Tuesday, November 6, 2018

“Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil!”

Dear Parishioners,

In my 4th grade classroom—many, many moons ago—a certain incident occurred where the religious sister in charge tried to get to the bottom of an apparent theft.  As I recall, something was allegedly taken from her desk and no one in the class wanted to own up to it.  Her solution to finding out the culprit was to have each of us look at the crucifix and acknowledge our guilt or innocence before the Lord.  Tell the truth and shame the devil! she exhorted us.  Funny how I still remember this day with its many details and the moral teaching (honesty, truthfulness, integrity) she tried to convey to her young, impressionable students.

I think that this lesson can be applied in various situations today, beginning with ourselves.  We should make an examination of conscience each and every day of our lives.  This might be best suited to (but is not limited to) bedtime.  Looking honestly at our actions of the day, perhaps kneeling before a crucifix, keeps us humble and focused on what I have done and what I have failed to do—words we recite during the Confiteor at Mass.  This daily examen can help us prepare properly for a thorough confession of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

In addition to frequent confession, I urge people to be brutally honest in confession.  If we were standing (or more appropriately prostrate) before God on Judgment Day, instead of being in the confessional, there will be no rationalization, no justification, no ambiguity.  No one is ever going to make Almighty God the fool.  While the priest is the minister of the sacrament, God is the Ultimate Judge.  Imagine what it is like to see ourselves as God sees us and not as we want to present ourselves to others.  God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart.  (1 Sam. 16: 7)  Still, we should be ever confident of God’s abundant mercy, when we are honest with Him and with ourselves.

The home is the first classroom and parents are the first teachers.  Do as I say and not as I do never made any sense to me.  If you want your kids to be honest, then do not lie to them.  If you want your children to do the right things, then you need to set the example.  Children, like sponges, absorb many things.
Another situation calling for honesty and integrity is in the daily workplace or school.  Have I become complacent with little white lies, gossip, “borrowing” things from the workplace/school and not returning them, etc.?  Do I hide or compromise my religious beliefs in order to be politically correct?  Can I be trusted?  Ponder these words of wisdom for a few moments:  The true test of character is what I would do even if no one ever found out.  In truth, God sees everything.  Yes, everything.

At this point in history, we need much more honesty and integrity in the Church universal.  When the US bishops meet next week in Baltimore, will there be truth and transparency regarding the never-ending priest sex abuse scandal, or will we see some well-crafted statements prepared by attorneys or media experts?  Will any guilty bishops actually be held accountable?  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  We need more thorough answers and not silence in response to all of Archbishop Viganò’s allegations.  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  Is any sign of remorse or admission of guilt forthcoming from the disgraced Archbishop McCarrick?  Tell the truth and shame the devil.  I could go on and on.

Admitting guilt, taking responsibility, and telling the truth often require courage and adherence to a properly-formed conscience.  While it may be easier to lie so as to protect one’s image and reputation, the truth will come out in the end.  

Better that it occurs now, before eternity is spent in company with the Father of Lies.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

You Are Not Alone

Dear Parishioners,

When I first announced to people years ago that I was going to be a priest, many people were very supportive.  Their encouragement and prayers eventually brought me to the altar as a priest.

Occasionally, there were a few who thought I was a little crazy.  (I will concede that there is some truth to their judgment.  To know me is to affirm that insight.)
Yet there is one comment that haunts me to this day.  It was from two people whom I thought I knew pretty well.  I was really taken back by what they said:  “You don’t want to do that.  It’s such a lonely life.  You don’t want to be a priest.”

Such a lonely life?  After all these years, were they right?

I think there are moments in all of our lives when we feel somewhat alone.  I think it’s inevitable.  From past experience even married couples I know have told me that they can be in the same house, same room, even the same bed, and still feel very much alone at times.

