Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sad to see him go

As announced (see below), Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy will be retiring on All Saints' Day. It is sad to see him go, but I know it is something that has been coming. Many of us who admire him most have been concerned that he might be working himself to an early grave. It is time for some rest. At Nashotah House, he was considered a chaplain and friend to all the students, and greatly respected by them. Perhaps he will find some relaxed role such as that to focus on in retirement. The world has been a better place with this godly bishop. Thank you, Your Grace, for your service.

The Right Reverend Keith L. Ackerman, VIIIth Bishop of Quincy, has announced to the Standing Committee his retirement as Diocesan Bishop effective November 1st, 2008. Bishop Ackerman has reached this decision after much thought and prayer. The Bishop and his wife Jo conferred with his physicians, many trusted friends, and the Standing Committee before making this decision. While Bishop Ackerman is retiring from his administrative duties as executive officer of the Diocese, he plans to remain in the area of the Diocese for some time and will make himself available, under arrangement with the Standing Committee, to perform Episcopal acts and provide spiritual counsel to members of the Diocese, as have Bishop Donald Parsons and Bishop Edward MacBurney, the VIth and VIIth Bishops of Quincy. Under diocesan canons, the Standing Committee will continue to act as the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese, as they have since the Bishop’s sabbatical began in late August. Day to day operations of the diocese will continue to be handled by the various officers and department heads. Bishop Ackerman wants to assure everyone that he has no intention of abandoning the diocese but will continue to provide spiritual and pastoral support as asked by the Standing Committee.

Monday, October 20, 2008

St Gile's in Cheadle

Check out more pictures of St Giles (Pugin's masterpiece) and other beautiful churches on Brother Lawrence's Flickr photostream.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Forming consciences for faithful citizenship

The Roman Catholic bishops of Fort Worth and Dallas recently issued this pastoral letter to their flocks about exercising faithfulness at the ballot box. There were so many great highlights I wanted to share, I thought I'd better just post the whole thing. It is worth a look and worthy of our support.

October 8, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The month of October is Respect Life Month in our churches. It is a time in which we as Catholics are called to reflect upon the gift of life that has been entrusted to us by our Creator and to focus our attention on the many attacks against human life that exist in our culture today. This year, Respect Life Month takes on a more profound meaning as we face an election in our country where the protection of human life itself, particularly that of the unborn, is very much at stake. Therefore, as your Bishops, we wish to take this opportunity to provide clear guidance on the proper formation of conscience concerning voting as faithful Catholics and to articulate the Church’s clear and unambiguous teaching on life issues as they relate to other issues of concern.

The Church teaches that all Catholics should participate as “faithful citizens” in the public square, especially through our voice in the voting booth, and that we have the responsibility to treat the decision for whom we will vote for with profound moral seriousness. We must approach the right and duty to vote with a properly formed and informed conscience in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Last November, the Bishops of the United States issued a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in which we and our brother Bishops issued clear moral guidelines to aid the faithful in proper formation of conscience with regard to the many issues we face in our nation today. Through this joint statement to the faithful of Dallas and Fort Worth, we seek to briefly summarize the key points and dispel any confusion or misunderstanding that may be present among you concerning the teaching contained in the document, especially that which may have arisen from recent public misinterpretation
concerning this teaching.

1. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly teaches that not all issues have the same moral equivalence. Some issues involve “intrinsic evils”; that is, they can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified. Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and “marriages”, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly states:
“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called ‘intrinsically evil’ actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, ‘abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.” (22)

2. The destruction of the most innocent of human life through abortion and embryonic stem cell research not only undercuts the basic human right to life, but it also subverts and distorts the common good. As Pope John Paul II clearly states:
“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good… It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop…” (The Gospel of Life, 72; 101)

3. Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the “only issue” – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 48 million innocent lives have been lost. Each year in our nation more than one million lives are lost through legalized abortion. Countless other lives are also lost through embryonic stem cell research. In the coming months our nation will once again elect our political leaders. This electoral cycle affords us an opportunity to promote the culture of life in our nation. As Catholics we are morally obligated to pray, to act, and to vote to abolish the evil of abortion in America, limiting it as much as we can until it is finally abolished.

4. As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror. As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about. There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of “prudential judgment.” But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate’s unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of “abortion rights.”

As Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship states:
“The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” (28)

5. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in paragraphs 34-37, addresses the question of whether it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil – even when the voter does not agree with the candidate’s position on that evil. The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following:

a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or “abortion rights,” a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,

b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no “truly grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.

To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.

6. In conclusion, as stated in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual’s salvation. As Catholics, we must treat our political choices with appropriate moral gravity and in doing so, realize our continuing and unavoidable obligation to be a voice for the voiceless unborn, whose destruction by legal abortion is the preeminent intrinsic evil of our day. With knowledge of the Church’s teaching on these grave matters, it is incumbent upon each of us as Catholics to educate ourselves on where the candidates running for office stand on these issues, particularly those involving intrinsic evils. May God bless you.

Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend Kevin J. Farrell, Bishop of Dallas

Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Fort Worth

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jesus is a friend of mine

It's hard not to get in a good mood when you listen to this cheesy favorite.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Now that saucy love is back, I think we can make a few theological insights about heaven, inspired by McRib:

1. Since it tastes like heaven, we know that heaven tastes good.
2. Unlike McRib, heaven is not "only for a limited time."
3. Since in the new heaven and new earth, the resurrected body will no longer be subject to suffering and death, we know that the heavenly McRib will not cause undesired side effects like cholesterol or obesity.
4. We can give thanks that under the new dispensation, we can eat pork and thus enjoy McRib (see Acts 10:9-16)
5. I'm lovin' it.

Since you had asked . . .

This is not any kind of solicitation, but since Madeline's baby shower is coming up this Saturday, a few people had asked about where she is registered for gifts. So, I put the links to our two registries below. Please be aware that ordering things that won't arrive before Saturday is certainly okay, and gift certificates are always greatly appreciated.

Target Registry

Wal-Mart Registry

Casting ballots with faith

This video really blew me away.

Running on confidence

The banking industry, like the value of paper money, needs public confidence to survive. My bank, WaMu, was done in a few weeks ago by a classic run on the bank after a (deserved) drop in confidence. In mid September, customers withdrew about $16.7 billion in a period of ten days. After WaMu was unable to find a buyer for itself, the FDIC (without WaMu's knowledge) secretly auctioned off the bank's major assets and liabilities to JP Morgan Chase and then seized WaMu to enact the deal. I hope Chase has a enough public confidence to not have to go looking for a new buyer, because we a running out of big banks available to swallow up "little" banks.

It reminds me of a comedy routine of Steve Martin. He pointed out that no one names their financial institution "Bob's Bank." Even small town banks have to come up with a grandiose name. So you find words used like: "first", "guarantee", "federal", "trust", "reserve", "commerce", "credit", and "summit." The irony is that these days, those small town banks (like "Bob's Bank") are the ones that are the most sound.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Paw Paw pics

Some words of welcome I gave before the funeral:

Today we gather to worship the Lord and to commend the soul of our beloved relative and friend, Bob Harris to the love, care, and mercy of Almighty God. I’m glad you have joined us on this occasion. It is a celebration of life--of the life Bob lived among us and of the eternal life that comes to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It seems so strange for me to call him “Bob”; I’ve always called him “Paw Paw.” I’m not his pastor, but his grandson, and it has been a privilege.

It was strange for me to read his age of 79 in the obituary, for you see, Paw Paw is only 54 years old. Why do I say that? Because back in 1983, my cousin Keely and I were riding with him down Line Avenue one day. I think one of us had recently turned 8, because she asked him, “How old are you, Paw Paw.” “I’m 54,” he answered. I said, “Wow, Paw Paw, that’s really old!” . . . (I have since increased in wisdom and stature).

It’s funny what things stand out in your memory. I remember tennis and I remember lumber and I remember playing pool (trying desperately to beat him). I remember that old Pontiac and how I could never figure out (when I was young) why he liked that old car when he had a perfectly good new car.

I remember Sunday mornings, going to the front door at First Baptist to see my other grandfather, Jack Matkin, who usually had a peppermint Life-Saver waiting for me. And then going into the sanctuary, about half-way up the right aisle, to get a program and a smile from Paw Paw.

I remember his laughter, and the twinkle in his eye. I remember all the times he took me to get a haircut. I haven’t really found a barber shop I like since then. I also remember all the “haircuts” he gave me by rubbing his knuckles on the top of my head.

As time passes, there are some things about a person that you remember and some things that you just don’t remember. One great blessing can be that when things are all said and done, one can only remember the good things about someone.

I remember about a month ago, when my wife and I crashed his honeymoon, Paw Paw showed us around the most wonderful hardware store. We found a few cute toys for our unborn daughter Madeline.

I remember later sitting across from Paw Paw in a restaurant as Maw Maw tried to get him to eat. The gumbo was good, but he didn’t want desert. Maw Maw ordered key lime pie. “Two spoons, in case Bob wants some too.” I'm not sure Maw Maw got a second bite before it was gone, and she was happy about that.

It’s funny the things you remember . . . And when he got to the point where he couldn’t remember so well, all of you remembered for him. And now we remember him today before God.

Of course, the central ritual of the Christian faith was commanded with the words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” It was spoken by the Lord Jesus, the night before his death. One way we worship God is to simply come into his presence and remember one another. And so we do today. Let us pause for a moment of silence.