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January 25, 2007


Rich Leonardi

"The lesson here is that the Catholic Church has enough problems and should take greater care before allowing nonpriests to use the church as a forum to advance what clearly was a political agenda," Higgins said.

So which is it, Mr. Higgins -- was the deacon wrong to advance a "political agenda," i.e., defend core teachings in the public square, or was he wrong to single you out?


"God bless the deacon a thousand times. He did his job. If every bishop, every clergy member of all faiths did their jobs, we wouldn't have the shedding of innocent life in our country," said Stacey Vogel

Amen to that, Stacey!

The teaching of the Catholic Church are clear, it is intrisically evil to kill an innocent child. Wouldn't it be wonderful if ALL Priests and Deacons shone like a beacon of light in the darkness as Deacon Tom McDonnell did.


What we have here is a deacon saying the emperor has no clothes & the bishop backing the emperor. The central issue is that Higgins' voting record is a matter of public record. The deacon wasn't revealing anything. For Higgins to turn around & point the finger at the his tailor doesn't help cover his nakedness.


"Nonpriests." Nice.

Loudon is a Fool

I'm not sure which I like better. The swipe at permanent deacons, or the apology to the congregation for having been subjected to negative statements about him.

Deacon Ed

While addressing the congressman by name was imprudent, the deacon was acting charitably toward his brother by seeking to save him from damnation. We should remember that our call is to holiness and not 'to feel good' as others beleive our purpose in life is.

As for the Congressman and his self-serving remarks: He knows in his conscience that he is violating a very basic principle of the natural law by promoting the death of the defenseless. He might win (re)election but will he win THE election. The salvation of his soul should be on the mind of his pastor and bishop and not whether someone was offended. Let's recall that Christ did not take the woman found in adultery off to the side and quietly admonish her but in the public arena instructed her to go and sin no more. Christ, at the same time, told those who had not sinned to cast the first stone. Perhaps the deacon didn't go far enough in not castigating those in the congregation who voted for the Congressman. There is blood on their hands as well. Let's reflect on the destruction of 47,000,000 human lives which the congressman has had a hand in and weigh the present situation against this reality!

Michael in ArchDen

"I think the letters and e-mails speak for themselves and show the inconsistencies in what the church leaders have said," he added.

I guess that answers our questions about how much effort the bishop is making with his "pastoral teaching" of this congressman.

"...should take greater care before allowing nonpriests..."

So the congressman would have stayed if the priest had done the same thing?!? I doubt it!

Irenaeus of Lyons

Every time I'm tempted to become Catholic, some moron bishop acts like a liberal Episcopalian. How do those of you who are faithful Catholics deal with your frustration on this issue? Do I want to be in a situation where I'm explaining to my kids why I'm right and the bishop is wrong? Not so much.

It's kinda like secular politics: most politicians (particularly presidents) try to be friends to everybody once they hit the national level, once they are out of whatever primaries, instead of being concerned for their base. I wish the bishops would show more concern for the majority of catholic church-goers, the faithful who believe Catholic doctrine, than for those on the margins of the faith for whom Mass and faith is a marginal thing.

D***it, am I p*****d.


This has the feeling of some soldier breaching the enemy's line and if we all fall in behind him now, we can route them.

Deacon McDonald needs our prayers and support. We can't allow him to be made a sacrificial offering to pro-abort Catholics. Whether he wanted it or not, the good deacon has landed the "William of Wallace" role.



I await the day when the sub-sub-acolyte to the junior altar server (oh for the old orders! :) can run such a public adversary of Catholic teaching and practice out of Church.

A deacon's job is to preach, buddy! Just as much as any bishop's.

Steve Cavanaugh

Mr. Higgins clearly doesn't realize that the "nonpriest" is an ordained clergyman, and has been given explicit approval to preach by his bishop...deacons must be granted a faculty to preach, it is not automatic with ordination.

Mr. Higgin's remarks also clearly show that he doesn't realize that the defense of innocent life is a core Catholic value, not political agenda or as he said in the earlier quoted article a "cheap shot". Should a person truly be surprised to hear a strong defense of life and castigation of laws that allow attacks on it on the Sunday which has been designated as a day to foster respect for life, coming as it did on the day before the anniversary of Roe v Wade?

A relationship with a parish that is "very deep, very meaningful and very long" but that doesn't include a personal relationship to Jesus Christ is of no value whatsoever...it's essentially a nostalgia trip. Christ reached out through Deacon McDonnell to Mr. Higgins that day with the offer of saving repentance.

Jay Anderson

"The lesson here is that the Catholic Church has enough problems and should take greater care before allowing nonpriests to use the church as a forum to advance what clearly was a political agenda," Higgins said.

Is that a threat? Or is he saying the Church is so compromised by "enough problems" [read: clergy scandal] that it should keep quiet about other matters?

Advancing a political agenda? The Church's teaching on ESCR is nothing more than a political agenda?

Allowing a "nonpriest" to "use" the Church? The man he's talking about is an ordained deacon!

I must take this opportunity to revise and extend my remarks from yesterday. I said yesterday that I thought the deacon had acted imprudently and tactlessly. But then, I didn't realize what a complete piece of **** he was dealing with. Now my only complaint about the deacon's actions is that he didn't tell this jerk not to let the doorknob hit him in the arse on the way out.


Congressman Higgins helpfully does not give out an email address, rather you have to use an 'email form' to send a message to his office.

Presumably there's a very convenient "4-to-1" filter operating behind that form.


Look! look Mommy, congman Higgy has a page:

Just for Kids!

Did you know that an American president and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court were born right here in Western New York? Did you know that 100 years ago Buffalo was the eighth largest city in the United States?

Yes, darling! Did you know that you might have been aborted if more people voted like your representative in the last eight years?