Didn’t even Jesus experience a feeling of being alone as his apostles slept when He asked them to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane? (Mt. 26: 36-46, Mk. 14: 32-42, or Lk. 22: 39-46) What about Jesus’ cry from the cross: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15: 34b)  These words (apparently quoted from Psalm 22:2) seem to reflect utter isolation and abandonment.  Talk about being alone!

What about me?  Although I sometimes feel alone, I can’t really say that my life is lonely.

My life, most days, is surrounded by people.  There are those I see at Mass every day, the children at school and in religious education, and those in parish organizations, committees, and ministries.

My day is also blessed by an awareness of the presence of God mysteriously working in and through my life.  This has been a gift from my youngest days.

What I truly treasure beyond everything else, however, is a profound sense of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Faith tells me Jesus is here, right here, every day on the altar and in the tabernacle.  I love to spend quiet time in His presence.  The more I spend time with Him, the more I hunger for Him. It’s a special time with the One I love and was ordained to serve.  I was ordained to be an instrument of Jesus’ presence in the world.  I believe that spending time with Him transforms me more and more into a priest in His image.

Am I lonely?

Not really.

As long as I have Jesus with me, I am never really alone or lonely.

Spend some extended time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament and see what I mean!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Spiritual Considerations from my Trappist Retreat

The chapel at the Abbey of the Genesee

Dear Parishioners,

Having recently returned from my retreat with the Trappist monks, I certainly had much time to think and pray.  My stay at the monastery was a type of desert experience, withdrawing from the world and primarily praying the Liturgy of the Hours and concelebrating daily Mass with the monks.

Coming back to my parish routine, I realize just how noisy our world is.  We seem to be controlled and dominated by the internet, the television, the radio, our cell phones, etc.  These factors make it very difficult to listen to God.  Silence is very necessary to our daily lives if we want to have a serious spiritual life.

What did God say to me in the silence?  Please bear with me as I try briefly to summarize my thoughts here.  I will attempt to elaborate on these reflections on my blog (More Thoughts and Writings) subsequently.

We are in a period of intense spiritual warfare and confusion in the world.  If we just ignore the signs of the time and go on with our routines, at some point—perhaps at a time of sickness or death—we will have a serious spiritual awakening.  We need to pay close attention to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and to the over 2000 years of rich tradition faithfully handed down to us in the Catholic Church.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  (1 Peter 5: 8-9)

Satan is very real.  As God is the essence of love, the devil, in contrast, is pure evil.  He hates humanity.  He tries to destroy it, debase it, confuse it, cause it to abandon the true God and serve false gods.

  • The destruction of humanity.  Think of the destruction of our preborn children by the millions.  Consider the continual violence, war and terrorism throughout the world.         
  • The debasement of humanity.  Pornography reduces the human person to base animal acts rather than life-giving love. Artificial contraception and abortion throw human fertility back in the face of God claiming a type of absolute control of our “reproductive rights.” The rampant addictive behavior (drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, etc.) of so many illustrates a loss of control within human nature.
  • The confusion of humanity.  We are facing many scandals in the Church, the undermining of the moral credibility of the church hierarchy, the questioning of traditional institutions such as marriage and family, etc.
  • The abandonment of the true God.  Consider the outright denial of God, the apostasy in the Church, the lukewarm or abandoned practice of the faith by the majority, etc.
  • Serving false gods.  Materialism, secularism, the “sports” god, hedonism, the “sex” god, etc. have all taken the place of the true God for far too many.

Humanity, as a whole, is not in a good place in its relationship to God.  Yes, there are some (a faithful remnant) who take the message of the Gospel seriously and repent.  However, for far too many there is indifference, apathy, ignorance, or outright opposition to God.

During this month of October, the month of the Holy Rosary, may I recommend that we pick up our rosaries and seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  

We, no doubt, need supernatural help in this battle!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


The chapel from outside

Our Lady of the Genesee

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Thoughts (Worries) from a Trappist Monastery

Dear Parishioners,

As I write this letter to you I am on retreat with the Trappist monks at the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY.  Mass has just finished and I grabbed a few pieces of toasted Monks' Bread (the major means of income for this monastery) before I sat down to write.  I will be working in the specialty bakery (where they bake items like biscotti and other specialty items) later today.

