Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"This is the time to speak up (against the Obama mandate)" - Cardinal Wuerl

Here is the letter from Cardinal Wuerl that was distributed at all the parishes around the Archdiocese of Washington this weekend which is a response to the latest (and greatest) attack by the Obama administration on religious freedom, particularly against the Catholic Church.

January 30, 2012

Dear Friends,

On January 20, 2012, the United States Department of Health and Human Services with the approval of President Barack Obama issued a new federal mandate making coverage of abortifacient drugs, sterilization and all FDA-approved contraceptives obligatory for virtually all employers, including faith-based institutions.

What is at the center of the concern of Catholic bishops and others about this action by the Obama administration? How can it affect the institutions of the Archdiocese of Washington?

The new mandate is the first federal regulation in our nation’s history to require all faith-based institutions to pay for coverage of abortifacient drugs, sterilization and contraceptives. People were already free to use such widely available products and procedures. Up until this mandate, employers could choose whether or not to cover them and individuals could choose whether or not to seek employers that pay for them. Now nearly all those who provide insurance must include abortifacients, sterilization and contraceptives. Virtually all Catholic institutions and individuals will have to pay for that coverage. Being forced to provide these services violates both our faith conviction and our freedom.

In upholding the HHS regulation, the administration has ignored the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and has denied Catholics the most fundamental freedom, religious liberty. Despite the Church’s appeal for a broader religious exemption, which was echoed by many other faiths, the administration refused to modify the regulation’s current exemption that is limited to religious groups that hire and serve people primarily of their own faith. Most churches and church-run institutions do not qualify for the exemption because of their very openness to serving the common good of society and all people regardless of creed.

Even those who may disagree with the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life, such as the editorial boards of The Washington Post and the New York Daily News, have stated that the government has no business forcing religious institutions to sponsor and pay for procedures and drugs which violate their beliefs.

What will happen if this mandate stands? Our schools, hospitals and charitable organizations will be placed in the untenable position of choosing between violating civil law and abandoning our religious beliefs.

For example, the mandate will allow a Catholic school one of three options:

1) violate its beliefs by providing coverage for medications and procedures we believe are immoral, 2) cease providing insurance coverage for all of its employees and face ongoing and ultimately ruinous fines, or 3) attempt to qualify for the exemption by hiring and serving only Catholics.

A Catholic school simply cannot effectively teach Catholic doctrine while providing insurance to its teachers – and in the case of Catholic universities, to its students as well – that violates its own beliefs. Nor should it have to deny its employees access to affordable health care, a basic human right. Nor could it afford to pay crippling fines. Nor should it be forced to close its doors to non-Catholics.

There can no longer be any doubt that religious liberty in our country is in jeopardy. Only weeks ago, the Obama administration unsuccessfully argued to the Supreme Court that the government has the right to interfere in a church’s choice of its ministers. Thankfully, the Court unanimously rejected this radical position. Undeterred, the government has advanced on another front.

Catholics across America are already fighting this mandate. Catholic journalists of all backgrounds have widely criticized the HHS rules as unjust, and leaders of major Catholic organizations — such as the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Relief Services, and Catholic Charities USA — have also spoken out against them. In the meantime, the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty is actively exploring options for litigation and legislative proposals to remedy this injustice.

This is the time to speak up. This is the time for all our voices to be heard. Therefore, I ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we need to commit ourselves to prayer that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be preserved. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I ask you to visit www.usccb.org/conscience and http://www.mdcathcon.org/ to learn more about this assault on religious liberty and to find the resources to support legislation that would reverse the effects of the administration’s decision.

With gratitude for your collaboration in this very important matter and with every good wish, I am

Faithfully in Christ,

Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington

Monday, January 30, 2012

Homily - 4th Sunday

Please click on today's title for Sunday's homily.  Once in the GW Catholics site, you might have to click on the smaller homily title twice.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mass for Life - homily

Here is the homily (more or less) I gave on Monday at the Mass for Life at DC Armory.  Hopefully, it was the Holy Spirit speaking through me.  Major props to Him for His help (in every homily, of course, but especially this one given the importance, audience and length).

How many of you are loving life? You are loving life! You're here at the rally and Mass for life...with your friends and classmates... and getting ready for the march. This is such a great time. But, you are really loving life cuz...THIS IS ISN'T SCHOOL! You are here because you love Life and hopefully you love your life. One of the most important things to know is that you are surrounded by people who love you...who love your life. The Church loves you!