Dear Brian,

The deacon did you a favor. I pray you have a change of heart, and that your feelings are not so wounded that you fail to seriously consider why so many believing Catholics feel profoundly insulted and betrayed when pro-choice politicians publicly present themselves as Catholics in communion with the Church.


Higgy's kid's page, ctd:

Some of My Favorite Links: I hope they can help with your school work and research projects.

The Library of Congress' American Memory Historical Collections have a ton of great digital documents, photographs, sound clips, and movies. Check them out to learn more about America's history and culture.

The New York Times Learning Network

Thomas: Library of Congress Legislative Information

Now all we need are NARAL, NOW and IPPF links. And Margaret Sanger's homepage, did she have one Mommy?


How do those of you who are faithful Catholics deal with your frustration on this issue?

By remembering that Christ was abandoned by his apostles from day one and uniting our sufferings and frustrations with his. I am not always successful at doing these things, but when I am I remember that our "hapless bench of bishops" are sinful men just like the rest of us, and that we should pray for them.

I'm not saying that we should not be angry with them, but their moral cowardice should never be the reason we abandon (or fail to join) the Church.

(Of course, I'd love to slap them all upside their heads, but that would be rather imprudent.)

Michael in ArchDen

In regards to the shift in Rep. Higgins votes, I believe that's referred to as "growing in office" :rolleyes:

...and a minor nitpick, Amy, but I don't think the Project Vote Smart is a NARAL site.

reluctant penitent

The Bishop appears to think that it's his job to punish Priests and Deacons who affirm Church teaching, and give big hugs to ignorant and arrogant asses who subvert it publicly. When does His Excellency retire?

Marion (Mael Muire)

Steve Cavanaugh wrote, "A relationship with a parish that is 'very deep, very meaningful and very long' but that doesn't include a personal relationship to Jesus Christ is of no value whatsoever . . . it's essentially a nostalgia trip. Christ reached out through Deacon McDonnell to Mr. Higgins that day with the offer of saving repentance."

Thank you. Nailed it, Steve!

Deacons: taking on jobs bishops don't seem to want to do.


Hey Amy,

You just revealed the sins of Representative Higgins by showing how he voted. I am waiting for GOPSoccermom to admonish you.

T. Marzen

Voting for embryonic stem cell funding is not a matter of material but of FORMAL cooperation with evil because such a vote causes the politician to freely participate in the action of a principal agent (the experimenter) by paying him or her to kill the embryos. He's no different than someone who hires a contract killer, or someone who transports a woman to an abortionist and pays for her abortion. To add even greater evil, he also compels unwilling taxpayers' material cooperation in killing these embryos.

Under the pope's directive on how to deal with politicians' formal cooperation in evil (issued before he was pope), such a politician should be privately counseled that he may not persist in such conduct and, if he does persist, denied communion. See http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/04-07ratzingerommunion.htm

Deacon Ed

Just suppose for a moment that the deacon was speaking here as a prophet - that he had the gift of prophesy. If this were to be the case, what then should the response of his bishop be?


The Reverend Mr. McDonald is a worthy successor to St. Stephen.

Aimee Milburn

I do not believe the deacon was imprudent. Or uncharitable, or tactless. Rather I think he showed real courage, real spine, and is a real defender of the faith and follower of Christ. Christ, after all, drove the moneylenders out of the temple with a whip.

The legislator is a public servant, doing public acts that everyone is aware of, and is a representative of the very people sitting in the congregation. His behavior is not a private issue, but an on-going public scandal that affects everyone around him. I think the deacon was right to call him on it.

Frankly, if I'd been publicly and persistently doing what the legislator has been publicly and persistently doing, while still presenting myself at mass, I'd figure I had it coming to me.

In my opinion the shame is not on the deacon, but rather on Church leaders who will not govern, and so by default allow legislators to continue in serious sin. The real guilt, if you ask me, is with the Church leaders who pardon the legislator and rebuke the deacon, who “call evil good and good evil.”

I admire the deacon, and wish more would follow his example – and rejoice when they get persecuted for it, as Christ promised we would.

Deacon Stephen

Please, would you appologists end the banter about uncharity and imprudence in the Deacon's homily! An ordained minister has every right to name the name of a public sinner from the pulpit, especially a sin of this magnitude both for the sake of the sinner's soul as well as an example to the congregation. This ultra-sensitivity many are bringing to this post are indicative of the thin-skinned psychobable of current fad.


Not to nitpick *too* much, but what exactly is the "shedding of innocent life?"



Come on, folks!

Let's not deny Deacon Tom McDonnell his Irish heritage.

Nor his good name :)

Morning's Minion

"If every bishop, every clergy member of all faiths did their jobs, we wouldn't have the shedding of innocent life in our country."

Yes, we would. And the Church's teaching role would be dramatically muted.



What a laugh.

Father Elijah

Dear Irenaeus of Lyons,

I certainly understand your frustration and anger. I sometimes sit and scratch my head as well at situations that, well to use a commonly used phrase, "are no brainer's".

As has been pointed out already over two days, this Congressman has some major 'issues' obviously with central teachings of the Church-no matter what kind of supposed long and deep relationship he has had with that parish. The Gospel of Life is--part of the Gospel! I wonder if-on his part-if he was 'pushing the envelope on purpose'-gathering family and friends [perhaps knowing the pro-life stand of the parish or at least the permanent deacon] specifically on "Pro-Life Sunday"--but this is just 'speculation'

I wonder too about the pastor-presumably present and celebrant of the Mass. He didn't know the Congressman was going to be there? Was he allowing the deacon to preach to avoid his own 'confrontation' with the Congressman?
I found the fact that the Congressman did not allow the pastor into his home afterwards in order to 'heal wound's' especially very very 'interesting'. It tells me a lot about the Congressman actually.

I believe the bishop could have handled the situation differently-not publicly undermining one of his own deacons-but perhaps stating the purpose of a homily-making it a general catechetical moment-but sitting down privately with the Congressman and allowing him to speak his anger but enabling the bishop to offer the fraternal correction, epecially in light of the recent bishops' statement concerning Catholics approaching/non-approaching Holy Communion.

