Today is the Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, and you’re reading The Tuesday Pillar Post.
We have a lot to get through in this week’s newsletter, including a quick preview of the U.S. bishops’ conference spring plenary assembly, which will take place in Orlando, Florida over the next few days — and to which Ed and I will be heading in order to cover it thoroughly for you.
But first, how did St. Anthony become the finder of lost things?
Well, here’s the story:
Anthony was one of the earliest Franciscans; he joined in the 13th century, and was already a priest and accomplished scholar when he joined. One on occasion, while he was teaching at a university, a novice who left the Franciscan Order took with him from the friary Anthony’s Psalter — it was hand-copied, very valuable, and filled with the saint’s lecture notes and scholarship.
Anthony prayed that the book would come back, and — to his astonishment — the departed novice had a conversion of heart, returned the book to Anthony, and begged his forgiveness.
So that’s why we pray to Anthony of Padua when we can’t find housekeys or a parking spot. But, if I’m understanding the story correctly, maybe we should pray to him instead when we hope that someone will have a dramatic conversion and amend their life! That seems a bigger deal than the returned book, no?
While St. Anthony prays for us — as I’m sure he does — let’s get to the news.
The text affirms that: “The Church is not properly understood as a pyramid, with a primate governing from the top, but neither is it properly understood as a federation of self-sufficient Churches.”
The document comes as Pope Francis continues a push for more practical and theological unity with Orthodox Christians. Read all about it.
A new report in the UK says that a bishop who resigned last year had undermined safe environment efforts and left people at risk — especially through his decision to appoint a rector of the diocesan cathedral accused of grooming behavior with teenage boys.
The report came from the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency, an organization set up by the English and Welsh bishops last year to look into allegations of episcopal abuse or misconduct, and then provide independent, expert-produced, and publicly available reports — something unavailable in the United States.
The U.S. bishops this week will have a consultative vote on the canonization process of the “Shreveport Martyrs” — five priests who died during the 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic in Shreveport, Louisiana.
The priests were not killed in hatred of the faith, rather, their causes fall under the “offering of life” category introduced by Pope Francis in 2017 as a path to canonization — a category for Catholic who die prematurely as a result of freely and voluntarily offering their life in an act of charity, and are sometimes referred to as “martyrs to charity.”
The Pillar’s Michelle La Rosa explains who the Shreveport Martyrs really were — how they lived, and how they died. Read about it here.
When I heard about Fr. Garcia’s appearance on MasterChef, I was deeply skeptical about it — priests who appear on reality and competition tv shows are often gimmicky and self-promoting.
To be candid, I suspected that Fr. Garcia would not have very much of substance to say.
But then The Pillar’s correspondent Edgar Beltran had a lengthy and serious conversation with Garcia — who described a model of evangelization, pastoral care, and even accompaniment on the show which actually bore fruit. And the priest seemed to describe his experience in humility and candor.
I was surprised, to be honest.
Here’s an excerpt:
One of the competitors was a Brazilian guy, Frank, who is gay and has a partner. And Frank told me that he prays with his breviary every morning, and that he taught his boyfriend to pray with him. That surprised me!
And you know, some contestants were critical of me being on the show, but Frank always stood up for me.
There is also Francesc, who was my roommate during the competition, who in the show was shown to be a very womanizing guy. We became great friends — to my surprise — and he wants to marry his girlfriend in the Church. I was able to help prepare his girlfriend to be confirmed, and indeed, she was confirmed.
I gave Francesc Saint Augustine’s “Confessions,” and he liked it a lot.
He saw that I prayed at night, and when I woke up in the morning, and one day he told me “I want to go back [to the Church], I want you to teach me to pray.” And so then we started talking more.
Another guy on the show is a DJ who is into this polyamory vibe and is bisexual, but — listen — he was far from the Church, and has now started coming to Mass in my parish.
With the show I realized this: that under my habit, and under someone else’s piercings or tattoos, there are two children of God who each deserve respect and love.
Of course, it is not easy, many are far from God and the Church or live very difficult lives, but when you trust the One who sends you, you realize that it’s not only that you are there for them, you know? You also discover your own misery, and you come to see that in many aspects, you are sometimes farther from God than that other person is.
God can be brought to these distant lands for the Church. Nothing is impossible for Him.
Down in Fort Worth, Bishop Michael Olson released a video on Sunday night, in which the bishop said he would not be drawn into public debate over his ongoing dispute with a convent of cloistered Carmelite nuns — and in which he subsequently responded to various criticisms he’s faced in media reports and social media posts on that dispute.
The bishop offered a nine-minute summary of the state of affairs as he sees it — and doubled down on his allegation that the monastery’s ousted superior had been engaged in sexual misconduct, and that copious amounts of marijuana were found at the monastery. The nuns’ lawyer disputes most of that, and the situation has seemingly become an all-out media battle.
You can read the latest here — and know that we at The Pillar are working on securing a few interviews which — we hope — will bring more light than heat to the standoff in Fort Worth.
A small group of pilgrims last week spent eight days walking from Fort Wayne, Indiana to South Bend, as a kind of “tune up,” or proof of concept, for the four long walking Eucharistic pilgrimages that will take place next summer ahead of the Eucharistic Congress.
This eight-day trip allowed pilgrimage organizers a chance to see what works and what doesn’t, and how it actually unfolds to walk 12 or so miles daily with the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance.
The pilgrimage was kind enough to let me tag along for some 24 hours last week, and I went with two questions — “How does it work?” and “What, exactly, is the point?”