There are some practical matters that I must tend to, even while on retreat.  As with all of the other parishes of the Camden Diocese we have recently begun our Catholic Strong campaign.  You might have noticed the banners or signs around some of our buildings and grounds.  Like many of my fellow priests, I enjoy being a priest and taking care of my sacramental duties.  However, the cross that most pastors must face is the everyday administration of the parish.

Let's face it, who would want to take over a parish that currently has 12 buildings [3 churches and a worship site, 3 rectories, 2 school buildings, a ministry center (former convent or carriage house), a  convent, a recently purchased property (81 Cooper St.) intended as a future parish office building] and 2 garages.  The parish also has $2.5 million in current debt. 

To remedy some of this situation, we are under contract to sell the entire campus of the former Most Holy Redeemer Church.  This sale will lessen our total buildings by 4 and help to reduce some of the accumulated debt. 

Next, concerns how our Catholic Strong campaign is vital to the future of this parish.  Many of our building are old and in need of repair.  The roof in St. Patrick Church is leaking near the area where the choir sings.  Heating and air conditioning systems (HVAC) are antiquated in various buildings.  For instance, the rectory at 64 Cooper St. is steam heated with a boiler nearing the end of its life.  Various sidewalks and driveways need repair.  Please note the driveway heading into the school property from Green Ave.  The retaining wall around St. Matthew Church is falling down.  The newly purchased building at 81 Cooper St. needs considerable work before we can completely move in (some construction and repair including replacement windows, bathrooms, internet access, security cameras, phone system, furniture, etc.)  This is just some of what we know needs to be done.  What about the unexpected?  Need I go on?

Bishop Sullivan set up the Catholic Strong campaign so that 70% of all money raised stays in the parish for its use.  This is unheard of as diocesan capital campaigns go.  The remaining 30% goes to support diocesan programs intended to directly aid the parishes.  This is not the same as the annual House of Charity appeal which is geared primarily towards various diocesan programs.

Does it seem like a great time to be asking for your financial help?  Are you kidding me?  Of course not.  However, there is far too much to be done at the local parish level that will only get worse if it is continually neglected.  I can only make my case and trust that you will consider what you have to do in your own homes regarding regular maintenance, upkeep and repair.  Now multiply this by about a dozen or so aging or antiquated buildings and you see what the parish is up against.  Moreover, in terms of parish ministry, we want to put some money aside for the evangelization and support of youth and young families.

If I or one of the members of the parish team calls to ask for your help, please take the time to listen and respond.  I hate asking anyone for money.  However, it is on behalf of your parish and our future that we ask your financial help.

Now I need to get back to some serious prayer.  Please pray for me as I will for you.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Clean-Up or Cover-Up?

Dear Parishioners,

The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (also called Confession) is meant to help an individual turn back to God, be forgiven of sin and restores a relationship with God and the Church that was damaged by sin.  The sacrament involves various components:  an examination of conscience, the confession of sin, an act of contrition, a purpose of amendment, and the fulfillment of the assigned penance.  When used properly, it is a supernatural means towards effecting a conversion in one’s life—a turning away from sin and a turning back to God.  The sacrament involves God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy and love.

A simple way of looking at the sacrament is as the cleansing of one’s soul—a spiritual clean-up.  There is a restoration back to the baptismal innocence we once had, if we are honest and do not deliberately conceal or hide sin in the sacrament and we are truly sorry (and not just going through the motions).  The priest is the instrument of God’s forgiveness and grace because Christ does the forgiving.  That is why, despite the personal sinfulness of any individual priest, Christ still forgives.