I do not agree with pointing out an individual for anything during the homily-not the purpose of the homily-but I do NOT agree with 'personal fraternal correction' during the homily. Here while the deacon was 'speaking the truth' I do not believe he was exercising prudence-wisdom concerning the very nature of a homily or the pastoral care of the community gathered to hear the Word broken in word and Eucharist.

More to the point however, Irenaeus, do not be afraid. See, the Catholic faith is really and truly based one the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ in and through His Twelve Apostles, most especially Peter. The Popes and bishops down through the centuries enable Peter and the Eleven to continue to minister to us in word, sacrament and pastoral care.

While being blessed with some wonderful and saintly popes for the last century or so-it has not always been so consistent. Some were very very poor successors of Peter. What they provided us with is exactly that-the continuation of Peter's ministry. The Holy Spirit, thanks be to God did not 'allow them' to open their mouths in any real teaching. The Catholic Faith and Church was preserved and continued.

Bishops too. Your own name sake was a wonderful example of a saintly bishop, yet living at the same time as Irenaeus, was a wild man, a Paul of Samosata. He not only preached that Christ was the adopted son of God but had a whole chorus of women going around singing HIS praises, not the Lord's. This 'bishop' was a cult leader! Paul of Samosata was not the last 'bad' or even 'weak' bishop the Church has had. BUT those bishops who maintained the apostolic faith, remained in union with Peter and continued to care for the people of God-they continued the ministry of the Apostles down through the centuries and maintained the Catholic Faith and Church.

Irenaeus, do not be afraid of entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. All of us need to be reminded that our Catholic Faith is not based on a priest, nor a bishop, not even a pope-but on Jesus Christ and His Apostles

David R.

"I think the letters and e-mails speak for themselves and show the inconsistencies in what the church leaders have said," he added.

If anything ever required a response from this man's bishop, it is this statement. Are there clergymen who feel that Mr. Higgin's positions on abortion and ESCR are consistent with Church teaching?


You just revealed the sins of Representative Higgins by showing how he voted. I am waiting for GOPSoccermom to admonish you.


Nice swipe. This is a different situation. I think the congressman is wrong. I think he ought not to present himself for Communion. I think the deacon has every right to say that voting for ESCR is wrong and that NO Catholic ought to vote for it or for any politician who will vote for it.

But naming him in the middle of Mass and inviting people to discuss it with him was just a bit much. I will admit that the congressman's reaction makes me feel a whole lot less sorry for him since he views the Church as just a thing in his life, but I still say that pointing him out at Mass was too much.

Amy is not a deacon giving a homily at Mass. She isn't pointing him out specifically at Mass. NEVER did I say that you can't point out a voting record ever.

You seem to be trying to make me out as some apologist for pro aborts, and it's just not so. All I've said, and I even got someone who was cheering the deacon on to say the same thing yesterday, is that pointing him out during Mass and inviting everyone to admonish him afterwards was not necessary to make the point.

Please quit making me seem to support the congressman's votes because I didn't think it necessary to do the above.


Seems to me this episode is indeed a superb example of what wrong with the Church on so many levels.

Like the last poster on the other thread said, you've got a deacon who perhaps should not have made things personal, and a politician who clearly misunderstands and disagrees with Catholic teaching, and the deacon gets the public rap.

You've got someone who is presumably being 'advised in private' saying nonsense like: "The lesson here is that the Catholic Church has enough problems and should take greater care before allowing nonpriests to use the church as a forum to advance what clearly was a political agenda." Talk about being uncharitable!!

You've got parishioners so starved of public reinforcement of Catholic teaching from their clergy that many find it hard to acknowledge that perhaps he shouldn't have made things personal.

Anyway, IMHO, though parishioners should expect and demand better from their clergy, I believe most energy is better spent making ourselves better Christians.


"If every bishop, every clergy member of all faiths did their jobs, we wouldn't have the shedding of innocent life in our country."

Yes, we would. And the Church's teaching role would be dramatically muted.

A few points:

1) Sanguis martyrorum, semen christianorum

2) Even cosying up to an emporer like St. Constantine (as the Orthodox view him) pulls you in to cahoots with his successors, thereby diminishing your witness to the world. History has borne this out in the relative historical influence of the RC and EO Churches.

3) When the Roman empire became Christian, bloodshed stopped in the arenas. When the US stopped being Christian, bloodshed started in the abortuaries.

Just how else is the US to become Christian again? By bishops not doing their job?

ron chandonia

Amy, thanks for sharing the congressman's record on life issues with us. It's obvious that this guy has not lacked instruction about Catholic teaching. He just finds it politically inconvenient to follow that teaching right now. And as we know, he has a whole lot of company in Congress! That makes the response of the pastor and (especially) of the bishop especially dismaying. Clearly, they were not just responding to one man's bruised sensititivies; they were responding to the whole host of self-declared Catholic politicians who think/vote the same way he does. In other words, the "political" statement came not from the deacon but from the bishop. Again.


With all due respect, Morning's Minion, given the state of Western culture, if there were not vigorous attempts to mute the teaching role of the Church, I would suspect that not much teaching was really going on. It's one thing to fight against the attempts of the secular world to silence the voice of the Church, but quite another for the Church's representatives to pre-emptively capitulate and silence themselves. Obviously, prudence is called for, but it's somewhat refreshing to see someone err (if indeed he did) on the side of the former, since so many err on the side of the latter.

Deacon Stephen

Hey folks,
By justice the Deacon was REQUIRED to rebuke the Congressman on his votes for human embryo destruction during the homily. Not to do so would have been a serious mistake. That is why many of our Bishops and priests have much to answer for upon their final judgement.

