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In the latest homily from Ken Overberg, S.J. at Xavier University’s Bellarmine Chapel, I learned that Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, “the Bread of Life” chapter, isn’t “first of all” about the Eucharist but about the identify of Jesus (both/and, Ken!) and that St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians “was not written by Paul.” Regarding his second assertion, Overberg is frequently at pains to … “de-authorize” the writers of the New Testament and project its literary origins onto the believing community or later figures. By his way of thinking, if the “believing community” of the first or second century actually wrote the Gospels and Epistles, then the believing community of the 21st century is free to interpret them. (Or at least some members of the modern believing community — progressives like himself, not those conservative nasties.) In any event, over at the website for the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, whose terrific series on the books of the New Testament is jam-packed with up-to-date scholarship and history, scholar Peter Williamson makes a solid case for St. Paul’s authorship of Ephesians. Here’s a snippet:

The “external evidence” in favor of Paul’s authorship of Ephesians—that is, the testimony of the manuscript tradition and of ancient authors—is as strong as that of any of Paul’s undisputed letters. Ephesians appears in all the ancient collections of Paul’s writings, including those that omit the Apostle’s letters to individuals (1–2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). It is true that the Letter to the Hebrews, an anonymous work, is often also included in these collections, but from Origen on, many ancient authorities challenged the view that Hebrews was authored by Paul, while the Pauline authorship of Ephesians was never questioned.

Last Friday in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to impose same-sex marriage on the fifty states, Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati issued a statement condemning it. Since I haven’t seen it posted elsewhere, I thought I’d post it here:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 26, 2015

Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati, made the following comment on today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.

Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr today made the following statement:

“Under the false banner of ‘marriage equality,’ the United State Supreme Court today redefined marriage by judicial fiat. In so doing, it has disregarded not only the clearly expressed will of the electorate in Ohio and other states, but also an understanding of marriage that was shared by virtually all cultures – secular as well as religious – until recently.

“Every nation has laws limiting who and under what circumstances people can be married. This is because lawmakers have always understood that marriage does not exist just for the mutual satisfaction of the two people involved but for the betterment of society. Traditional marriage is the cradle of the family, the basic building block of society. As Pope Francis has reminded us, every child has a right to be raised by two parents, a father and a mother. Both parents are important, and they are not interchangeable. The sad reality that so many children are deprived of this right because of the crisis in traditional marriage does not make it any less important. It is deeply disappointing and worrisome that our courts do not understand this.

“Although the decision is disappointing, it is undeniable that families headed by same-sex couples are growing in number and visibility. These families deserve everyone’s love, respect, compassion, sensitivity and, where appropriate, pastoral care from the Church.”

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the 38th largest Catholic diocese in the country, with almost 500,000 Catholics, and has the sixth largest network of Catholic schools in terms of enrollment. The 19-county territory includes 212 parishes and 111 Catholic primary and secondary schools.

As with most archdiocesan things, the statement is a mixed bag. While the clear condemnation of the ruling coupled with a short catechesis on marriage is praiseworthy, it isn’t at all clear how the local church is to provide “pastoral care” to a “growing” number of “families headed by same-sex couples.” And given the still considerable number of malcontents in our presbyterate, that paragraph will likely be the source of mischief. For a less ambiguous response, see the statement from Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler (Texas), which he has instructed his priests to read at Masses this weekend.

Cincinnati mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, touts his Catholicity every election cycle. A proud graduate of St. Xavier (Jesuit) High School, he campaigns at local parishes during festival season and reminds everyone that he is pro-life on the issue of abortion. Last Friday he hosted a post-Obergefell “celebratory same-sex marriage ceremony” for five couples on Cincinnati’s Fountain Square, replete with cheers, multi-colored rainbow confetti, and a pronouncement from Cranley. (See local press coverage here and here.) The bishops have had months if not years to prepare responses to predictable scandals such as these. It will be interesting to see what response Archbishop Schnurr has in store.

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The Catholic Courier of Rochester links to a CNS story on the record number of Catholic candidates running for U.S. president in 2016. The closing comments of Mark M. Gray, director of Catholic Polls at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, caught my eye:

“There are some teachings of the church that align with either party platform,” he said. “The church fits in neither party, therefore it is easy to be a Catholic Democrat or Catholic Republican.”

Pope Benedict XVI famously taught that there three “not negotiable” principles Catholics should take to the public square: (1) the defense of human life from conception to natural death, (2) the protection of traditional marriage, i.e., between and man and a woman, and (3) the right of parents to educate their children in the faith.

Easy-peasy for either party, right?

From H.V. Morton’s account of his trip to the catacombs in his classic travelogue A Traveller in Rome, which I review briefly for Amazon:

“One’s first feeling of dismay at finding oneself in this dusty maze of death is soon replaced by an affectionate fellow feeling for those who had lived so long before us and had trodden out the first paths of faith. They must have been much like ourselves. Who can see without emotion the words they wrote when they closed the eyes of those they loved, the words we still use: not the hopeless pagan ‘Vale,’ but ‘Vivas in Deo’ and ‘In pace Christi.'”

Does anyone know the budget for the Catholic Social Action office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati?

Because they evidently are so flush with cash that they’ve decided to help local Catholics build birdhouses and butterfly sanctuaries in their backyards.

“We had a separate track for parishioners we called the household track. Basically, after some general understanding about church teaching on caring for God’s creation, we split everybody up into facilities track and household track groups,” Stieritz said.

“The folks in the household track took people on a ‘tour of the Joneses house’. They created this scenario where the Joneses made a decision to try to be more environmentally friendly. We walked through their yard and we had a speaker from the Marianist Environmental Education Center who talked about native plants and ways you can create a home for birds and butterflies in your yard. Then we moved into the house — the kitchen, the utility room, and different areas – and talked about how best to conserve energy,” he said.

“Actually, I learned something for myself.” Stieritz said. “I’m currently trying to spruce up my yard in places and I actually found that the native plant talk was very helpful. I’m planning a rain garden for some areas in my yard that puddle up when we get these never-ending rains. There are things you can do that are environmentally sound and that can help you.”

As a side note, you could make a drinking game out of the number of times the words “sustainable” and “carbon footprint” show up in a Catholic Telegraph article these days.

I will believe the environmentalists of organizations like the Catholic Climate Covenant give a rat’s hind-end about “poor people” when they stop measuring them — and the rest of us — via the obnoxious, anti-life yardstick of a “carbon footprint.”

As a prelude to the encyclical, Xavier University invited Cincinnati native Daniel J. Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant in Washington, D.C., to speak in March about the pope’s commitment to the environment.

Environmental concern “is part of what it means to be Catholic and part of what it means to take care of God’s creation,” Misleh said in an interview following his address to about 70 attendees at his alma mater. “The difference between us and some environmental organization is that we believe this is about both people and the planet.”

Often environmental organizations focus much of their work on the planet. “We’re saying this is both about creation and people and especially about poor people because they are the ones who are affected and suffer the worst consequences of environmental degradation and climate change,” Misleh said.

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