A Catholic can make the choice not to avail himself or herself of the sacrament for a short time or even a lifetime.  A person can conceal certain sins because of guilt or embarrassment:   I can never tell that sin to the priest!  A person might misunderstand how Christ acts in the sacrament through the priest:  I’m not going to tell my sins to those hypocrites!  They need to get their act together first!  A person may decide to go directly to God forgetting that all the other sacraments of the Church employ the working of us weak, sinful human beings.  Christ set it up this way using the apostles as clear examples of the first weak, sinful human instruments that He personally called.

When one chooses to deny the invitation to grace and forgiveness in the sacrament, it results in a type of cover-up. There may be the outward appearance that things are fine, but inside there is still hidden, unforgiven sin.  This cover-up provides no healing, no forgiveness, no mercy.

I thought about applying these principles of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation to the sinfulness within the Church during the ongoing priest sex-scandal.  Are we trying to clean-up or cover-up the mess?  A spiritual clean-up would involve looking seriously at what was done (an examination of conscience) with complete transparency and honesty.  What was done wrong must be confessed (not lied about, kept silent or deliberately concealed to save face). If moral scandals or crimes were committed they should be acknowledged as such.  True, heartfelt sorrow in word and action (contrition) must be visibly expressed and not just some pious platitudes recited, or legally-constructed public statements made.  There must be a desire that this never happens again (a purpose of amendment) and the example set from the top of the Church (pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, etc.) on down.  Maybe there needs to be some resignations submitted at this point.  Public and private penance (especially by the Church’s clergy) needs to be done for the sanctification of the Church.  A life of prayer and penance, which a priest should already be practicing, needs to be taken seriously.

As I try to navigate through the current tempest and the various storms which lie ahead, I hope and pray for the Lord to calm the situation as He did for the apostles at sea (See Mk. 4: 35-41).  

I plan to pray for all of you next week as I make my annual retreat with the Trappist monks.  Please pray for me.  I depend on it.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Seeking "Truth"

Dear Parishioners,

Democrats or Republicans?  Devin Nunes or Adam Schiff?  CNN or Fox News?  Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford?  Archbishop Vigano or Pope Francis?  Whom should I believe?

There’s a tremendous amount of confusion circulating today.  My head continues to throb daily as I, like many people, question and seek out the truth.  Pilate once questioned Jesus as He stood before him in judgment:  What is truth?  (Jn. 18: 38) It seems we are still looking for the answer to this question.

Going back to my days as a philosophy major in college, truth is defined as the conformity of the mind to reality.  Jesus declared himself to be the way, the truth and the life. (Jn. 14:6) If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God Incarnate, then we had better pay close attention to Him and His teaching.  Contrast this with Satan who is seen as the father of lies and we can begin to see the battle lines being drawn.

Lies and deception can potentially take place in any situation, circumstance and institution—unfortunately, even in the Catholic Church.  That is how we find ourselves in cover-ups and scandals.  The reason why a person traditionally was sworn in (with a hand on the bible) when giving testimony or taking an oath of office is to call God as a witness to what is being said “so help me God.”   When someone lies under oath, this is seen as committing the crime/sin of perjury.

Unfortunately, oaths and vows before God apparently are not taken too seriously anymore by far too many.  Married couples walk away from their marriage vows exchanged with each other before God.  Priests and religious are seen breaking their promises/vows of celibacy or chastity.  While people my not admit to lying under oath, they may have lapses of memory, inadequate recall or parse words or phrases.  “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”  Sound familiar?

When searching for the truth, we need to look to Jesus.  We need to look to the Gospel and its eternal wisdom:
And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (Jn. 3: 19-21)

When no wrong is done, there is absolutely nothing to hide.  There is no need for continual silence, stalling tactics, deflection, or cover-ups.  This is true in politics, church management, and in a person’s personal life and morality.