Fr. J


Today in response to Jesus public condemnation of the Pharisees the Apostle Judas responds: "I strongly disagree with Jesus' uncharitable words. I can think of 30 good reasons why we should be more compassionate and accomodating to the public authorities. If he keeps this up he could be killed and we might end up being persecuted. That would be a tragedy."



I lack the knowledge to translate this:

1) Sanguis martyrorum, semen christianorum

All I can get out of it with my very limited Latin is something about martyrdom and Christianity.

If you don't mind, would you please give a translation of Latin phrases? Not everyone understands it, even those of us who strive towards orthodoxy in our own faith.



"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity", or words to that effect. I believe it's a quote from Tertullian.


Sure, GSM, my apologies.

From the thesaurus (treasure) of Latin words, these wise ones are:

"the blood of martyrs (is) the seed of christians"

Eileen R

I'm not entirely certain what the wisdom of the church is on calling out sinners by name in church. Certainly it was once common, and now is less, and presumably there are reasons why. My sympathies are with the deacon, though.

However, this reminds me of a time when a priest I knew *accidentally* accused a politician in the audience. The good father preached about how Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was legislating same sex marriage, and how Catholics had to oppose this, and you couldn't be a good Catholic and support same sex marriage.

Then after Mass, an usher rushed up to him and pointed out Paul Martin and entourage leaving church in a huff. He'd no idea Martin was in town and had decided to go to church there, but Martin obviously thought he was being targetted.

God works in mysterious ways.


And "i, Diacone" is a rough attempt to translate:

Go Deacon!


Coco & Ipsitilla,

Thanks for the translations. I actually use that phrase (the blood of martyrs...) frequently. I just never read it in Latin before. (I am trying to learn a bit, but it's slow-going since I'm doing it with my elementary daughters.)

Deacon Stephen,

I am unclear about something, because I have read both priests and deacons saying pretty much what I've said: that naming him and telling everyone to admonish him (or ask him about the votes) after Mass was not necessary. That he perhaps could have discussed the topic forcefully without pointing him out.

If he has the duty and right to do this, then does that mean that a deacon or priest also has the duty and right to publicly point out gossipers at Mass and do the same? That if it's a well-known but little-discussed fact that Mr. Jones is stepping out on his wife, he has the duty and right to point him out at Mass and tell everyone to ask him why he's breaking his marriage vows? That if everyone knows that a couple is contracepting, the priest can tell the parish to ask Mr. and Mrs. Smith that they are wrong and ask them to reconsider?

I am honestly asking this. I am NOT trying to be flip and snarky with you. Should priests and deacons be publicly announcing the sins of parishioners from the pulpit during a homily? If it's a sin that is public, learned about in a context that is not Confession, and is known by enough people, is this truly what is expected?

Seriously, I want to know. And I'm writing this without the least bit of sarcasm.

Believe it or not, I am not one who is willing to shirk my responsibilities as a Catholic or Pro Lifer because of confrontations. I don't like confrontations, but that doesn't mean that I am unwilling to ever have one. (If that were true, I would not have taken on the duties of Chair of the Respect Life Committee at my own parish. I expect plenty of confrontation there.)

Tom Kelty

Why can't the NCCB reiterate it's teaching on Abortion with a deadline of January 1, 2008.
After this date, no public official with a record of supporting abortion, should request communion. Their voting records are public and their faces are frequently on the media. The onus should be placed on them. This does not mean they are free to do as they please until 12/31/07. It does mean that they must reconcile their religious beliefs with their public life. The games are over. Will this mean that no catholic will ever again be elected to public office? I think quite the opposite will happen. And if I am wrong, at least there will be an end to the ambiguity and our partnership in this shameful slaughter of the innocent.


"Nonpriests." Nice.

The priest and bishop can be likewise dismissed, being non-bishop and non-pope respectively. Very nice.

Morning's Minion

We should take a leaf from Pope Benedict's book. Last November, ne noted that issues like peace, poverty, and the environment resonate with many, especially the young. But other aspects of Church teaching do not make such an impact, especially on issues like abortion and the family. There are two ways to address this division. Some want to jump up and down, screaming loudly about how the latter teachings and more important than the first. But the pope recognizes the fruitlessness of this approach. One should not discard one set of beliefs for another. In the words of the pope: "[w]e must commit ourselves to reconnecting these two parts of morality and to making it clear that they must be inseparably united".

No moral equivalence there. A vindication of Cardinal Bernardin's foresight. Bernardin knew very well that it would be a mistake to divorce abortion from other issues, and to ignore the pressing social and economic concerns that drive women to have abortions. And the US bishops knew very well in 2004 that they could not be seen as tilting the scales toward the author of torture and unjust war.

For more see: http://reasons-and-opinions.blogspot.com/2007/01/richard-john-neuhaus-is-confused-about.html and: http://reasons-and-opinions.blogspot.com/2007/01/communion-wars.html.


The good Congressman is a PUBLIC and pertinacious heretic, a material and formal heretic, who is excommunicated latae sentiae on any number of grounds.

He is cut off from the Mystical Body.

Was he about to receive the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, just as the new Governor of Colarado did recently, thereby continuing the slaughter of the innocents?

Sacrilege upon sacrilege upon sacrilege.

This man is of his father the Devil, period. He is a man of bad will, period. His comments afterwards only serve to confirm this, as if his long-professed formal cooperation in mass murder does not.

This man was not observed going into a local "adult" store requiring private confrontation by a priest. He publicly and unrepentently supports the murder of human beings, period. The Deacons actions were perfectly correct: they were, first and foremost charitable to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, charitable to this heretic. and charitable to his own soul and those present.



If it's a sin that is public, learned about in a context that is not Confession, and is known by enough people, is this truly what is expected?

Such a publicly sinful act by a legislator is required to be the subject of ecclesial condemnation, lest scandal get worse.

Anyhoo, it's happening. We are the Church. Not so?