Well, I got answers to those questions, as I experienced a 14-mile trek through the Indiana countryside made in the presence of the Holy Eucharist, with aid from a special “monstrance-harness,” and a portable, temporary tabernacle in an SUV.
I also learned that every pilgrim on a walk like this has a different sense of what it’s for, and what God’s doing. So how do they all fit together?
And, if you’ll permit me, I hope that you will read this story, because I brought it to you at considerable personal cost — it was a big trip for me, as it happens.
About two miles into the pilgrimage last week, I tripped while walking down the road — I tripped over the tiniest of potholes, but I lost my footing, and I tumbled off the road.
I ripped my forearm pretty good. My shorts got a large tear down the inside seam, which made modesty a challenge for the rest of the day. But mostly, I rolled my ankle hard, and it swelled up to a proportion best described as colossal.
In the moment, and for the next few hours, it didn’t hurt so much. In fact I walked the rest of the day’s trek, while interviewing participants and running ahead a bit for photos. I thought I was fine.
But by that night, I could barely walk at all, and I couldn’t rotate my heel in any direction. A couple of whiskeys — my standard medical allotment — didn’t help.
By the next morning, most of my calf was swollen too. Mrs. Flynn and Ed made a lot of noise about “x-rays” and “making good choices,” so I went to an urgent care after I flew home to Colorado. I waited quite a while, but an x-ray revealed that it’s just a high and especially nasty sprain, no broken bone. Rest was ordered, and some PT to get the ligament back in shape.
Anyway, I need it to get better now because tomorrow I’m headed to Orlando to cover the bishops’ meeting.
So if you want to offer a prayer, I’d be much obliged. If you want to subscribe, as a thank you to your intrepid reporter, who stops at nothing to get the story, I’d be very grateful.
But if you just want to watch the video of me falling, which happened to be caught by a documentarian — well, I certainly understand. It makes me laugh every time.
Really. It’s hilarious.
What happens in Orlando….
So here’s what the bishops will discuss in Orlando, at their spring plenary meeting.
In their public sessions, they’re expected to:
— have a consultative vote on the “Shreveport Martyrs.”
— vote on some of the final stages in the retranslation process for the Liturgy of the Hours — a newly translated breviary is expected to drop sometime in the next several years, and the conference will have some votes on newly translated sections.
— vote on a revision of the statutes for ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. ICEL is an organization sponsored and supported by several English-speaking bishops’ conferences, for the purpose of providing liturgical translations for the bishops to implement, at their discretion. My understanding is that ICEL statutes are undergoing a revision pertaining to the contribution funding model of the conferences. More details on this one to come.
— the bishops will also vote to approve a “National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic/Latino ministry” and a revised version of the “Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests.”
The second of those two could be a bit controversial.
Sources at the USCCB have told The Pillar that some bishops have complained that drafts of the revised “Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests” did not contain sufficient excerpts or references to the writings of Pope Francis, and that it instead relied heavily on writings of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on the priesthood. In short, it’s possible, though not certain, that floor interventions on this document could turn into a debate on the degree to which conference documents should carry a preponderance of writing from the current pope — an issue of importance for at least some of the conference’s bishops.
— the bishops will also vote to authorize the committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to draft a new statement on Catholics with disabilities, and authorize the doctrine committee to begin revising the “Ethical and Religious Directives,” a set of norms on health care ethics for Catholic hospitals.
Now, some reporting has suggested that the conference will vote substantively on a new version of the ERDs, rather than just make a procedural commitment to beginning a revision. And some of the reporting has suggested that the new ERDS will “ban gender-affirming care” from Catholic hospitals. It’s possible that bishops will even take the floor with talking points on that front.
But in fact, the vote right now is not about what the new ERDs should say, just about the fact that they should be updated — it’s been 5 years since an update, and healthcare changes fast.
And it should be obvious to any observer that a new version of the ERDs will take the line of both Pope Francis and the USCCB on “gender-affirming care” —- if you want to know what the new ERDs will probably say about gender related issues, just read the significant “doctrinal note” the bishops issued on the subject back in March, which states that medical procedures which “aim to alter the fundamental order of the body …do not respect the order and finality inscribed in the human person.”
“Catholic health care services must not perform interventions, whether surgical or chemical, that aim to transform the sexual characteristics of a human body into those of the opposite sex or take part in the development of such procedures. They must employ all appropriate resources to mitigate the suffering of those who struggle with gender incongruence, but the means used must respect the fundamental order of the human body. Only by using morally appropriate means do healthcare providers show full respect for the dignity of each human person,” the bishops have already written.
So while it’s technically a procedural vote on an issue with a foregone conclusion, expect much to be made of it in the media, and even from some bishops.
Of course the bigger and more interesting question is whether Catholic hospitals actually bother to observe the ERDs, but that probably won’t get as much air time at the meeting.
— Finally, the bishops will hold several executive sessions, which are not public, and whose agendas are not publicly announced.
But sources have told The Pillar that the bishops will discuss two things in their executive sessions: the possibility of revising Faithful Citizenship, their politics guide, and the 2022 CUA study, which found that priests have very low levels of trust with their bishops. Whether any report about those discussion topics will be issued is unclear.
We will be on the ground for all of that, and look forward to bringing you live-tweeting, some reporting and analysis, and a USCCB episode of The Pillar Podcast. Stay tuned — and, please, really, don’t forget — subscribers to The Pillar are the ones who make this possible.
We depend on you.
Please be assured of our prayers from Orlando, and please pray for us. We need it.