So, do you love babies? You love babies in the womb? Out of the womb? Do you love big babies? Will you love the big babies who will protest us today? Jesus calls us to love all babies...big or small...even our enemies. If you love babies, you are in the right place. Not every building in Washington, DC loves babies, unfortunately.

How many of you came here from outside the Washington, DC area? So many of you have traveled long distances to be here...rode on buses, slept on floors, gone without showers. We smell you, I mean, we love you and thank you for your sacrifices! How many of you are from the Archdiocese of Washington? For those of you not from here, our sports teams in DC don't give us much to cheer about, so we just cheer for...the Archdiocese/Catholic...yeah, Church! We do want to thank the Archdiocese of Washington for hosting us today. Get it up! They do an incredible job with the rally and Mass for life every year and we are eternally grateful.

My name is Father Greg Shaffer. I am a priest of Washington and the chaplain of the Newman Center at George Washington University here in DC. It is a tremendous privilege to be the homilist at this Mass. I want to start with an impression. It's a man who is very popular...a man of God who puts his faith in Christ out there for all to see. (pose of a man praying with one knee to the ground and his head on his hand). That's right, Pope Benedict! I was just Benedict-ing.

No, that was Tim Tebow, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Yeah, Tebow! He is an extraordinary athlete and even better person. There is so much good to say about him; he is a great example to you in so many ways. The one thing I want to say is that Tim Tebow is not afraid. He is not afraid to be himself...to be the man God calls him to be. He is not afraid to follow Christ...to be a virgin...and to be pro-life...and for the whole world to know it! So, none of you should be afraid to be Catholic...to be chaste...to be pro-life.

How many of you have received the sacrament of Confirmation? That is an awesome sacrament! In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit sealed the deal on your gifts from Baptism. One of those gifts is courage. This is a gift that each one of you needs to be Catholic...to be chaste...to be pro-life. It's harder now more than ever to be a teenager and to be Catholic. Your friends might make fun of you for going to Mass or youth group or a Newman Center in college...or for waiting until you’re married to have sex...or for trying to avoid pornography and masturbation...or for coming to the March for Life. It will take some courage to post on Facebook later today that you were here. You will get comments like, "oh you're one of those anti-abortion people?" Simply reply, "I'm pro life."

This event -and, really, this whole day- is such a victory for life! This really is awesome. This place is a chamber of Heaven today. So, we are experiencing Heaven on earth! And, a victory for life. How do we continue this in our lives? How do we win victory in life and for life? I would like to offer three suggestions.

The first is that if we want to win victory, we need to know the way to victory. Back to Tim Tebow - he and his teammates were given the way to victory before the season began. It came in the form of a playbook...a big, fat playbook with a ton of plays and complex terminology. They had coaches who helped them learn the playbook and implement the plays. They had to work together and play as a team in order for the playbook to work and to have a chance to win.

It's the same with our faith. God has given us a playbook - the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What about the Bible, you ask? Well, the Catechism is based on Scripture and contains all of the main teachings of the Bible. It explains how to live the Bible. Now, you might be thinking, 'the Catechism is huge! I don't know it and wouldn't know how to learn it'. Well, you also have coaches to help you - parents, teachers, youth ministers, priests, religious, bishops, and even the Pope! This pope is a great teacher and a HUGE advocate of youth...as was his predecessor, John Paul II.

So, your coaches will help you to see that the Catechism tells us the way to victory in life....the way to happiness. It is in living the virtues. How many of you know what the virtue of chastity is? See, you know the Catechism! Living chastity means living sexual purity. If you want success in relationships, then chastity is the way. Chastity is all about control.

It's just like football. The most successful teams in football are all about control. A good defense controls the offense; girls, do you hear me? A good offense controls the football and the clock; guys, do you hear me? The offenses that are out of control, looking for a quick score or touchdown are not the most successful. It's the ones that take their time, control the ball, and patiently go down the field that have the most success. It's not the most exciting team to have, but it is the most successful...and fulfilling. Couples who do the same with relationships find the same results. Those who show control in living emotional and physical chastity and wait until they are married to have sex - wait until they cross the goal line to score a touchdown - they win victory. Those who don’t, well…one study (University of Chicago, 1992) found that men who have had sex before marriage are 63% more likely to get divorced than if they had not; women are 76% more likely to divorce if they have premarital sex. Chastity and all the virtues are the way to victory.

