Sunday, September 30, 2007

Your jobs or your integrity . . .

To save jobs and money our Connecticut Bishops blinked on Catholic teaching. I'm not as angry as I was yesterday because I've concluded that the legislature basically used a straw-man to further their anti-religious fervor. We could have fought a much better campaign against their false teachings. After all, we have the truth on our side. But we lost fair and square, and only more involvement in the legislative process (and really better education of the Catholic public), earlier and more frequently, could have prevented the capitulation last week.

You can read Bishop Lori's 9/29/07 blog providing some of the background to the Conference's retreat and it ultimately boils down to a very tiny chance of killing a very tiny person versus the very real possibility of losing a lot of money, jobs and healthcare for many. sigh.

Consider this . . . the pro-abortion advocates at the legislature basically dreamed up what is really a fantasy scenario whereby a recently raped, ovulating woman, without a ride, at a Connecticut Catholic hospital really wants, but is denied, Plan B. This scenario is a far-fetched pro-choice fantasy and has never happened and probably never will. Nevertheless, they easily coax public opinion in their favor. It really isn't hard since the Church hardly puts up a fight. But anyway, they get the legislation passed. Are the bishops really supposed to spend a ton of money on legal fees, fire people from their jobs (because that is what will happen if they close emergency rooms), basically "fall on their sword" over what is probably an imaginary scenario? Prudence would say "no."

Very likely no lives will be lost from complying with this law. What has really died is a big teaching moment and witness for the truth, and frankly, those moments "pass away" every day. I would like the bishops to "fight back" against the forces of evil in our legislature, but I would also like them to be real agents for teaching the catechism at Confirmation, to scold pro-choice legislators (Hello Representatives DeLauro, Larson, Lawler), to enthusiastically encourage abstinence and natural family planning, theology of the body, real feminism, and come down hard on contraception in general. I think a reason we lost at the legislature is that most Catholics in Connecticut didn't even know the church still believes life begins at conception, or why it matters. Isn't THAT the real scandal.

The bishops created this mess for themselves, no doubt. The Conference has been without a head for their legislative arm for over a year. Months of inter-diocese nit-picking, hem-hawing, and general lackadaisical management of the process has ensured mass-confusion at the Capitol on issues that effect the laity and the church. (Did anyone notice that the position for Director of the CT Catholic Conference just finished a second round of advertising. What is going on there?) The laity remains woefully uneducated on their democratic responsibilities as Catholic citizens. Paralyzed by fear of losing their tax-exempt status, CT Catholic churches seem unable to encourage even their church-going members to vote a pro-life ticket, or to even vote at all.

But we can't just blame the bishops. Anyone who didn't at least contact their legislator about Plan B, attend Catholic Concerns Day, work on a campaign, write a letter to the editor, attend a hearing, or encourage friends and relatives to do so are also partly to blame for the passage of Plan B. Don't feel too bad though. The bishops were nowhere to be seen at the Capitol in the weeks leading up to the vote. Here is Archbishop Mansell pirogi-ing it up in Poland with the Knights of Columbus on May 5, the week Plan B hit high gear at the Capitol. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, and the stingy, resolute forces at the Capitol still would have won this year. But imagine for a moment the tall, commanding, peaceful, assuring, fatherly yet stern presence of Archbishop Mansell strolling the Capitol corridors, gently asking to speak with a legislator or 2. It would have turned many votes and minds. He could have gotten 50 people to show up with him at a press conference and maybe he wouldn't be in this "pirogi" now.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Local Reaction to Plan B sucker punch

Connecticut old timers will tell you that this isn't the first time the CT Conference of Catholic Bishops has weakened near the end of a legislative battle. With Connecticut's adoption of laws legalizing abortion and liberalizing homosexuality, the CT Conference of Catholic Bishops after initial strong and forceful resistance, has a tradition of trading their moral authority for quiet and quick compromises. You don't blame some for suggesting that the Archdiocese was blackmailed and threatened into making some of these unsavory legislative compromises. But I have my own thoughts below.

I tuned into Brad Davis this morning while brushing my teeth and nearly gagged when he claimed that any Catholic that disagreed with Archbishop Mansell is a Catholic with a "problem." Now usually this type of reflux means that I'm pregnant again, but this time it was genuine disgust. Brad Davis had a long "conversation" with Archbishop Mansell on behalf of the disgruntled parishoners at Mt. Carmel in Waterbury last week. I think the Archbishop put the local version of the "Papal Whammy" on Brad, because ever since his "conversation," Brad Davis hasn't breathed a word against the Archbishop. I even learned this morning that Brad is a "Roman Catholic," something I didn't know after listening to him all these years.

