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Is it weird that Catholics venerate relics? Here’s why we do

November 29, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Houston, Texas, Nov 29, 2019 / 12:02 pm (CNA).- “We are many parts, but we are all one body,” says the refrain of a popular ’80s Church hymn, based on the words of 1 Cor. 12:12. 

While we are one body in Christ, if you happen to be a Catholic saint, the many parts of your own body might be spread out all over the world. 

Take, for example, St. Catherine of Siena.  

A young and renowned third-order Dominican during the Middle Ages, she led an intense life of prayer and penance and is said to have single-handedly ended the Avignon exile of the successors of Peter in the 14th century.

When she died in Rome, her hometown of Siena, Italy, wanted her body. Realizing they would probably get caught if they took her whole corpse, the Siena thieves decided that it would be safer if they just took her head. 

When they were stopped on their way out by guards outside of Rome, they said a quick prayer, asking for St. Catherine of Siena’s intercession. The guards opened the bag and did not find the dead head of St. Catherine, but a bag full of rose petals. Once the thieves were back in Siena, Catherine’s head re-materialized, one of the many miracles attributed to the saint. 

The head of St. Catherine of Siena was placed in a reliquary in the Basilica of St. Dominic in Siena, where it can still be venerated today, along with her thumb. Her body remains in Rome, her foot is venerated in Venice. 

From the Shroud of Turin, or the finger of St. Thomas, to the miraculous blood of St. Januarius, or the brain of St. John Bosco, the Catholic Church keeps and venerates many curious but nevertheless holy artifacts, known as relics, from Jesus and the saints. 

To the outsider, the tradition of venerating relics (particularly of the corporeal persuasion) may seem like an outlandishly morbid practice. 

But the roots of the tradition pre-date Jesus, and the practice is based in Scripture and centuries of Church teaching. 

While it’s one of the most fascinating traditions of the Church, it can also be one of the most misunderstood. 

Father Carlos Martins, CC, is a Custos Reliquiarum, which is an ecclesiastically appointed Curate of Relics with the authority to issue relics. 

He is a member of Companions of the Cross, and the head of Treasures of the Church, a ministry that aims to give people an experience of the living God through an encounter with the relics of his saints in the form of an exposition. The ministry brings expositions of various relics throughout North America by invitation. 

In the following interview with CNA, Fr. Martins answers questions and dispels some common misunderstandings about the tradition of relics. 

First of all, what is a relic? 

Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes: 

First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh.

Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). 

Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint.

The word relic means “a fragment” or “remnant of a thing that once was but now is no longer.” Thus, we find in antique shops “Civil War relics” or “Relics of the French Revolution.” Obviously, we are not talking about these kinds of relics but rather sacred relics.

Where did the Catholic tradition of venerating saints’ relics come from? 

Scripture teaches that God acts through relics, especially in terms of healing. In fact, when surveying what Scripture has to say about sacred relics, one is left with the idea that healing is what relics “do.” 

When the corpse of a man was touched to the bones of the prophet Elisha the man came back to life and rose to his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21).

A woman was healed of her hemorrhage simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9:20-22).

The signs and wonders worked by the Apostles were so great that people would line the streets with the sick so that when Peter walked by at least his shadow might ‘touch’ them (Acts 5:12-15).

When handkerchiefs or aprons that had been touched to Paul were applied to the sick, the people were healed and evil spirits were driven out of them (Acts 19:11-12).

In each of these instances God has brought about a healing using a material object. The vehicle for the healing was the touching of that object. It is very important to note, however, that the cause of the healing is God; the relics are a means through which He acts. In other words, relics are not magic. They do not contain a power that is their own; a power separate from God.  

Any good that comes about through a relic is God’s doing. But the fact that God chooses to use the relics of saints to work healing and miracles tells us that He wants to draw our attention to the saints as “models and intercessors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 828).

When did the veneration of relics begin?