To the faithful Catholics in the pews, I predict the days ahead will get even more ugly as hidden things are brought to light with ongoing investigations state by state.  While the Catholic Church is the current focus, the deep secrets of many other institutions will no doubt reveal universal sins/crimes and cover-ups as was the case recently in Australia (see the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse).  Jesus and His Church will endure in the end.  He promised it would. (See Mt. 16: 17-19) However, it can be relatively certain that there will be many battle scars and casualties.  

There already has been.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Scandal and Reputation

Dear Parishioners,

As a child, I can distinctly remember my father reminding us not to do anything that would embarrass the family name.  There were far too many times when ethnic jokes and slurs were directed towards the Poles, (and the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, the Jews, people of color, etc.) in everyday society.  We grew up in the days of Archie Bunker and All in the Family.  Meathead was a familiar epithet.  We were raised in a manner that avoided airing any personal/family laundry in public.  Don’t give people any reason to make fun of or criticize you!  Outward appearance and image were very, very important.

Does this mean that we didn’t have our family problems?  Of course not.  We just didn’t speak of them in public or do anything that would give people a bad impression of our family.  This approach never addressed—but rather hid—the various struggles that we (and most every other family) had to deal with on a regular basis.  Contrast this with these days of social media and it is hard to believe that people of earlier generations had been so much more private and even secretive.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (and whatever else comes along), seem to tell it all to anybody—and EVERYBODY—who wants to listen.

With this type of past conditioning towards silence and secrecy, I guess I can somewhat understand why the Church hierarchy would never want to do anything that would cause scandal to the laity or to society in general.  This attitude was true in many facets of culture besides the Church.  Things regularly got pushed under the rug, were hidden, not spoken about openly.  Any change to this modus operandi would necessarily involve a transparency that was not at all common in past generations.  The whitewashed tombs (see Mt. 23:27) that Jesus referred to when addressing the Pharisees is more than applicable to various institutions with their past hidden sins and crimes.  Appearance isn’t everything.  

While we should want to avoid giving people scandal, I am pretty sure that secrecy is not the best approach to solving certain problems or eliminating societal evils.  It is imperative that various types of sexual crimes not be hidden or covered-up to protect the perpetrator or preserve a pristine image.  I can completely understand why victims might not want to come forward and might choose secrecy or silence.  However, protecting sexual deviants, covering for criminal behavior or putting reputation over the permanent damage done to individual lives only perpetuates the harm and never addresses the evil.

This may sound harsh but if any of the Church hierarchy tried to hide, to protect reputations, and not deal with some of the crimes/sins of its clergy in the past, the matter has only returned with an absolute vengeance today.  Maybe if priests, bishops, or cardinals directly faced the public shame at that time and the truly guilty parties went to prison (instead of being transferred) for any crimes committed, we would not be in this mess today.  Maybe.

At any rate, we have reached the incredible scandal of a former apostolic nuncio accusing cardinals and even the pope of wrongdoing.  We need the truth.  We need transparency.  What we don’t need is more secrecy and silence.  Any lies, cover-ups and all deceit must end.

The reputation of the Church has already been horrendously damaged.

Fr. Ed Namiotka,

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Back to the Grind!

Dear Parishioners,

As I write this week, our elementary school children have headed back to school—some to Holy Angels Catholic School and others to the various public schools in the area.

First of all, I ask parents with school-aged children to consider the possibility of a Catholic school education for their children.  (I admit that I write with a certain bias towards a Catholic school education having attended Catholic schools for over 21 years and having been a teacher and/or administrator in Catholic schools for 20 years.)  I am well aware that, unfortunately, not every family is able to afford the tuition associated with a Catholic school.

This being said, what does a Catholic school have to offer?  The simple answer is the integration of faith, morals and the love of Jesus Christ as part of the life of the school.  The administration, teachers and staff of Holy Angels Catholic School are working very hard to accomplish this task.  Together with strong parental support, the school is meant to be an extended family.  I have witnessed our school community living out its faith, striving to improve its academic curriculum and seeking to add additional programs to benefit its students.  I welcome Mrs. Patricia Paulsen as our new principal.   She comes with many years of experience as an educator and, as its new leader, is eager to see our school grow and flourish!  I congratulate the faculty and staff of our school for their continued dedication and fine work!