Eileen R

gopsoccermum, I'm not an expert but I believe that there's a separate category for public scandal in these things. A politician publicly voting for evil definitely raises the question of scandal.

Deacon Stephen

We are talking about a Congressman who leans on his Catholic faith to get votes in a working-class Catholic area of the country. He advertises his faith for votes. He knows that he voties contrary to his Church's stand on life issues since he once had a pro-life voting record. To rebuke his public record, which contributes to the death and destruction of innocents, is akin to chastising Hitler for gassing innocent people. Do you understand the difference between rebuking a public servent that is aligned with the Culture of Death and the private sins and failings of a private person. This does not take an advanced theology degree to discern :)


Latin ... (I am trying to learn a bit)

Best of luck with that, gopSM.

Here's one for an age when people confuse charity and politeness:

O tempora! O mores!


"O [for] the [former] times and customs!"



Your sincerity is apparent. My thought is that long ago this issue of correcting sinners was covered in scripture. Ideally the sinner is admonished in private first. If this fails ,then two or more should attempt the correction. Only when all these efforts fail should there be a public admonishment. I do not know if Deacon McDonald tried private words first. And this is the first time in my 76 years that I have heard of someone being publicly scolded from the pulpit during Mass. We must look to the Bishops for direction in this grave matter. Now there is a problem given their loss of credibility. We really need a genuine fessing up across the board.

Rich Leonardi

There are two ways to address this division. Some want to jump up and down, screaming loudly about how the latter teachings and more important than the first. But the pope recognizes the fruitlessness of this approach.

Two ways for two straw men.

No one is suggesting that both sets of issues shouldn't be addressed to the exclusion of the other. They chafe at the fact that "issues like peace, poverty, and the environment" are all they hear preached from pulpits.

Leave it you, though, to try to take a thread down a rat hole.


gopsoccermom and Eileen R,

I agree with what Eileen R said regarding scandal, although I'd note that both a politician voting in favor of abortion and (for instance) a couple choosing to cohabit might cause scandal. The difference is that the politician's voting record is everyone's business - it's a matter of public record, and furthermore, it's something we're obliged to know because we bear responsibility for our own votes. On the other hand, the cohabitation example might be a matter of public knowledge within that circle, but it is not everyone's business, nor is it something everyone is obliged to know.


O tempora! O mores!

Coco: a particularly apt allusion, as the speech from which these words are an extract, Cicero's first oration against the conspiritor senator Catiline, was given in the Roman senate, before the assembly, including Catiline who was singled out by name:

"WHEN, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now? Do not the nightly guards placed on the Palatine Hill—do not the watches posted throughout the city—does not the alarm of the people, and the union of all good men—does not the precaution taken of assembling the senate in this most defensible place—do not the looks and countenances of this venerable body here present, have any effect upon you? Do you not feel that your plans are detected? Do you not see that your conspiracy is already arrested and rendered powerless by the knowledge which every one here possesses of it? What is there that you did last night, what the night before—where is it that you were—who was there that you summoned to meet you—what design was there which was adopted by you, with which you think that any one of us is unacquainted?"

Worth noting is that the other senators in attendance at this speech responded by shunning Catiline, refusing even to be seated near him.

Ave Maria!

Ireneus, I am sorry for your hurt. Do not think that I do not share in it. But there is nothing new under the sun. We have seen unfaithfulness in high places for 2000 years. We are weak humans and we are sinners. It is far easier to go with the flow of the world.

Only 14 bishops in the US have had the courage to say to public pro-abort politicians NOT to present themselves for Holy Communion for they are not in communion with the Church and they are persisting in grave and public sin and scandal.

If the bishops were doing their job, then the one lone deacon who did his would not be the topic of conversation. Uncharitable!!!! NO!
If this 'humiliation' causes that politician to repent and save his soul, then he owes eternal thanks to the brave deacon who spoke the truth.

There is an elephant in the living room but lets continue to ignore it!

I think of SAINT John Fisher and the pressure his fellow bishops probably put on him to shut up and go along with the king. Or of SAINT Thomas More who risked his political position and rank and wealth and power and fame to stay true to Rome and to defending the papacy and marriage. Now we need to defend the lives of the most defenseless among us and few of our 'leaders' will do so. And that is a scandal and you wonder where is the Truth.

The Truth is ultimately Jesus Christ and He is found in His Church although it may not seem so by the actions of some in it. The Sacramental life to which you, Ireneus, have been called is worth everything and anything. It is worth living for and dying for. Do not be scandalized. Do not be put off. Seek the truth. Seek holiness and seek union with God. What the others do, do not them them deter you from what God has planned for your soul.

Come on home. The water is choppy but the Truth will set you free.
God bless!

M.Z. Forrest

Cohabiting is a public act. There is no such thing as private cohabitation.

I think I've told this story before. I had a relative who was in a adulterous marriage and an alchoholic. One day he came to mass late with alcohol either smelling from him or still a little intoxicated. The priest stopped the mass, and he was told to leave. There are some who would argue my relative's rights were violated. I do not believe that to be so. He was in manifest, grave sin.

Now if he would have gone to the bishop, the bishop probably would have told him not to goto mass drunk. In the case in question, we have a congressman sitting in the pews. In fact, his presense is due to mass being said in the honor of a loved one. Now there are some who would argue that his presence there was a scandal to the faithful. It is an interesting argument, but the only argument that matters is that the bishop did not find this to be so. So, we have the deacon taking the bishop's authority upon himself to declare it so. There was plenty of time to consult the bishop, two years in fact. He chose not to or chose not to heed his bishop's counsel.

It is well and good that many people think the congressman deserved this. We should keep in mind however that this deacon made many choices leading up to this that placed himself in usurping the bishop's authority. Now you may argue that the bishop would not have been supportive. Such is life. Bishops aren't supportive of a lot things, most of them on the innocuous end that wouldn't cause them harm one way or another. But he is still the bishop, placed there by God to shephard the faithful. It is through his hands that priests are allowed to offer the Sacraments in the diocese.