We need to know the truth in order to win victory. Football teams spend about half of their time preparing for their games by learning the truth about their opponents. We need to know our opponent and what his game plan is. Part of our opponent’s game plan is to attack life in the womb through abortion. He is going after our MVPs who are mothers. He wants to destroy the bond between mother and child which is the strongest bond on earth. He recognizes that motherhood is the most important work on earth. Let me repeat that to all of our young women here: motherhood is the most important work on earth. He has gone of offense to destroy not only life but marriage and family. He has some strong players in the game to do this: divorce, contraception, same-sex marriage, and pornography. And, now, he is attacking one of our best players: religious freedom. We need to know the truth about our opponent, the devil, and his culture of death.

We also need to know the truth about our team, the culture of life. A young woman named Kristen was pro-choice. She went to spend the night at the house of a long-time friend. On her way in, she noticed a pro-life bumper sticker on her car. Later that night, they were talking, and she asked, “what’s the deal with that bumper sticker? Aren’t you for a woman’s right to choose?” They then got into a discussion about abortion and her friend shredded every one of Kristen’s arguments, as Kristen has put it. Her friend knew her stuff and she told her the truth about life in the womb – that the baby has DNA at conception, a heartbeat at 18 days, brain waves at six weeks, and so forth. The baby in the womb is a person with rights, especially the right to life. Kristen said that her friend spoke with such wisdom and truth that she became pro-life that night! Now, she is a pro-life advocate. By the way, a short video called “180” is excellent in learning the truth about life in the womb and abortion – check it out on 180.com. Know the truth and speak the truth! As St. Paul writes, “be a good minister of Christ…let no one have contempt for your youth…save both yourself and those who listen to you”. We need to know the truth to win victory….for ourselves, for others, and for life!

Finally, we need to know the life. If you were listening to the Gospel, and I hope you were, you know where I am going with this. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” We need to know Christ to win victory. Christ is the life! He is life itself. In the incredible first reading from Deuteronomy 30, God says when you can choose between death and life, choose life. We know that this really means to choose Christ...and His Gospel of Life. It's not until we choose Christ that our life really begins. He is the life. He became life for us. He entered into death - the man was dead on the Cross - and rose from the dead. He became life for us!

It is in the resurrection of Christ that we win victory. The Resurrection is our Victory! He won victory over death...over sin...over abortion...over the culture of death. He is the winning team. The game has been won...forever. The question is, then, will we be on the winning team? Will we share in Christ's victory?

At this Mass, we share in His victory. When we come to the Eucharist, Confession, or any of the sacraments, we share in the victory. Christ gives us His Grace that is a share in God's victory...a share in God's life. This life is soooo sweet! It is the sweetest life on earth. The life is so beautiful, so good, so holy, so pure, so exciting, and so joyful. It is Heaven on earth.

If you know people living the life, you can see their joy. You can see a glow to them. There's a secret to them and to anyone living the life. It is the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that we encounter “the living God”, as St Paul writes. The Eucharist is the center of the life. It is the center of the lives of the saints...it is how to become a saint! It is the center of the lives if the saints you know. They go to daily Mass (in addition to Sunday Mass) and Eucharistic Adoration. They are living the life and they are loving life. I see it with so many of the students at GW who are coming out to the Eucharist in droves. They are finding out what Jesus has said that whoever receives the Eucharist has life...and will bear much fruit...and will live forever.

If you and I center our lives on the Eucharist, we will win victory and find happiness. I promise you that. Also, I promise you that if you center your life on the Eucharist, you will find your vocation...you will find your calling. I like to say the Eucharist is "C.O.O.L." - center of our lives. If we make the Eucharist "COOL", we will find happiness in this life and in eternal life.

Last point, and this is one that I make to my students all the time. You are good and you are loved. I want you to truly believe those two things deeply in your heart. If people really believed in their hearts that they are good and they are loved, the world would be a different place (and most counselors would be out of business). You are good. God created you, and God don’t make junk! Everything that comes from God is good. God actually said that you are very good when He created you. You are loved. I truly hope that you know that you are loved here. We love your life. I hope you each love your life. God loves your life. He loves you. He loves you for who you are. Before He formed you in the womb, He knew you and loved you. There is no one else in the world like you. God has a unique love for you. It’s very important on this day of big crowds and lots of faces for each of us to not lose sight of our uniqueness…and that we are persons and children of God. I think it’s important that each one of us says our first name aloud right now: _____________, you are good and you are loved. Can I get an “Amen”? Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Homily - 3rd Sunday

Please click on today's title for Sunday's homily.  Once in the GW Catholics site, you might have to click on the smaller homily title twice.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

U.S. Government vs. Religious Freedom

The cereal at breakfast didn't go down too well this morning.  In the middle of my first bite of Honey Nut Cheerios, I scanned the front page of the Washington Post and saw the headline, "Birth Control Rule Covers Church Affiliates".  The first few lines gave me stomach pains immediately:  "Most church-affiliated organizations will be required to offer their workers coverage of birth control as part of their health plans, the Obama administration announced Friday, but they can get more time than other employers to comply."