I have told prospective families for years now that our Catholic school students are our best advertisement.  I encourage prospective families to pray about it, make an appointment to visit and see if a Catholic school may be the right fit for your child(ren).  Yes, the added expense of tuition is difficult.  However, a limited amount of tuition assistance may be available for needy families.  Isn’t sacrifice usually a necessary part of obtaining something truly valuable?

Whether students attend our Catholic school or participate in our religious education program, my expectation is that they will attend Mass weekly.  It is so important that faith is practiced continually, beginning with prayer and example in the home, aided by religious instruction both in the home and by our various religion teachers, and lived-out by worship at Mass each week.  If students are supported by the example of loving parents who practice their faith, and students try to live out the teachings of their faith as articulated in the home, in their religion classes and from the pulpit, then I think that they will be as well-prepared as anyone to face the challenges, trials and tribulations that life may present.

My thanks to those parents who do their very best as the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith.  I pray that you be the best teachers by word and example.  You make many sacrifices for your children and their well-being.  There is certainly no greater responsibility that we have for them than for their eternal salvation.

See you at Mass!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?

Dear Parishioners,

The Sunday readings these past few weeks, focusing on Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse (John, Chapter 6), have been of great comfort to me during these times of difficulty and resurfacing scandal in the Catholic Church.  I focus particularly on last week’s (21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B) conversation between the Apostles, St. Peter and Jesus:

Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
It might be the immediate reaction of some to walk away from the Catholic Church, at times like these, as many did in Jesus' day.  Who can I trust?  They are all a bunch of hypocrites in the Church!  Even the bishops and cardinals (and pope?) are corrupt!  I dare not try to defend the indefensible actions of those who were horribly wrong, deceitful and guilty of moral and criminal actions.  I am hurt, disillusioned and offended as much as any of the trusting, faithful laity and dedicated, obedient clergy are.

What I must state clearly is this:  The evil perpetrated by some, at various levels in the Church, does not diminish the salvific action of Christ on our behalf.  Christ suffered and died for us and for our salvation.  He has the words of eternal life.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  This never changes.  It never will.  Christ is faithful to the end.

However, those in ministry who choose defiantly not to live by His teaching, who bring disgrace upon the Church, and who undermine the credibility of the Gospel and Church teaching must take certain immediate actions.  They need to repent of their sinful actions (like Peter did after his denial of Christ), turn to the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness, and, for the sake of their own salvation and the good of the people that they serve, step down form any positions of Church authority that they may currently hold.  Power, prestige, and honor are all worldly things.  Eternal salvation is much more important.

Yes, we are all sinners.  Sometimes even generally good people make grave, sinful mistakes.  Afterwards, the genuinely sorrowful will choose repentance and amendment of life.  They will make a heart-felt confession of their sins.  However, to choose deliberately a secretive, hidden lifestyle that is in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ and His Church, to be unrepentant, to justify, cover-up and lie about wrongdoings, to mislead the faithful, etc. are actions that continue down the same path as Judas who is seen as a betrayer (see Mt. 26:46)—not a follower—of Christ.

With the current public accusations of the former Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Vigano, towards members of the Church hierarchy, there needs to be a thorough, objective investigation of these matters by predominantly competent, professionally-trained laity (since it might be difficult or even impossible to know how bad the corruption is through some hierarchal self-monitoring process).  One should never fear the truth, even if it is initially painful.  It is the only way to rid the Church of the cancer that she now faces.  Continuing lies and deception will only bring us back to this point sometime in the future.

Pray to St. Michael the Archangel, emphasize the deliver us from evil when you pray the Our Father, fast and pray for the faithful clergy in the trenches fighting the battle, and, most importantly, seek the continual intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary by praying the rosary.

