The U.S. Church’s Eucharistic Revival has officially begun, and you’re reading The Tuesday Pillar Post.
I hope your parish had a cool Eucharistic procession on the feast of Corpus Christi this weekend, and that you got to be a part of it. But whatever that procession looked like, it was probably not as cool as this procession in the Archdiocese of Mobile:
The Eucharistic Revival is a three-year process aimed at renewing Eucharistic faith among American Catholics, which began Sunday with a year-long diocesan phase of the project. We’ll have a lot of coverage of revival related stuff in the weeks - and even years - to come.
Meanwhile, if your parish is anything like mine, programs like VBS or Totus Tuus might also be underway this week - programs which strike me as good and beautiful opportunities for the evangelization of kids and families. So, thanks be to God for the volunteers and staff who make summer projects like that happen.
Ok, with that said, let’s get to the news.
The bishop of Bismarck, North Dakota opened last week the cause for canonization of Michelle Duppong, a North Dakota Catholic woman who died on Christmas Day, 2015.
Duppong was a FOCUS missionary serving on college campuses, and then became the director of adult faith formation in the Bismarck diocese. By many accounts, she was infectiously joyful, generous, and a big fan of the Lord of the Rings series.
In 2014, Duppong learned she had colon cancer, and died a year later, at age 31.
I hope we’ll be able to report more about her life in the months to come. For now, we spoke with some Duppong’s friends, who told us that Michelle’s life:
“was aimed at pursuing souls. And then after that with the cancer, I think she was just so joyful and hopeful. So very filled with hope, but totally resigned to God's will. We didn’t have a lot of communication with her at that point, but I remember reading the journals that her sister was keeping when she was going through the cancer treatments, and I just can’t imagine being where she was and having the disposition that she did. It’s just heroic generosity and openness to God's will.
I’m sure she just saw a new way to offer her sufferings for souls. She had always just had this beautiful way of doing that, of finding suffering to offer up.”
Could Michelle Duppong be canonized a saint? Read about her here.
The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life last week published a set of guidelines for marriage prep and the formation of newly married couples — the text made headlines because it suggested a period of marriage catechumenate lasting about a year.
Of course, thinking about what kind of marriage prep the Church should offer requires knowing something about the state of marriage among Catholics.
So The Pillar’s Brendan Hodge broke down some numbers, finding a decline in Catholic marriage rates — even in places where the Church is growing.
And a lot of other interesting stuff too, like the rising - albeit still small - share of cohabiting American adults:
Brendan’s got a great look at the numbers, and some interesting analysis to go along with it. Check that out, right here.
Speaking of the Dicastery for Marriage, Family and Life, note this disagreement between that Vatican office and the Communion and Liberation ecclesial movement — one of the fastest growing ecclesial movements in the Church.
The dispute is basically over leadership prospects in the movement — some members think it important to defer to the outgoing leader of the movement on the selection of a new one, in order to stay close to the charism of the founder. The Vatican would seem to prefer a different path for the movement.
But the dispute got intense this month, when Cardinal Kevin Farrell canceled a planned election in the movement, confirmed a Vatican-appointed interim leader for a five-year term, and accused the order’s leaders of “broad dissent” from Vatican interventions.
There are a lot of things going on with this issue, but among them are the continuing Vatican trends of centralization and concentration of administrative authority — which have become a point of concern for some members of Communion and Liberation, and for members of other ecclesial movements, wondering if it will soon be their turn.
Read about CL and Cardinal Farrell here.
Pastors in the Tennessee Diocese of Knoxville have raised concern, after the diocese levied last month a 25% tax on federal Paycheck Protection Program funds distributed to seven parish elementary schools in 2021.
Yes, you read that right. The diocese has imposed a canonical tax of 25% on PPP money distributed to the diocese in 2020, and eventually handed out to parish elementary schools last year, after sitting more than a year in diocesan bank accounts.
Some pastors in Knoxville have cried foul — and The Pillar has spoken with school pastors in more than a dozen U.S. dioceses now, none of which have seen PPP money taxed by the diocese as parish revenue — especially when the money was meant to cover school payroll needs.
In Knoxville, however, the story is even more interesting. You see, a bishop needs to follow certain canonical formalities before imposing a tax on parishes or other Catholic entities — and those formalities include a consultation with the diocesan presbyteral council.
