Xavier University’s Bellarmine Chapel is concluding its Lenten speaker series this year by celebrating the sacraments of Confession and Anointing, the latter of which requires the recipient be in “danger of death.”

I suppose if I had to suffer through Jesuits Ken Overberg on the proper formation of conscience and Dan Hartnett on how the faithful “discern” Catholic teaching, I’d sense my mortality too.

From the Office of the Archbishop, Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

The movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, is scheduled to debut in theaters across America on February 13, 2015. The story line is presented as a romance; however, the underlying theme is that bondage, dominance, and sadomasochism are normal and pleasurable. In the story line, a young Miss Steele is urged to sign a contract becoming a sex slave and agreeing to an abusive and degrading relationship. This movie is in direct contrast to the Christian message of God’s design for self-giving and self-sacrificing love, marriage and sexual intimacy. The movie is a direct assault on Christian marriage and on the moral and spiritual strength of God’s people. We need to inform our people about the destructive message of this movie and to highlight the beauty of God’s design for loving relationships between a husband and wife in the bond of marriage.

Kudos to His Excellency.  He’s likely to take heat and ridicule for this bold stand.

What the Church teaches:

71. The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is absolutely forbidden in liturgical functions and private devotions, whether they are held inside or outside the church, even if these machines be used only to transmit sermons or sacred music, or to substitute for the singing of the choir or faithful, or even just to support it.

Musica Sacra: Instruction on Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy, Sacred Congregation for Rites, 3 September 1958

What the Archdiocese of Cincinnati does:

Show the video. Show the 2015 CMA video at Masses, meetings and other appropriate opportunities. It’s a powerful method of conveying the importance of the CMA ministries.

— 2015 Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA) Parish Guide of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

FWIW, this post should not be construed in any way as a criticism of the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who “show the video” at the request of their bishop or his staff.

An especially troubling column appeared over the weekend in the Cincinnati Enquirer from a board member at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.  In the Moslem equivalent of a sermon, Dr. Ashraf Travoulsi offers his congregation a reflection on the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month that is by turns self-pitying and delusional.  His main concern isn’t for the victims of these attacks but for their “extremely negative impact on Islam and Muslims all over the world.”  He also fears that “Islamic terrorism” is “becoming an acceptable term to use in mainstream media outlets,” not because of an unrelenting stream of terrorist attacks by Moslem jihadis, but because of bigotry and fear-mongering.  Likewise, he claims, “Islamophobia is becoming rampant and Islamophobes are having a field day.”

(I’m not making this up — go and read it for yourself.)

It’s worth noting the murky origins of the center, which include a $6 million check from the House of Saud in 1995 during its infancy.  As has been widely reported, Saudi petrodollars have been used to fund institutions around the globe devoted to Wahhabism, an anti-Western form of Islam that developed in the Arabian peninsula and that was the focus of considerable scrutiny in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

It’s also worth noting that until recently the Islamic Center was a “go to” partner for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Social Action office.  Their collaboration seems to have stopped in the aftermath of several embarrassing episodes in inter-religious dialogue that readers of my old site may recall grimacingly.  This column demonstrates that circumspection about the center is warranted.

I guess I’m in a New York State state of mind.  Bernie at the Rochester-focused Cleansing Fire blog has a brilliant comment on church architecture and the Catholic understanding of beauty on the occasion of fire damage to my family’s parish during my high school years, St. Pius X.  It is — or was — breathtakingly ugly: an octagonal design devoid of sacred art and sacrality with the tabernacle shoved off to the side so it won’t serve as a distraction from and for the community.  That said, its most recent pastor appears to be trying to bring about a reform of the reform, and one can hope that he will take restoration advice from the likes of Bernie rather than the Voskoites who plague the Diocese of Rochester.  Here’s his conclusion:

We look to the faith and teachings of the Church in her sacred tradition to find what a Catholic church is meant to be. We can find variety there but generally it is meant to support the Eucharistic liturgy as a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy. A Catholic church that looks like a warehouse and a mere place to gather together to share a meal is not what a Catholic church should “be”. The liturgy celebrated there may be valid but the architecture is not acting as a sacramental. Even worse the architecture may be conveying the idea of the liturgical action as merely a human event, limited in time. Such a building “is” something else (a fundamentalist auditorium, for example), but it is not a Catholic church except in name.