Be faithful to Jesus and His Church.  Don’t leave the Church but encourage (demand) its genuine reform from within.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nothing Less Than Diabolical

Dear Parishioners,

I honestly thought (perhaps foolishly or naively) that we, as a Church, had made some drastically needed reforms regarding the sexual morality of our clergy.  I was/am not aware of any type of high profile, sexual scandal among our Camden diocesan clergy from more recent history.  I know that there had been far too many ugly, painful disclosures, however, during my more than three decades as a Catholic priest.  Even a solitary case, in my opinion, is far too many.

Now we must face these current glaring revelations:  the McCarrick disgrace and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, preceded by notable clergy scandals in Australia and Chile, to name a few.  At any given moment, my emotional state ranges from sick, disgusted, angry, infuriated, depressed, sorrowful, ashamed, aghast, overwhelmed and generally extremely grieved and totally embarrassed by the clerical sex abuse being made public at this time.

How I feel means little, however, compared to what the actual victims of sexual abuse must have experienced.  To have been taken advantage of or to have been coerced at the hands of a supposedly religious or spiritual authority figure—someone who should have been completely trustworthy—is well, nothing less than diabolical.  One must question what spirit was being followed.  Obviously, the spirit of evil.

When I think of the same sacred, consecrated hands that are used to make Christ present on the altar, to forgive sinners, to anoint the sick, to baptize, etc., being used for deviant, sexual purposes, I am ready to vomit.  The ordained, consecrated person is configured to Christ and acts in His very person.  Unspeakable, perverted sexual acts reveal the powers of darkness and evil.  I am not saying that anyone is possessed or acting beyond their own free-will powers in these situations.  However, there is a glaring manifestation of such grotesque, depraved proportion to bespeak of a supernatural, demonic influence present even in the Church.  Blessed Paul VI said the following in a homily back in 1972: “From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” (Homily, 29 June 1972) The traditional prayer to St. Michael the Archangel is said to have been composed by Pope Leo XIII after a vision of the demonic he experienced while celebrating Mass.  One only need go to the Book of Revelation (Chapter 12), Sacred Scripture itself, to hear of the battle between Satan (the dragon) and the Woman (the Blessed Mother) and St. Michael.  Spiritual warfare is happening in our world, in our Church.  Today.  Now.

Evil exits and rears its head in far too many ways in our society.  Sexual perversion (including homosexual acts like sodomy), a desire for unbridled, sexual license, the killing of our unborn children, rampant pornography (especially on the internet), etc. all manifest a degrading of humanity to a deviant, animal baseness rather than elevate humanity to a God-like holiness.

I give a heartfelt apology to all victims of clerical (or any kind of) sexual abuse, to their families and to the wide range of people who are also victimized by this far-reaching scandal and its perversity.  I make no excuses for anyone’s atrocious behavior or any abuse of power.  Sin is wrong no matter who commits it and certain grave sin cries out to God for vengeance.  May Almighty God give us whatever we need to begin the healing.   

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Looking for "Love" in All the Wrong Places

Dear Parishioners,

Some time ago when I was teaching a religion class in the 7th grade of my former parish, I asked the students:  “How are we made in the image and likeness of God?”  Obviously, we all can’t look like God physically.  But we do have two qualities or characteristics in particular, that make us like God—our intelligence and our free will.

Look at a young child.  From his or her earliest days there is the desire to know.  “What’s this?”  “Why? “ The child asks questions.  In fact, we should all want to know various things throughout our lives.  Our minds seek knowledge.

We also experience the ability to make free choices.  We can say “yes” or “no.”  We can do something or choose not to do it.  We will usually choose that which we think will make us happy as opposed to something that will hurt us.  Essentially we seek lovewe want to love and be loved—which will fulfill our deepest human desires.

