Friday, April 30, 2010

Prayer Breakfast report

Just got back from the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
Mass was celebrated bright and early by Bishop Thomas Paprocki, the newly-appointed bishop of Springfield. He announced that he had chosen the date of his installation to coincide with the feast of the English martyrs John Fisher (bishop) and Thomas More (patron of politicians and lawyers). Bishop Paprocki is a lawyer himself, both in civil law (he established legal clinics here in Chicago for the poor) and in Canon Law. He figured that the example of the two martyrs would speak volumes at a time like this!
At the breakfast itself, the "Simply Catholic" award was given to Rep. Dan Lipinski, especially for his defense of human life in saying "I'm not in" when pressured to vote in favor of the Senate health reform bill. The keynote speaker was the bishop of Oakland, CA, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone. He spoke about his experience with California's "Proposition 8" (upholding the definition of marriage) and on the ecumenical action behind the vote.
Among other things, the bishop commented that "we Catholics do not fit conveniently into any political pigeonhole. This is what it means to be 'simply Catholic'." (The expression "simply Catholic" comes from Cardinal George's book, "The Difference God Makes.") The bishop commented about how much he learned, and how inspired he was, by the Evangelicals' practice of fasting: the entire initiative upholding Proposition 8 was spiritual, with a commitment to extended fasting and prayer (40 days without let up, sustained only on an evening dish of soup). "This is a new ecumenical moment": Catholics, Evangelicals and Latter Day Saints were united in the effort, recognizing that "this is an issue that defines civilization." Even though it is, Cordileone said, "not our role as bishops to play a part in the political process, we do have to support our lay people," and sometimes that means helping to educate them, and "make them aware of what is at stake." (I think that many times Catholics who do not "accept all that the Church teaches" do not realize that they are probably pretty uncritical in accepting all that the wider culture teaches, so that their Catholic identity is more cultural/emotional than adult. Why do they think it is mature to reject "what the Church teaches" when they do not question what they see around them?)
Among young adults (who demographically are more likely to be ambivalent about the definition of marriage, and who may believe that restricting marriage to one man and one woman is "discrimination"), the realization that "children need a father and a mother" is the most effective way to put forward the foundational notion of marriage.
"There will be a price to pay. People will be punished" for their efforts on behalf of marriage and the sanctity of life, the bishop said, giving examples of people who suffered retaliation for their support of Proposition 8: jobs lost, death threats, assaults, blatant religious bigotry (especially against the Mormons).
"These two ideas of marriage are incompatible... It's not 'live and let live'...only one definition can be left standing." Just as labor was the "burning issue" in the time of Pope Leo XIII, marriage and the family is the critical issue of our time.
The bishop's talk was projected on big screens for those of us on the outer edges of the room; perhaps it was also video-taped. I hope so!

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