March 2015

Xavier University theologian Ken Overberg, S.J., has made denying the core doctrine of the Atonement and Christ’s salvific action on the cross his life’s work.  So it comes as no surprise, appalling though it is, that he devotes a lengthy Lenten sermon at Bellarmine Chapel to this topic.  That he is able to do so without any fear of correction, by Xavier’s president or Cincinnati’s archbishop, is scandalous. Here’s an excerpt:

It is right and just that at least once each Lent we are reminded that we don’t have to believe that God sent Jesus to suffer and die for us. There is no “happy fault or necessary sin.” Jesus did indeed die a violent death of crucifixion. That was an historical event. But the interpretation of the event is an act of theology and faith. And there are different interpretations in our Christian tradition.

Lent is an especially difficult time for those who try to believe in a nonviolent God. Scriptures and prayers, songs and sermons praise suffering and the cross. They speak of a wondrous love that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse. God sends Jesus to suffer and die for our sins.

The Law of Retribution and the ancient-but-ever-new religion of “violence saves” seem to have trumped Jesus’ teaching about a God of compassion and healing, of life and love. So throughout Lent we hear of ransom and sacrifice, expiation and atonement.

We find a clear refutation to Overberg’s heresy in paragraph 118 of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

118. Why was the death of Jesus part of God’s plan?


To reconcile to himself all who were destined to die because of sin God took the loving initiative of sending his Son that he might give himself up for sinners. Proclaimed in the Old Testament, especially as the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant, the death of Jesus came about “in accordance with the Scriptures”.

To borrow a phrase, local Catholic history often repeats itself, first as calumny, then as farce.

Gerard Ahrens, the disturbed teacher at Pleasant Ridge’s Nativity School whose bizarre tirades against priests and bishops in the Cincinnati Enquirer got him censured by the schools office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati a few years ago, has returned under a variety of new aliases to grind his priestophobic ax.

Here is “Leo” Ahrens stamping his foot about the Archdiocese’s new foundation last January.

Now it’s “Andrew” Ahrens’s turn to make a connection between the Fifty Shades of Gray movie and — wait for it — the priest abuse scandal in February.

In fact, a simple search of the Enquirer website reveals over a dozen such phony letters.

In any event, pray for this sick man and be glad your children are spared the fate of Nativity’s students.

The Cincinnati Enquirer posts a leaked copy of this year’s teacher contract for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which made news in recent years for requiring teachers to assent to settled doctrines routinely challenged in the public square.  Why this should be controversial is telling in and of itself.  If you took a job with, say, Chipotle, would you be surprised if you weren’t allowed to promote Taco Bell’s menu?  In any event, the contract is to be accompanied by an FAQ.  Here’s a snippet:

Q: Will a Catholic teacher get fired for supporting a gay son or daughter?

A: It depends on the situation. If the support is “purely personal, non-public” support, then, No.

If the support rises to the level of “advocacy,” then, perhaps.

Q: What if a Catholic teacher was married outside the Catholic church? Will he or she have to get re-married in the church in order to keep teaching?

A: Typically, no.

Q: What if I live with someone for financial reasons but the relationship is not romantic? Is that OK?

A: Yes.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is again updating its contract for teachers – tweaking the so-called “morality clause” that details what teachers can and can’t do.

They can, for example, attend a gay child’s wedding.

They cannot, however, blog in support of gay marriage.

The Archdiocese is not yet releasing the contracting – saying it’s an “internal document” since teachers won’t be asked to sign until April or May – but the Enquirer obtained a copy through outside sources.