Bishop Wenski leads Mass of Reparation for Obama invite and Catholic ‘complacency’

ppwenski050509 Bishop Thomas Wenski

Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida led a Mass of Reparation on Sunday for Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama and “the sins and transgressions committed against the dignity and sacredness of human life.” Criticizing Catholic “complacency,” he urged the faithful to be “for the world” by living the Gospel.

In his Sunday afternoon homily at the Cathedral of St. James, Bishop Wenski said the University of Notre Dame “chose to defy the Bishops of the United States” by granting him an honorary degree “despite his rather extremist views on abortion.”

“[O]ur purpose here this evening is not to rail against the insensitivity or thoughtlessness exhibited by Notre-Dame’s president and board. As I told a reporter who asked me last week why I am celebrating a Mass of Reparation, ‘I am a bishop; and so I am not going to send upset Catholics to storm Notre-Dame with pitchforks, I am going to tell them to pray.’”

Prayer should not resemble that of the self-righteous Pharisee, he noted.

“In our prayer, we seek to make reparation not just for Notre Dame’s regrettable decision, but more importantly we seek to make reparations for our own complacency. Yes, we pray for Notre Dame – for Notre Dame holds a unique place in the heart of most American Catholics and not just its alumni; but we pray for ourselves as Catholics in America.”

“We Catholics have become too complacent about the legal killing of unborn children in America and elsewhere,” the bishop continued. “This complacency contributed to the climate that led Notre Dame’s president to think that it would be no big deal to defy the bishops in granting this honorary degree to President Obama.”

Bishop Wenski noted as cause for concern President Obama’s rescindment of the Mexico City Policy, his expansion of federal funding for abortion, his allowance of taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research and his challenge to conscience protection laws for pro-life health care workers and institutions.

Noting that Cardinal Francis George, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had pledged cooperation with the new administration, Bishop Wenski said Catholics must work with people of good will to promote the common good.

However, he added, “We must always insist that the common good is never served by making wrongs –like abortion- into rights.” The bestowal of the honorary degree is understood by some to indicate approval and thus undermines the work of bishops, Wenski explained.

Bishop Wenski returned to Catholic complacency, saying:

“We have become complacent, because we have become comfortable – too accommodated and too uncritical of the larger culture in which we live. Perhaps, as Catholics, we have become victims of our own success.”

He warned that Catholics have craved respectability and acceptance and risk surrendering their convictions and principles as a precondition to entering public life.

“The options before us are not just between flight and capitulation: we need not retreat into a Catholic ghetto – for Christ calls us to be in the world; nor, must we necessarily surrender to the culture around us and accept to be absorbed by and assimilated into the ascendant secularism – for Christ tells us not to be of the world. There is a third option, to be for the world. We are best for the world, when we preach and live the gospel coherently. In a world which pretends that God doesn’t matter, we must witness that life is meaningful and joyful only when we live in a way that shows that God does matter.”

The gospel will not change the world “unless the gospel changes us first,” he advised.

Bishop Wenski concluded his homily with a prayer to the Virgin Mary, asking her to intercede for the pardon of sins and the conversion of sinners.

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