Ed the Roman


"If every bishop, every clergy member of all faiths did their jobs, we wouldn't have the shedding of innocent life in our country."

Yes, we would. And the Church's teaching role would be dramatically muted.

You're actually saying that clergy should not do their jobs because their teaching role would be more muted than it is now. As far as teaching that Catholic politicians may not vote to permit abortions, their teaching is down about 60dB. How much more muted can it get?

But other aspects of Church teaching do not make such an impact, especially on issues like abortion and the family.

Which is unfortunate, since these are the bits on which there is no question of what is the best way to achieve a goal, but of absolute evils that simply may not be countenanced. I think that "never oppose abortion without opposing all use of force and supporting redistributive taxation with equal vigor" is not going to accomplish what you want.


Get off the privacy kick. This man puts the sin he is being rebuked for on his web site. He boasts of it and calls it virtue. While I think that pointing out his presence at Mass may have been wrong, I no longer think naming him is; he does it himself in his campaign literature.

Again, HE IS BRAGGING ABOUT IT. Aside from being singled out while present, the only thing he can be complaining about really is that he believes Catholic teaching false and he therefore should not be criticized.

Aimee Milburn

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Here’s what he has to say about such matters:

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans. . . . And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from you.

. . . When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men . . . not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed . . . not even to eat with such a one. . . . Is it not those inside the church who you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

Fifty years of bible deconstructionism means that not even bishops know anymore what it says about how to deal with persistent sin in the Body.

Oh, for a few more St. Paul’s in our midst.



In your example, I don't think the man should have been asked to leave.

It was up to the priest to deny him communion...perhaps, I'm not sure.

The Herodian congressman is in a very different scenario.

Rich Leonardi


Is a deacon required to consult his bishop in such matters? You imply that he is, unless I've misunderstood your post. We all have an obligation spread the Gospel and, when necessary, engage in fraternal correction. One can argue this deacon could have done those things differently, but that's another matter.

Morning's Minion

We should have a drinking game centering around how many times good old Rich Leonardi brushes off an argument as a "straw man". No, that would turn anybody into Ted Kennedy!

To turn the tables: Rich, your argument is a classic straw man (boy, I enjoyed writing that!). You claim: "They chafe at the fact that "issues like peace, poverty, and the environment" are all they hear preached from pulpits." No. As I said before, I believe homilists should do a far better job explaining Church teaching. I'm tired of wishy-washy feel good homilies. I want meat, I want serious theology. And yes, that means homilists should talk about abortion, euthanais, and ESCR as well "peace, poverty and the environment". The real issue is one of publicly denouncing somebody from the pulpit. That is what is unacceptable, and it will backfire to boot.

What makes so many people here so qualified to tell the pope and the bishops how to do their jobs?

M.Z. Forrest

The platform he used, the homily, is the bishop's platform. IIRC correctly, there was a time when a pastor would read a homily written by the bishop and not offer his own commentary.

Rich Leonardi

Tony A.,

If you didn't use that fallacious device in virtually every post, I would have no reason to mention it. And if the real issue is "publicly denouncing someone from the pulpit," and I believe that it is, why did you use this thread as a forum to introduce subjects like Cardinal Bernardin and the environment?

Rich Leonardi

I'd like to see some authority backing the notion that a homily must reflect the specific priorities of the bishop/ordinary. And no, I'm not trying to bust your chops, M.Z.

Christopher Sarsfield

Another aspect of this, is would the deacon have refused him communion if he came up to receive? This congressman seems to be a member of the parish.

Which leads to another question, and I would especially like to hear Mr. Forrest's opinion on this (my heart is with the deacon, but my head is not so sure), can a bishop order a priest/deacon to give communion to a manifest public sinner, even if it violates the conscience of the priest/deacon? We have discussed whether bishops can/should order priests to deny communion, but can a priest act on his own? How do the clergy on the list justify giving communion to people they know are living in a state of objective mortal sin? Do they have an obligation to tell the people not to approach the Sacrament? Does it bother their conscience? Do they use a variation of don’t ask, don’t tell, in order to stay out of the situation?

Christopher Sarsfield

Mr. Leonardi,

I believe Mr. Forrest is basing his point on the fact that the priest can not preach without the faculty given him by a bishop. His authority to preach comes from the bishop not the sacrament of holy orders. So when a priest preaches, he is acting in the place of the bishop.

Rich Leonardi

Well, sure, Christopher. But that doesn't explain how this deacon, or any deacon, "usurps the authority" of his bishop by doing what he did.


Appropos of Higgins' parting shot at the Church by 'crediting it with crimes'(from Jeff Smith's blog):
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Quote of the Day

“However mean men may be, they dare not appear as enemies of virtue; and when they want to persecute it, they feign to believe that it is false or they credit it with crimes.”

From the Maxims of la Rochefoucauld. Found at The Joy of Curmudgeonry

Posted by Jeffrey Smith at 6:35 PM

Christopher Sarsfield

Mr. Leonardi,

From the Code of Canon Law:

"Can. 772 §1. In the exercise of preaching, moreover, all are to observe the norms issued by the diocesan bishop."

Do not know if this answers your question or not.

Tom K.

I couldn't say whether I agree with what the deacon did unless I knew what he did.

But I'm somewhat less interested in what he said about the congressman than in what he said about those who voted for him.

Christopher Sarsfield

Mr. Leonardi,

I assume that bishops would have norms about whether denouncing someone from the pulpit is allowed in a particular diocese. Certainly, this can be abused. I knew of a diocesan bishop that forbid the priests of the diocese to preach about artificial birth control right after the release of Humanae Vita.

M.Z. Forrest

I was just going to put that in Chris, thank you. The faculty to preach is given by the bishop.