On the spiritual front, we have reports of a crucifix bleeding (what is the official Catholic term for this?) at a parish in northern Connecticut. I am not at liberty to give more details, but at least one witness has "connected the dots" to the Archbishop. In particular, the Archbishop is scheduled to bless their new sanctuary soon, and if icons start weeping across Connecticut when the Archbishop shows, well . . . you heard it here first.

The level of "sucker punch" is strong with area Catholics, of course. But even local legislators are expressing their bewilderment over the Conference's behavior. Mark Pazniokas of the Hartford Courant had a brief report in CAUCUS - Politics from CT to DC, and reports that Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. stated:
For those very same bishops to do a 180-degree turnabout two days before the legislation becomes law, without any adequate explanation, is incomprehensible," Cafero said. "It shows apparent disregard and disrespect for the political process and those of us who worked in their behalf.
I wonder what changed. Why didn't the CT Conference change their Plan B protocols 2 years ago? It would have saved me and countless other loyal Connecticut Catholics time spent writing letters, talking to fellow parishioners, defending Catholic teaching, protesting with several small children at the Capitol. What a waste of time! A holy, Catholic friend of mine can only think of the poor souls lost. But me, I'm concerned with the egg on our collective faces.

Talk about egg on your face, the Family Institute of Connecticut (an ecumenical, non-partisan organization) was searching for a person with whom they could file a suit against the State to stop Plan B. Who knows whether they will proceed. Getting out there to fight the culture wars can leave you a little lonely. This topic is also burning up the Catholic blogosphere. For other discussions about the Conference's turnabout on Plan B, you can see: American Papist Curt Jester Jimmy Akin (Part 1 and Part 2) and Diogenes.

Nationally, Deal Hudson, formerly of Crisis Magazine, is urging Catholics to contact the CT Catholic Conference and adds in his article on
When official institutions of the Catholic Church make these kinds of decisions, the rest of us end up looking, well, silly.
My husband reminds me that it's the legislation, not the bishops, that require us to drop the ovulation test. So, it's not like the bishops thought this up on their own 2 days ago. It came from the anti-Catholics at the legislature, whose heads nearly popped when they found out the hospitals were administering ovulation tests! But, the whole hub-bub about ovulation all comes from the Church. It was part of their initial, well-thought protocols. The test, though imperfect, was there to err on the side of life.

I just have to believe that when presented with a what could be considered a reasonable "way out" by their expensive attorneys, the loss of untold funds from the state, and even more money about to be spent on a possibly fruitless lawsuit, the bishops eyes glazed over, they started mumbling to themselves about monstrance polish, gave a slow head-nod to their fancy attorneys and set into motion their plans for retreat.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Outrage and Shame over Plan B in Connecticut

I have a set of grandparents who, back-in-the-day, used to be quite sharp and acerbic, they spoke the truth without regard to noses bent or feelings hurt (especially when it came to mine). But now, when they hear disagreement, they get a far-away look and glassy-eyed, they stare at the floor, shrug their shoulders and mumble something about diabetic shoes. They forget their manners and pretend you were not talking. They change the subject and undermine or even contradict previously held truths. Their former zeal for taking-down falsehoods now lost in a fog of daily talk-shows and newspaper gossip columns. It's like they have retired their minds.

The same "retirement of mind" appears to have happened to our Connecticut bishops. No longer willing to call Plan B an abortifacient (as, until very recently, even Plan B's website self-referred to as such), they issued a collective "far-away look" Thursday and mumbled at least 3 times that they are actually unsure what Plan B does. Let me refresh their memories from their own Connecticut Conference of Catholic Bishop's Q&A still, temporarily I presume, located on their website:

7) Connecticut�s Catholic hospitals have said that Plan B can sometimes cause an abortion. Is this correct?

The primary mechanism of Plan B is to prevent ovulation, and therefore conception.

The secondary mechanism of Plan B is to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, which is abortion. This is confirmed on the manufacturer's web site that says, Plan B may also work by preventing it (the fertilized egg) from attaching to the uterus (womb).

8) Is it a true statement to say that forcing Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B under all cases is equivalent to forcing Catholic hospitals to perform an abortion?


When Plan B cannot act as a contraceptive, it can only act to cause an abortion. Forcing Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B in these situations forces the hospitals to perform abortions.
Well, well. I don't know how they could have been more acerbic or truthful there. Nothing like plain-talkin to drive home a point. Now for the glassy-eyes from yesterday's press release . . .
The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present. To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.

