I had hoped to go up to Portand yesterday for the installation of Abp. Alexander Sample, but wasn’t able to make the trip. But plenty of other folks were in attendance, as The Oregonian reports:
The Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample became the 11th archbishop of Portland in formal ceremonies Tuesday at the University of Portland’s Chiles Center. More than 3,500 people, Catholics and guests, filled the allotted seats, and then some, as they listened intently to the papal letter that named their new shepherd.
The Vatican delegate to the U.S., the Most Rev. Carlo Maria Vigano, read the Jan. 29 communication from then-Pope Benedict XVI. Vigano presented the apostolic letter to Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the archdiocese, who showed it, in turn, to 11 priests representing the archdiocese college of consulters, and then to all assembled.
Vigano and retiring Portland archbishop, the Most Rev. John G. Vlazny, led Sample to the cathedra, the purple velvet chair designated for the archbishop. In white robes trimmed in deep blue, Sample took his seat. The people’s applause became a standing ovation.
Cardinal William J. Levada, archbishop of Portland from 1986-1995, the former leader of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took part in the Mass of installation. The procession, which took 15 minutes to pass, included about 30 archbishops, bishops and abbots, 200 priests from Portland and other dioceses, representatives from the ethnic and cultural groups in the archdiocese and guests from other Christian denominations and religions.
The newspaper reports that the new archbishop spoke in “a strong, clear voice”, thanking his predecessor, Abp. John Vlazny for his fifteen years of service, and then gave a homily focused on the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ:
“Jesus Christ has risen from the dead,” he said. “He calls us to be witnesses of his resurrection before the world.” Sample spoke slowly and emphatically: “We must keep our eyes always fixed on Jesus.” Looking around the room he continued. “It is not about me. It is always about him, and we must never lose sight of that.”
Sample referred to his episcopal motto, which translates from the Latin: “to contemplate the face of Christ.”
Archbp. Sample’s sermon was the real deal. After he got some of the necessary warm-up boxes checked, he gave a strong homily. Hopefully we can get the audio or video of that part posted here soon.
I especially enjoyed the moment in which Sample cited the Latin phrase, Nemo dat quod non habet, which in macaronic Latin is “Nemo dat quod non got”. This was great because the late Msgr Schuler in St. Paul at St. Agnes parish, where Archbp. Sample lived as a university student, used to quote that all the time. I can’t help but think that the Latin phrase was a tip of the mitre in monsignor’s direction.
I’ve lived in Oregon since 1991, lived in Portland from 1991-95, and entered the Church when Francis George was archbishop (for less than a year), in 1997. There will be, I’m betting, a bit of culture shock for Archbishop Sample, but I am heartened by the firm words spoken in his homily:
Sample spoke of “radical secularism” in a society that doesn’t just push God to the margins “but right off the page.” He lamented “a tyranny of relativism” that does not agree in “eternal and unchangeable truths” of human dignity. And he addressed “the challenges of our own making.”
“The scandals that have plagued the church in recent years have damaged our credibility,” he said. “Some of your leaders, your pastors have let you down and done great harm.” Sample said the church must keep its pledges to protect “God’s children and young people.”
The general disdain for Christianity and the specific animosity toward Catholicism, especially in Portland and Eugene (where I’ve lived since 1995), is difficult to overstate. There is a large segment of the population that, to put it bluntly but truthfully, would love to see the Church go away, be ruined, be utterly destroyed. If you think I overstate the case, take a few moments and read the comments on the Oregonian article. Here are some, well, samples:
• “There is nothing more evil in this world than the Vatican position on birth control. Billions of humans swarming over the planet, rapidly increasing damage, but a few secretive old men peddling a worn-out superstition think they can make all the decisions.”
• “They have every reason to fear “radical secularism”. The catholic church is losing relevance every day, as more and more people realize that religious dogma is in direct conflict with common sense and human decency.”
• “Look at that line up. All old white guys. They’ve all been party to the corruption and abuse by ignoring it. Misogyny reigns in the Catholic Church. They wouldn’t know Jesus if he walked into that assembly and introduced himself. So, Samples, preaching Jesus doesn’t mean a thing coming for you and your old cronies.”
• “Another raft of medieval cant. How is this news? Shame, Oregonian, and even more shame on your, Sample, you incanter of nothing. You wouldn’t recognize a moral if it slapped your face. Creep.”
• “May they become as irrelevant and extinct as the supplicants who used to worship Zeus.”
• “Continuously rendering themselves increasingly IRRELEVANT”
I didn’t say the haters were intelligent or know their leftist foot from the secularist holes in their heads, just that they are haters who think the word “relevance” is some sort of magic mantra that banishes the Catholic Church from society, nay, existence. At least The Oregonian had the journalistic decency to post a story and several pictures of the installation. (In this photo, the deacon to the immediate right of Abp. Sample is my good friend, Dn. Harold Burke-Sivers, a wonderful speaker who is often on EWTN.) Meanwhile, the newspaper of record here in Eugene (a city with eight Catholic parishes), The Register Guard, doesn’t appear to have any articles about the event. Regardless, welcome to Oregon, Archbishop Sample!
(For more about the archbishop, read CWR’s February 4th interview with him, “Portland’s new archbishop: ‘I’m a teacher at heart.’“)