In the end, human beings are designed in such a way by the Creator to seek knowledge and love.  And where do we find all knowledge and all love?  Only in God!  It is God alone who will be able to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.  I refer to the well-known quote of Saint Augustine:  “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.”  Confessions, Book I, Chapter I

Sometimes people are deceived in their search for love.  We may get caught up instead in the glamour of evil.  We look for love in all the wrong places.  We accept that which may appear to be good for us and which we think may bring us the happiness that we seek.  But we are fooled.  Whatever it was that we chose didn’t quite live up to expectations.  It only appeared to be good—most likely it was only temporarily pleasurable, and, ultimately, could be harmful to us.

I think that’s why addiction is so commonplace in our society.  We keep trying to fill the void in us with the things that the world deceptively offers as “good” (alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, pornography, gambling, excessive computer or TV usage, excessive shopping, etc.) rather than with God.  Only God can fill the void.  Everything else is a false god and will fall short of expectations.  I can guarantee it.

Jesus gave assistance to us along life’s journey to make it easier for us.  He gave us Himself in the Most Holy Eucharist to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.  “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”  (John 6:53)   We run the risk of being spiritually empty without Jesus.  It seems pretty clear to me that Jesus (and the early Church) was quite definitive with this message.  Therefore, it is a no-brainer that we need to participate in Mass regularly and to receive Holy Communion frequently.  Otherwise, we will wind up seeking that which we really needGod’s love—in some other unsatisfying place. . .  

. . . and being unhappy in the process.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Pain in a Mother's Eyes

Dear Parishioners,

Last Saturday I concelebrated a funeral Mass. It was a very difficult time for all involved.  Katie was only 33 years old.  She left behind her husband Todd and three little girls, Natalie, Kelly and Marley Mae (7, 6 and 4).  Katie's mother Lisa had worked for me in my last assignment as the parish secretary.  Katie, like her mother, usually had a huge smile on display to greet whomever she met.  The smile on Lisa's face was conspicuously missing.  The inexpressible pain could be seen in her eyes.

No parent expects to lose a child.  It is not the way that things are supposed to happen. We usually bury our parents--as sad as this may be--not the other way around.  I could not even imagine the grief that Katie's parents, Lisa and Brian, were experiencing.  Todd's face had just a blank stare of unbelief.

The funeral Mass congregation packed St. Joseph Church in Somers Point.  I was told the viewing the night before went on for hours, with a line of people around the block.  People were extremely supportive and empathetic.  There are just no words appropriate for times like these.  People just feel the sadness and pain.

The Catholic funeral Mass tries to bring a sense of hope to the situation.  Jesus' salvific action is once again made present on the altar.  We are reminded of His Resurrection from the dead.  We, as believers, are told that death and the grave are not final--life is changed, not ended.

As I looked into the congregation from the altar, I saw two other mothers who had experienced the loss of their sons not too long ago.  I had been pastor there at the time of both of these funerals.  I knew that these mothers knew all too well what it was like to go through this pain.  Somehow their slowly-healing wounds get ripped open once again.  Courageously, they were there to support this newly-grieving family.

In the front pew sat the three little girls, too young to realize just how tragic this situation was for them, now and into the unforeseen future.  Where's mommy?  Somehow children are remarkably resilient.  They looked like little angels--pure, innocent and holy.  Thankfully, they had each other to hold on to as they watched their newly-born baby cousin, also there with them.  The circle of life continues.

We are all reminded, at times like these, just how brief and how fragile life is. Things can change too quickly for any of us.

Personally, I don't know how I would survive without faith in Jesus Christ and His Resurrection form the dead.  I know that He knew what it is like to die so young.  Wasn't He also approximately 33  years old at the time of His tragic death?

I have once again seen the pain in the eyes of a grieving mother, reminiscent of what it must have been like when Mary met her Son on the road to Calvary, when she saw her Son hanging from a cross.

There really are no adequate words for such times.

Fr. Ed Namiotka