Since the teaching authority of the Church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work, the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have stated that Catholic hospitals in the State may follow protocols that do not require an ovulation test in the treatment of victims of rape, . . . .

OK, now that I am sitting on my chair again, can we just address the little statement "because of the current impossibility of knowing . . . whether a new life is present." How many times have you sat in a college dorm, stood by the company water cooler, eaten at the family dinner table and had that nugget of wisdom spat at you. . . "Well, nobody knows if it's really a life, so abortion isn't killing." That line is so, well, 1980s. If the bishops are going to start spewing pro-choice propaganda, they should at least bring their arguments into the current century and claim while a fertilized egg may be alive, it isn't a person.

Next. Who was the lucky person at the CT Conference that had the task of so blatantly backtracking from the Bishop's noble and forceful original position? I hope it wasn't Barry Feldman, that poor guy looks like he is about to get a case of the vapors every time I see him on TV.

Besides arguing that they should err on the side of destroying life, the Bishops make a crucial blunder by suggesting they have no moral obligation to provide an ovulation test. How queer, I thought the debate was about abortion, not ovulation tests. What the bishops have done, perhaps unknowingly, is misdirect the focus of the debate to ovulation tests and create an effective diversion. It is a cheap debating trick used by every high school debate team.

"To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act" they state. What about administering Plan B without a pregnancy test? Would that be "intrinsically evil"? I think so. And to those people (i.e. Catholics) who equate the soul of a fertilized egg with the soul of a gestating baby, what difference should there be? Both deserve a test before being subjected to a deadly drug. And suppose there was no accurate test? Then we must err on the side of life and not administer the deadly drug at all. The Bishops have made a heart-sickening slight of hand. Claiming if they avert their eyes, then no evil is taking place.

The alternative to testing, isn't administering Plan B blindfolded, it is to not administer Plan B at all. Avoiding culpability because they didn't "know" or refused to "know" smacks me of moral relativism.

I also find their choice of the word "intrinsic" interesting. Intrinsic, is defined, in part, as "belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing". If something is "intrinsically evil", it is evil without regard to knowledge or purpose. Causing abortions IS intrinsically evil even if you don't know for sure you did it. Knowledge is irrelevant. I think the word the bishops, or their lowly attorney, was actually searching for was "intentional". Administering Plan B without an ovulation test could possibly not be "intentionally evil", but judgment will be deferred on that question to a later day and a much higher Judge.

I have more to say on this topic, but have to defer completion till tomorrow. . .

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Upcoming Events

At 3 p.m. today there will be a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford for married couples celebrating special anniversaries in the year 2007.

At 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 7 th the Archdiocese of Hartford will hold its annual Rosary Rally at Immaculate Conception Church in Waterbury.

At noon on Saturday, October 13th there will be a public forum and recitation of the rosary on the green in front of St. Teresa's Church in Woodbury to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

Of late, I've been blogging about the bad stuff about our Church appearing in the local papers. But there's lots of good stuff happening that--surprise! surprise!--you probably won't hear about in those same papers. We'll make more of an effort to bring the good stuff to your attention as well. If you hear of a CT Catholic event that should be mentioned in this space, e-mail us at

Fr. Grant Screws Up Big

He's either guilty or an idiot:
Naugatuck priest arrested again

NAUGATUCK — A borough priest accused
last month of sexually assaulting a
teenage boy was arrested at St. Mary's
Church on Saturday after he attempted to
have contact with his alleged
The Rev. Robert J. Grant, was outside
of his car near the North
Main Street church when he tried to call the boy, who
was also near the
church, over to where he was standing, said Lt. Robert
Harrison, Naugatuck
Police spokesman.
Grant, a Roman Catholic priest who
formerly served St.
Mary's and St. Hedwig's churches, was charged with breach of
peace and was
released on $200,000 bond Saturday night. He is scheduled to
appear in
Waterbury Superior Court on Oct. 3.

I mentioned before how his parishioners were standing by him. Will that still be true after today's news?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Big Fuss at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Parishioners at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Waterbury are again making their voice heard via the front page of the local newspaper:

WATERBURY -- A group of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parishioners has decided
to stop making weekly contributions to the church to protest the continued lack
of a pastor.
The Rev. David Borino was transferred from the Town Plot parish
in March by the Archdiocese of Hartford pending the outcome of an investigation
into unspecified financial irregularities in the church. The parish finance
director also was placed on administrative leave.
Since then there has been
no communication to the parish from the diocese, which also has let several of
its own deadlines to conclude the investigation pass without comment.
will not give any more money until it's resolved and we have Father Borino
back," said Rocco Orso, one of the leaders of a group of about 150 parishioners
who have been meeting to discuss the matter.