Knoxville’s Bishop Rick Stika says he consulted with the council by email, but in Rome, an e-consultation doesn’t usually cut the mustard — meaning that if pastors appealed the tax, they’d likely have a pretty good case at the Vatican.
If you’re interested in financial administration in the life of the Church, well, read this.
We don’t usually cover the liturgical goings-on of particular parishes, but we did this week. A parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago invited two men this Sunday to give a “Gospel reflection” at the time of the homily, and in its place.
There are two issues worth noting here.
First, liturgically, the Church teaches that the homily is part of the liturgical act of Mass, and must be preached by a priest or a deacon. The “lay homily” was popular in the 1980s and 1990s in my diocese, but in most places has gone the way of the buffalo — except where, like the buffalo, it seems to be making a comeback.
Second, morally: The men who were called up to speak have contracted a same-sex marriage together, and were invited up to speak about their same-sex marriage, and their adoption of children. They framed those things in the context of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. They lamented the “bigotry” of the Church’s moral teaching on marriage and sexuality. Their reflection, in short, was a public attestation of discordance with Catholic moral teaching.
And the parish chose to arrange for preaching on same-sex adoption instead of anything connected to the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and the kickoff to the Church’s Eucharistic revival. The timing is not insignificant.
When The Pillar raised a few questions, the archdiocese declined to comment on the liturgy. And given that the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich, is newly a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments, that seems worth noting.
Of course, there are 246 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It would be unfair and unrealistic to suggest, as some will, that Cupich had foreknowledge that such a “homily” would be given or was otherwise involved in the decision-making process. And overseeing liturgical and doctrinal orthodoxy in 246 parishes is no small task, for anyone.
But it’s striking that when the issue was raised, and questions asked, the archdiocese declined to comment — that’s what might leave Chicago Catholics wondering whether such a thing is actually a matter of concern for the archdiocese. And those are the things which tend to cause a crisis of confidence in a particular Church. In short, when Catholics don’t think their leaders are concerned about the Church’s moral and liturgical integrity, they grow disaffected and discouraged.
That was part of what was debated during the “Eucharistic coherence” debate — clearly, the conversation isn’t over.
Anyway, you can read about it here.
Finally, about a million of you have emailed me over the past week to draw my attention to the appointment of a Wisconsin priest as administrator of a small Wisconsin parish.
Because the priest is Msgr. Jeff Burrill, former general secretary of the USCCB, and the appointment comes less than a year after the priest resigned from the conference last July, when The Pillar raised questions about evidence indicating he had used location-based hookup apps and visited gay bars and saunas during his tenure as a senior official at the U.S. bishops’ conference, even in the days immediately following the emergence of the McCarrick scandal.
The Pillar’s reporting was, as you remember, criticized in some corners. But we stand by it, and many of you have as well. And if you disagreed with us about that reporting, well, you’re not alone.
Because of that reporting, however, Burrill’s appointment this month to be administrator of a Wisconsin parish made headlines, and some commentators have raised objections. I’ve certainly heard from people surprised by the business-as-usual announcement of the priest’s appointment, with some saying they would have hoped for something that addressed directly allegations of wrongdoing, and others pointing to this letter, from a Mobile, Alabama priest who apparently had a public fall from grace, as an example.
I don’t intend to litigate that. But I do want to talk about technology accountability.
For the past several years, really since the McCarrick scandal emerged, Ed and I have talked about the paucity of particular law addressing clerical misconduct at the diocesan level. The Code of Canon Law and Pope Francis have urged that diocesan bishops aiming to address sexual misconduct among clerics would do well to establish particular law - diocesan canon law - with defined penalties for a variety of moral failings. Doing so, the pope has argued, helps to nip unhealthy, immoral, and unjust behavior in the bud, before it gets too far.
The Burrill story is just one of many that indicates the way in which clerical misconduct issues have migrated online, or become aided by things like social media and hookup apps. You’ve read about others at The Pillar.
But the truth is that there is very little canonical regulation - and especially particular penal legislation - that sets fences around certain kinds of online and app-based activity, in order to help bishops address problems as they emerge.
I’ve spoken with diocesan bishops who are frustrated that when they’ve tried to address the early stages of serious misconduct with their priests, they’ve been stymied in Rome, when the CDF or other dicasteries have insisted that the bishop’s intervention is beyond the law — in short, that a bishop is trying to sanction a priest, but without proving he committed a particular delict. But it’s entirely in the bishop’s control to ameliorate that frustration, by creating delicts in particular law, which allow him to exercise more direct supervision of his priests.