I realized immediately what people have been saying for three years: our religious freedom is under attack. Yes, the issue of contraception is important.  Yes, this is especially bothersome (and ironic) on the eve of the March for Life.  Yes, this is very meaningful to me as a chaplain because I just had a fruitful night last Tuesday with our students talking about life issues, including contraception.  Yes, I was hoping to just focus on life issues this weekend in my homilies (Sunday night and Monday).  But, with this being the latest in a series of actions by our government, it points to a much bigger issue that should scare any Catholic, person of faith, or really any American who believes in the constitutional values on which our country was founded: our religious freedom is under attack.

The only good news I've heard or read all day with this is the last line of the Catholic New Agency article which is a quote from the Pope.  He basically says that young people are our hope in this battle.  This means you, GW Catholics!

(more excerpts from the Post)
The decision came as a bitter disappointment to organizations ranging from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the National Association of Evangelicals, which had lobbied hard for a broad exemption for employers that oppose birth control on religious grounds.

“This is nothing less than a direct attack on religion and First Amendment rights,” said Franciscan Sister Jane Marie Klein, head of a system of 13 Catholic hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.

The rule, which was first announced last summer and which has drawn more than 200,000 comments, requires private insurance not merely to include birth control, but to do so without out-of-pocket charges. It will take effect beginning Aug. 1, as plans renew.

From the beginning, the rule exempted employers such as churches whose primary purpose is to inculcate religious beliefs and that mainly employ and serve individuals who share those beliefs. Religious advocates argued that this definition was too narrow, excluding a wide range of church-affiliated universities, hospitals and schools.

On Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled a small change: Religious organizations will be allowed an extra year to comply with the requirement. But the rule itself and the types of employers covered by it will remain unchanged, she said.

The delay was no consolation to Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” he said. “The Obama administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand.”

(from yesterday's Catholic News Service)

Coming at the start of an election year, Pope Benedict's words were clearly relevant to American politics, a connection he made explicit by mentioning threats to "that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion."

The pope said that many of the visiting bishops had told him of "concerted efforts" against the "right of conscientious objection ... to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices" -- an apparent reference to proposals by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, opposed by the U.S. bishops, that all private health insurance plans cover surgical sterilization procedures and artificial birth control.

In response to such threats, Pope Benedict said, the church requires an "engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity" with the courage and critical skills to articulate the "Christian vision of man and society." He said that the education of Catholic laypeople is essential to the "new evangelization," an initiative that he has made a priority of his pontificate.

Touching on one of most controversial areas of church-state relations in recent years, the pope spoke of Catholic politicians' "personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith, especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time," which he identified as "respect for God's gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights."

The pope was not specific about the bishops' relationship with such politicians, merely encouraging the bishops to "maintain contacts" with them and "help them understand" their duty to promote Catholic values.

While acknowledging the "genuine difficulties" facing the church in the United States, the pope concluded on a hopeful note, pointing to a growing appreciation for "Judeo-Christian" civic values, and a "new generation of Catholics," who he said will play a "decisive role in renewing the Church's presence and witness in American society."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

March for Life this Monday

March for Life is a gathering of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Pro-Life people from across the country, coming together to stand up for every human life and to bring an end to abortion. C'mon, GW, represent!!

Please join us for any of the following events:

Rally and Mass for Life!

... This year's mass will be especially wonderful because our very own Father Greg will be giving the Homily at the Armory. Join 10,000 other Catholics for a Mass that you will never forget. We will be meeting at 7 AM to head over to mass!

Lunch and March!

We will be back at the Newman Center for lunch at 1:15 and will be Marching to the Capitol shortly after. We will be getting dinner afterwards for all who attend!

You read that all correctly: You get Mass, Free Lunch, Free Dinner, and the opportunity to join with hundreds of thousands of people as they stand for Life! AND you get a FREE "GW CATHOLICS FOR LIFE" hat for attending either event!


We will also be gathering after 7:30 Mass Sunday, at the Newman Center, to make signs and shirts! Bring your own shirts if you want to decorate!