See also:
Can. 764 Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 765, presbyters and deacons possess the faculty of preaching everywhere; this faculty is to be exercised with at least the presumed consent of the rector of the church, unless the competent ordinary has restricted or taken away the faculty or particular law requires express permission.

Can. 519 The pastor (parochus) is the proper pastor (pastor) of the parish entrusted to him, exercising the pastoral care of the community committed to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share, so that for that same community he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing, also with the cooperation of other presbyters or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of the Christian faithful, according to the norm of law.

Can. 528 §2. The pastor is to see to it that the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful.

He is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance. He is also to endeavor that they are led to practice prayer even as families and take part consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy which, under the authority of the diocesan bishop, the pastor must direct in his own parish and is bound to watch over so that no abuses creep in.

John Foster

One of the things I find interesting is the evolving role of the permanent deacon. I've read recently (don't know if it's true) that by 2010 the number of permanent deacons will exceed the number of priests in the US.

Given that deacons are a) often (mostly?) retired or with day jobs, and b) cannot rise any higher in the hierarchy, they have a certain freedom that priests and bishops don't have. The pastor here may be worried about how ticking off a local, important politician may affect his career. The deacon doesn't have that worry, since he's as high up as he's ever going to go.

thomas tucker

I agree with gopsoccermom.
The deacon could have preached on this ,and should preach on this, without singling the Congressman out at Mass. All of us are sinners and none of us should have our sins publicly pointed out at Mass on a personal level. There are ways of stating all of this without making it personal.
And the bishop should publicly state the teaching of the Church, and state that the Congressman's votes are immoral ones and why, but say that individuals should not be singled out at Mass.

Maria Ashwell

Maybe I've missed something...these threads are incredibly huge...but it seems to me that the Deacon did not point out any private sin, rather his (public) voting record. The fact that those votes are contrary to Church teaching is just a fact. And if that fact makes people uncomfortable, well, why is that the Deacon's fault?


Notice the rather dramatic shift as Higgins moves from the state to Congress.

Liberals condescending refer to this as "evolving".

Old Zhou

Dear John Foster,

I doubt that by 2010 (just three years!) permanent deacons will outnumber priests in the US. See statistics at CARA (Georgetown U.)

Stats for 2006 (excluding Archdiocese of New Orleans due to hurricane):
Priests in US: 41,794 (down 45, or 0.10% from previous year)
Permanent Deacons in US: 14,795 (up 248, or 1.7% from previous year).
Extrapolating at constant rates, both would number just under 40,000 in 2065 (about 60 years from now).

But that is very unlikely. I believe that "Permanent Diaconate" in the US (and about half of the world's permanent deacons are in the US) is reaching stable numbers after 30 years of start-up growth. When the permanent diaconate began, each bishop was given the liberty to try it out, or not, and there really were no standards of formation or ministry--each bishop could craft his own diaconate pretty much. It was not until 2004 that the USCCB published a National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States (PDF!), attempting to develop some basic standards for the permanent diaconte on a national scale.

USCCB Office of the Diaconate provides Global Statistics.

Among many US bishops, there has been a very, very strong push to promote ANYTHING other than the ordained priesthood. This is one factor in the rapid growth of the permanent diaconate (open to married men; not financially supported by the bishops; no retirement burden, etc.), as well as equally large numbers of Lay Ecclesial Ministers (open to women).
There are, according to USCCB, over 30,000 "Lay Ecclesial Ministers," more than double the number of Permanent Deacons. Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord is the bishop's recent "statement" on Lay Ecclesial Ministers.

This is also why many American dioceses are not really concerned about tiny numbers of priestly ordinations. Many bishops take a minimalist view of the priesthood, and honestly feel they need just a couple dozen of these expensive ministers to say mass and hear confessions. Eveything else can be done by the (married, self-supporting) permanent deacons and the (female) lay ecclesial ministers.


I agree with John Foster 100%. Deacon McDonnell has displayed more leadership than Higgins...the Priest...or the Bishop ever will.

Deacon McDonnell should run against Higgins


This is simply outrageous:

we are talking about the MURDER of MILLIONS of humans, and some of you are straining at gnats.

Canon law, and any norms, are only effective and to be observed so long as they do not subvert their proper ends, for they are not ends in themselves. That is, they must always and everywhere be interpreted and applied in keeping with Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, Divine Positive and the Natural Law. Bishops and their norms and canon law are the servants of the Truth, not the master. The never-ending acts and omisions of certain members of the priesthood and episcopacy are subverting and impugning the known truth.

As should be clear to anyone who has even a smattering of sensus catholicus, there are degrees and kinds of error, sin and culpability.

As usual, the adders almongst us rush for the scribes and the lawbooks gulping camels whole as they do to persecute the man who speaks the truth in the place where the Truth is immolated.

It is astonishing, that after weathering charges aginst the Catholic Church that certain human elements were directly or indirectly complicit in the "special handling" programs of the Third Reich, we find ourselves, once again, confronting the spectacle of so-called Catholics who by their silence and acts and other omisions are guilty of the same thing.

You disgust me.



I didn't see anyone making apologies for this man's voting record. Only questioning whether or not it was appropriate to point him out at Mass.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I, for one, am not silent or inactive when it comes to defending the unborn.

Old Zhou

Simon-peter, you inspire me!

Here is the text of H.R. 3, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007. Here is the House Roll Call (Higgins is in the Ayes for Roll Call no. 20).

An excerpt from the Legislation, now awaitin Senate action after being passed in the House on January 11, 2007:

Human embryonic stem cells shall be eligible for use in any research conducted or supported by the Secretary [of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services] if the cells meet each of the following:

(1) The stem cells were derived from human embryos that have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment.

(2) Prior to the consideration of embryo donation and through consultation with the individuals seeking fertility treatment, it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded.

(3) The individuals seeking fertility treatment donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation.

The President's Council on Bioethics reported that "In the U.S. as of June 2002 there were approximately 400,000 embryos in storage."