Insofar as I can identify, only one U.S. diocese - Springfield, in Illinois - has promulgated particular law addressing the phenomenon of hookup app usage among clerics. The Springfield norms, promulgated last month, establish that:
“A cleric who creates an account, makes use of an account created by another person, or engages in any activity on any means of social communication specifically designed to facilitate violations of the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with an adult is to be punished with a just penalty according to the gravity of the offense.”
“A cleric who creates an account, makes use of an account created by another person, or engages in any activity on any other means of social communication, with the goal of establishing contact for the purpose of violating the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with an adult, is to be punished with a just penalty, according to the gravity of the offense.”
The possibility of similar draft norms has been discussed within the canonical affairs committee of the USCCB, sources have told The Pillar, but the USCCB is not empowered to promulgate norms like that — diocesan bishops are.
Now, here’s what’s interesting. When the Burrill story emerged last year, the hookup app Grindr took the story seriously — it denied that its data could be used to identify the behavior of particular individuals, it threatened to sue the pants off The Pillar, and - when it became clear that its publicly available data could be used in the way that it was, it made efforts to change that.
In short, Grindr didn’t ignore the Burrill story. It instead took some lessons, and after the initial shock of the thing, it seemed to ask itself some difficult questions about operations and policy.
But has the Church?
‘Truly a man’
I mentioned at the top of the newsletter that this weekend began the Church’s Eucharistic Revival project.
You don’t need to hear from me a reflection on the Eucharist, especially when you can read a section of this compelling pastoral letter from Bishop James Wall of the Diocese of Gallup:
“[Christ] was truly a man Who had His own flesh, body, mind, and soul. This means He had hands that healed the sick and feet that ached as He walked the ancient pathways of Galilee and Jerusalem. He had hair which grew and teeth which chewed His food. He also really had emotions and a personality, which He expressed in ways just like us: He cried and was sorrowful at the death of Lazarus, and He rejoiced when the disciples returned successfully from their first mission. Likewise, as a man He had friends and family. He even underwent temptation throughout His life, though He never fell to sin because of that. His life was a genuine life, His suffering was bloody, and His death was as real as it gets. He was like us in all things.
As I mentioned above, the implications of all this are enormous.”
On praying the liturgy:
“It is a well-known fact that one of the aims of the Second Vatican Council was just this: to foster ‘full, active, and conscious participation’ in the liturgical rites. Now, this has in many cases been misunderstood as some sort of liturgical ‘activism’ in which everybody is required to take up some role in the liturgy. This is not what the phrase means, however. It means instead that each person involved in a given liturgy is exercising his baptismal priesthood by internally engaging with the liturgy as it happens before us.
In other words, we must be actually participating in the liturgy, whether that means attentively listening to the readings and prayers, interceding for the Church and the world, or prayerfully receiving Holy Communion.
Our hearts must be engaged, meaning that no word or gesture should be made haphazardly, but rather with love and devotion. When this takes place, the Sacred Liturgy forms hearts and souls into proper dwelling places for the Lord. It readies Christians for Christian living, and prepares them to go forth from the liturgy properly strengthened to do the work of God in the world. This is why it is important that each person know what he is doing in the liturgy, that he be familiar with it, so that he can enter into it fully, actively, and consciously. This is true for clergy and laity alike.”
Read the whole thing, right here.
If you’ve read this far in the newsletter, you’ve come across a lot of important news about the Church’s life that The Pillar has broken, reported, and covered when no else would, or at least well ahead of other outlets. We’re continuing to cover the things that matter, and continuing to work as a mechanism of public accountability in the life of the Church.
Here’s a simple reminder that subscriptions and shares make The Pillar go round. If you like what The Pillar does, help us do it:
And I hope you’re enjoying the Avs’ run to a Stanley Cup, which they should win in Game 5, at home, on Friday. The other day, watching the Game 2 rout, I told my wife I was pretty sure that I could score at least one NHL goal, since I played some hockey in high school and in some beer leagues, and by those standards am, at least, not terrible. When she stopped laughing, about ten minutes later, we watched these great Joe Sakic goals. Joe Sakic was better than me at hockey. He was better than you too:
Have a great week. Pray today for the intercession of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. And please pray for us. We need it.
Yours in Christ,