In fact, the archdiocese's spokesman is quoted later in the article saying that it had concluded its investigation and is waiting for Fr. Borino to respond to its findings.

It's easy to feel some sympathy for both the parish and the archdiocese in this matter. On the one hand, many who've dealt with the archdiocese on behalf of their parishes know firsthand how unresponsive the archdiocese can be.

On the other hand, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parishioners are known for making a stink in the press when they feel they have not been adequately consulted about something. In today's article they complain about priests arriving 45 minutes late for funeral masses and not visiting their hospitalized parishioners. I'm sure it is indeed the case that the spiritual needs of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parishioners are not being met. And, given the archdiocese's growing priest shortage, I'm sure it's true elsewhere too. Have any priestly vocations come out of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish lately to help us address the problem? If so, the article doesn't mention it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Priests in the News

Yes, it's been awhile since we've blogged, but can you blame us? Here's a run-down on a few items that are simply unavoidable for a blog whose title is "The Connecticut Catholic." As you'll see, they're not pleasant topics.

First, there's this in today's Courant:

A former New Milford man claims in a lawsuit filed Friday against the Roman
Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford that he was repeatedly abused by a Simsbury
priest 30 years ago.
Niles Mallory charges that, beginning when he was 16
years old, the Rev. Ivan Ferguson assaulted him in Ferguson's bedroom in the
rectory of St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church in the Tariffville section of
The sexual assaults took place in 1977 and 1978, according to the
Before he died at age 68 in 2002, Ferguson was sued for similar
behavior. A $22 million settlement between the Hartford Archdiocese and 43
victims in 2005 was designed in part to compensate an unspecified number of
Ferguson's victims.

And a few days earlier there was this:

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A former priest pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of
thousands of dollars from his church by setting up secret bank accounts to pay
for a life of luxury, including traveling around the world and buying a
The Rev. Michael Jude Fay, who resigned last year as pastor of
St. John Roman Catholic Church, pleaded guilty Wednesday to interstate
transportation of money obtained by fraud. He faces up to 10 years in prison, a
$250,000 fine and must pay restitution.
Prosecutors said Fay took between $1
million and $2.5 million over seven years, but the priest has disputed that. He
admitted taking between $400,000 and $1 million.

The papers have been extraordinarily reticent about how Fay's fraud was specifically to pay for that "life of luxury" with his homosexual lover. Of course, they're far less reticent in the alleged details regarding Fr. Grant:

WATERBURY — A Roman Catholic priest at two Naugatuck churches allegedly
coerced a teenage boy into giving him oral sex several times in exchange for
wine and money, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released at Waterbury
Superior Court on Wednesday.
A 16-year-old boy alleged in the affidavit that
the Rev. Robert J. Grant, 63, of St. Mary's and St. Hedwig's churches, paid him
between $100 and $150 each time the boy performed oral sex on Grant. The
affidavit also says that the boy, who was 15 when the incidents began between
July and August 2006, gave Grant several back massages at St. Mary's Church in
exchange for $50 each time.

The Archdiocese appears to have been taken completely by surprise regarding the allegations against Fr. Grant. The first press accounts quoted officials saying Fr. Grant had a spotless record during his 14 years as a priest. Grant is also a member of the Fraternity of Priests, a group of priests within the Archdiocese known for their doctrinal orthodoxy. The rumor in Naugatuck is that the alleged victim is the son of a church janitor whom Fr. Grant had just fired and that the accusation is some sort of payback. And the Waterbury newspaper ran a seperate article just on the strong support Grant has received from his parishes in the wake of these allegations. None of this proves he's innocent, of course, but it's worth noting the strong support he has on the ground in Naugatuck.

Finally, I want to note one happy item--the passing of an elderly priest of the Bridgeport diocese who was a good man and known for his committment to the pro-life cause. Fr. Bill Smith was also a friend to Donna Maria of the Embracing Motherhood blog:

I have known dear Fr. Bill for almost thirty years and have learned so much
from his holy life. I plan to write about him soon in upcoming posts, but for
now I am weary. It has been a long week - watching Fr. Bill in his last days.
When he barely had strength to continue living, he was concerned about giving us
blessings - sometimes in Latin! The blessings in his last couple of days were
given to us with a hand almost too weak to be lifted. His love for his friends
and family will continue, no doubt from his eternal rest.