What did the Deacon actually say? Has anyone been able to ascertain for sure what he said?

thomas tucker

Maria- it sounds as if he did more than point out a Congressman's voting record. It sounds as if he pointed out, and I apologize if I am wrong, the voting record and that the Conrgressman was sitting right there at Mass if anyone wanted to talk to him. If that truly is the case, I think it's wrong to have the finger pointed at you from the altar. The purple prose of simon-peter above could be used to justify the killing of abortionists but I don't think we want to start down that road. So, yes, preach against abortion and preach against Congrewwmne who support if with their votes, but don't point the finger at them in the congregation at Mass.


How sad that a pro-life issue like embryonic stem-cell research has become so divisive among the Catholic faithful that a deacon believes he should *publically* admonish a public servant at Mass.

The children are watching and listening and, I believe, choosing not to enter public service.

How sad for the Catholic Church.

Old Zhou

A reminder of what was reported yesterday:

A deacon upbraided Rep. Brian Higgins during Sunday morning Mass in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church for voting in favor of embryonic stem cell research....

McDonnell's sermon called attention to a Jan. 11 vote in Congress, which Higgins supported, that would authorize research using embryonic stem cells. McDonnell noted that Higgins was in attendance and suggested that congregants could talk with him about his vote.

SO, the topic is NOT abortion, but destruction of people (embryos) for ESCR; specifically the vote in the House on January 11 in support of H.R. 3.
Apparently on Sunday morning McDonnell added to what he said the night before, and noted Higgins presence and suggested people talk to him.

I think it was great except for that last bit. The good deacon should have stayed focused on the issue (good idea for us, too!).


Mengele lives!

at least 400,000 more.

Parents handing over their own flesh and blood to be butchered...but, hey, it's not for money, so that's okay.

GOP: I have no doubt you do.

This man was actually at Mass and about to do what....? just days after his formal cooperation (movement of the will to external act) in the murder of *about* 400,000 (more) human beings: he wills it, he acts upon it.

Evil is as evil does.

You think Jesus is well pleased with this Deacon? Well?

I do.

Mike E.

You give away what you are REALLY all about with your ridiculous commment about what "drives women to abortion" - as if that made the 'choice' to murder okay.

Women choose abortion because the culture says it's okay. Because people like you seem to think "quality of life" is more important than "life" and because it's convenient. Women choose abortion because their "men" insist, or if they are liberals, because they don't want to live on Long Island and shop at Costco.

Tony, you abso-freakin-lutely know that those democrat policy issues you so love are "false and illusory rights" without FIRST preserving the right to life.

If you want meat, quit pretending that implementing what Kerry/Kennedy/Pelosi want as public policy would somehow reduce the carnage. And actually think - re-read Christifideles Laici:

"The common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination" (Christifideles Laici, no. 38).

Christopher Sarsfield


I find your name to be ironic, because every heresy and every schism ever started has always used your logic. The Church has laws for a reason. Order is a good thing, and anarchy is not. There are plenty of things in the Code of Canon Law, that, in a certain situation, I think could go against the highest law "the salvation of souls," but if everyone could decide for themselves when to follow a law or order and when not to, the Church would be in chaos. If the preaching norms of a bishop are immoral, the priest or deacon has a right to appeal to a higher authority (on earth, he can not act as some prophet of old). He does not have the right to decide on his own what norms are moral and what norms are immoral. We are Catholics not Protestants.


Right Mr. Tucker, that's right. You want me to shut up? You fail to answer any point so you try to intimidate me.

Fair enough.

Jay Anderson

I encourage everyone to read this post by Man With Black Hat. In it, he addresses Archbishop Wuerl's recent response, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, to a woman who asked what he planned to do about pro-abort politicians. The Archbishop responded by asking the questioner "What are YOU doing about it?", which brought a "smattering of applause".

Man With Black Hat, I think correctly, interprets this response as "bullying" and one that had the effect of humiliating the questioner.

I note some parallels with the treatment of this deacon by his bishop. Why is it that some of our prelates are so loathe to publicly criticize anti-life Catholic policians for their very public votes that directly contradict Church teaching, but seem to have no similar qualms about publicly upbraiding and/or humiliating those who take pro-life stands?

As for the commenter here who expressed the following concern:

"How sad that a pro-life issue like embryonic stem-cell research has become so divisive among the Catholic faithful that a deacon believes he should *publically* admonish a public servant at Mass.

The children are watching and listening and, I believe, choosing not to enter public service."

If it means fewer "public servants" like Congressman Higgins, then I'm all for it.

thomas tucker

simon-peter: do you think Jesus is pleased with James Charles Kopp?
Just wondering.
If you answer no, then you must be open to drawing some boundaries somewhere as to what's proper and what's not in the fight against emryonic destruction. And then, we're just drawing boundaries in different places. In which case, you can stop with the head-splitting rage in your posts. If you answer yes, then 'nuff said.

thomas tucker

simon=peter: I haven't told you to shut up. I do think you would be more persuasive if you would quit raving and ranting though.


That's very good Mr. Sarsfield, with only one tiny flaw...that makes all the difference, can you spot it?

BTW, the irony that runs through your post is it self-conscious?

Joe C

Dear defenders of the Deacon,

Please do not use "the would-Jesus-be-proud-of" (fill in the blank) argument. Liberals use this all the time to defend everything and anything. It is empty subjectivity. Defend the deacon with canon law, scripture(as some of you have), church teaching, the lives of the saints(as some of you have) etc.

Sorry. A pet peeve.


I must say, it certainly feels good to be a non-priest today.


thomas tucker

Good advice, Joe.


You said: "could be used to justify the killing of abortionists" then you throw in James Kopp his very self.

Why would you say such things? Of what grave sin are you trying to publicly associate me with Mr. Tucker? Or is this not your intent?

Look, at this point any response is going to be counterproductive.


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