private debates about its various proposals and the ramifications of accepting them.

For example, Robert Yates, aka “Brutus,” an author of anti-Federalist writings, questioned the government’s power to lay and collect taxes…to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. (article 1, section 8).

“Brutus” asked what is implied in this authority and where are the limits on this power. He did not question what is included in “general welfare,” but we can safely presume  that  today  this expression includes a great deal more than he would have imagined in 1787.

Many citizens see the widening of “general welfare” to be a necessary development of the government’s  responsibility. New times, they say, call for new measures.

The founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, often spoke of the need for a personalism which recognizes the sacredness of every human being.  No one can be discounted since all are made in the image of God.

Although there are several descriptions and definitions applied to the term “personalism,” for Maurin and Day it was radical, active application of love to all people, all creation.

Maurin saw the danger for a citizenry to rely solely upon the government to meet the needs of its people. Many Americans know first-hand the delays, waste, and failed opportunities resulting from governmental red-tape and mismanagement.

Without denying the need for government’s intervention in providing assistance in some cases of poverty (destitution), health, and child-care, Maurin was concerned that people in general, and Christians in particular, have lost the Gospel’s mandate to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, provide shelter for the homeless.

Maurin’s philosophy on this matter appeared in one of  his so-called “Easy Essays” in an early issue of  The Catholic Worker newspaper:

In the first centuries
of  Christianity
the hungry were fed
at a personal sacrifice,
the naked were clothed
at a personal sacrifice,
the homeless were sheltered
at  personal sacrifice.
And because the poor
were fed, clothed and sheltered
at a personal sacrifice,
the pagans used to say
about the Christians
“See how they love each other.”
In our own day
the poor are no longer
fed, clothed, and sheltered
at a personal sacrifice
but at the expense
of  the taxpayers.
And because the poor
are no longer
fed, clothed and sheltered
the pagans say about the Christians
“See how they pass the buck.”

Has the Church turned over to secular authorities one of its primary responsibilities? Without denying the value of many Church-related organizations serving the poor, the issue can still be raised on a personalist level to all Christians facing judgment day: “When I was hungry, you gave me nothing to eat; when I was thirsty, you gave me nothing…”

Defending our inaction by pointing to the government dole may be  a rather flimsy excuse.