If we settle for felt banners crudely designed then we embrace the banal and ugly. The Church tells us that works of liturgical art should be noble: of quality material and nobly fashioned to the extent possible in any given economic or social situation.

When I proclaim that Beauty is objectively true in relation to liturgical art I am saying that the work is beautiful if it is true to what a Catholic church, liturgical sculpture, vestment is meant “to be” (I am not just considering functionality). A liturgical work that I deem objectively ugly may be quite beautiful in other ways but it is ugly as Catholic liturgical art.

If Saint Pius X comes to having to renovate the church proper I hope they will consider more than just mere functionality and look to the tradition and teaching of the church for guidance on how to create a church building that is truly Catholic, a true sacramental –a building that is deeply rooted in the faith and not just a reflection of another liturgical fad.

If we say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder then we might as well say that objective truth does not exist. We might as well say that virtue is in the eye of the beholder; that sin is in the eye of the beholder. In light of the teaching of the Catholic Church we know that that cannot be.

To mark today’s feast of St. John Neumann, here is an excerpt from the late Fr. Robert F. McNamara’s book The Diocese of Rochester in America: 1868-1993, a copy of which arrived with today’s mail:

[N]ew parishioners were served for a week (in 1936) by a young Austro-Hungarian priest who was just beginning a uniquely notable career.  A native of Bohemia, John Nepomucene Neumann (1811-1860) had recently crossed the Atlantic to enter the service of the Diocese of New York.  Bishop Dubois ordained him to the priesthood on June 25, 1836, and assigned him forthwith to the German farming community at Williamsville near Buffalo.  He likewise told him to stop over in Rochester on a missionary visit.  The next day, June 26th, Father Neumann celebrated his first Mass in New York and set out for his first post: “mit Sack und Pack,” as he said.  When his canal boat, “the Indiana,” approached Rochester on July 4th, he was welcomed by the sound of cannons saluting Independence Day.  He spent from the 4th to the 11th in Rochester.  Here he performed the first pastoral functions of his priestly life.  On July 7th at St. Patrick’s Church, he baptized the infant Caroline Koch.  On Sunday, the 10th, he delivered his first sermon at two Masses.  He went on to Buffalo the next day.  Father Neumann subsequently became a member, and later on the viceregent of American Redemptorists.  From 1852 to 1860, he was bishop of Philadelphia.  During his lifetime he was regarded as a living saint, and the Church eventually confirmed that belief.

On a return trip to Rochester 1847, he led a parish mission at the city’s legendary St. Joseph Church, which burned in the early 1970s.  Only the church’s hulking facade could be saved, and “Old St. Joe’s” community merged with Our Lady of Victory parish around the corner.  Our Lady of Victory/St. Joseph parish, a bastion of orthodoxy, remains to this day.

Fr. Z nominates His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke as 2014’s Catholic Man of the Year and lists his compelling reasons.  Here’s my annotation in the comment box:

I’ll … 34th that nomination, for all the reasons you cite, Father. His Eminence’s support for the canonization of the late great Fr. John Hardon, SJ, comes as a very pleasant surprise. For the uninitiated, Fr. Hardon was a master catechist and his Catholic Catechism, Q&A Catechism,[Which I was given by Msgr. Richard Schuler in my instruction to enter the Church. Outstanding.] and The Faith form a holy trilogy of orthodox, compelling, and very well-written catechisms. The Q&A Catechism comes with a forward by Cardinal Ottaviani (santo subito!) on the benefits of traditional catechesis, written at a time when the elites running our dioceses and parishes couldn’t abandon those methods fast enough. All three books have been recently released in affordable Kindle versions:

HERE

HERE

HERE

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