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 16, 2018

Off to College!

Dear Parishioners,

The end of the summer is the time when college students make their way off to or return back to their respective chosen schools.  I write this week’s column with them particularly in mind.

There was a funny and curious expression that I heard used in the past about this rite of passage or trek away from homeIt’s time to sew some wild oats!  The idiom basically means to indulge in a period of irresponsible behaviorAny parent would be naive not to think that college life holds many temptations and opportunities for sordid experimentation, in addition to the supposed education/learning that should be taking place.

I still believe in the goodness of our young adults.  I hold that the young people today have some very unique challenges that earlier generations never had—accompanied by various special graces—as they live in today’s world.  Kudos to those students who study diligently, participate in sports or other activities, and even may work part-time or full time jobs while at college!

I humbly take this time to give you a few words of advice, with my hope that you ponder what I have to say.  Like any good parent (after all, I am a spiritual father), my words are intended with love and genuine concern for your well-being:

·         Remember who you are and where you come from.  My father used to tell us “never to do anything that would embarrass the family name.”  It was his way of saying that he and my mother tried to instill certain Christian values in their children and they expected us to live by them.    A sign that I read sums it up perfectly:  Character is who you are, even when no one is watching.  (God, in fact, is always watching!)

·         Remember that your faith will be tested.  Even if you attend a Catholic college, there will be times when you will be called to witness to your faith and your faith will, no doubt, be challenged.  Will you make an attempt to attend Mass?  Will you try to pray each day for strength and guidance?  Will you blindly accept criticisms of the faith from other students and various professors?  Will the pressure of your peers lead you to try “forbidden” things or abandon values that you were taught?  When tested, your faith can become stronger.

·         Try to find and to associate with friends having good moral values.  Your choice of friends is just that—your choice.  It is much easier to live a good, happy life when in the company of like-minded people.  Choose wisely!  Moreover, seek out the Newman Center on the college campus and/or become aware of the presence of the Catholic chaplain.  Other students serious about their faith will, hopefully, be doing the same.

·         Remember the intended purpose of higher education.  You should go to college (and beyond) to get an education, to prepare for a career and to develop as a better person.  Don’t let the experience turn into an overly-expensive party with the potential for some pretty serious consequences!

·         Don’t be afraid to turn to your parents (or someone you trust) when necessary.  Even if you do something stupid, realize that your parents are there for you.  Their love for you should be constant.

If you ever need someone (in addition to your parents) in some time of difficulty, know that your pastor has e-mail, a web-site (www.fr-ed-namiotka.com), a Facebook account, and can be reached by the good old telephone!   

Know, also, that you are remembered in my prayers!

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