It was present from the earliest days of Christianity, during the Apostolic age itself. The following is an account written by the Church in Smyrna (modern day Izmir, Turkey) when its bishop, St. Polycarp was burned alive:

“We adore Christ, because He is the Son of God, but the martyrs we love as disciples and imitators of the Lord. So we buried in a becoming place Polycarp’s remains, which are more precious to us than the costliest diamonds, and which we esteem more highly than gold.” (Acts of St. Polycarp, composed approx. 156 AD)

Polycarp was a significant figure. He was converted by John the Apostle, who had baptized him and subsequently ordained him a bishop. Thus we see that from its outset the Church practiced devotion to the remains of the martyrs. 

What is the spiritual significance of relics? 

I think that St. Jerome put it best when he said:

“We do not worship relics, we do not adore them, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator. But we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.” (Ad Riparium, i, P.L., XXII, 907).

We venerate relics only for the sake of worshiping God.  

When we collect relics from the body of a saint, what part of the body do we use? 

Any part of the saint’s body is sacred and can be placed in a reliquary. Any and every bone may be used. In addition, flesh, hair, and sometimes blood, are also used. Sometimes everything from the tomb is dispersed from it. Sometimes a tomb is preserved.

At what point in the canonization process are items or body parts considered official relics by the Church? 

Before the beatification takes place, there is a formal rite whereby the relics are identified and moved (the official word is “translated”) into a church, a chapel, or an oratory. Put simply, the grave is exhumed and the mortal remains are retrieved.

Only the Church has the juridical power to formally recognize the sanctity of an individual. When the Church does this – through beatification and canonization – their relics receive the canonical recognition as being sacred relics. 

There is an importance difference between beatification and canonization. Beatification is the declaration by the Church that there is strong evidence that the person in question is among the blessed in heaven. Nevertheless, beatification permits only local devotion. That is, devotion in the country in which the individual lived and died. When Mother Teresa was beatified, for instance, only in India and in her native Albania was her devotion permitted. Her Mass could not be celebrated, for example, in the United States, nor could her relics be placed within its altars.

Whereas beatification permits local devotion, canonization, on the other hand, mandates universal devotion. It grants to the canonized individual the rights of devotion throughout the universal Church.

The Church allows saints’ body parts to be scattered for relics, but forbids the scattering of ashes of the deceased who are cremated. Why is that? 

Every person has a right to a burial. This means that the community has a duty to bury the dead.  

Every human society and culture throughout time has felt this duty. The dead have always been buried, and archaeology has never discovered a human community that did not practice this.  One could rightly say, therefore, that burying the dead forms part of our human cultural DNA. 

The theological term for this instinct is natural law. Nature has imprinted a law within the human heart that manifests itself in the practice of burying the dead as a final act of love and devotion, or at least an act of respect and propriety.  

It should be no surprise, then, that the Church lists as one of the corporal works of mercy burying the dead. Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.

There is flexibility in the kind of burial. Remains may be buried in the ground, in the sea, or above ground within, for example, a cave or columbarium. The point is that a burial occurs within a single place, such that it can be said that the person “occupies” the place as a final location of rest. The human heart longs for this. We see people arriving at graves and speaking to the grave as if they were speaking to the deceased. And they do so differently than they might speak to the dead at home. At the grave, they speak to the dead as if they are in a place.  

For this reason, among others, the Church has always taught not only that it is completely beneath the dignity of human body to have its remains “scattered,” but also completely beneath basic human sensibilities. People need a place to encounter and meet the dead in their physicality.  

Nevertheless, the saints, as members of the body of Christ, have a right to have their remains venerated. And this right, flowing from their dignity as members of the Body of Christ, supersedes their right to have their remains remain in burial.   

What is the proper way to keep relics? Are lay Catholics allowed to have first class relics in their homes? 

Relics are very precious. They are not something that was alive at one time and is now dead. In the case of first class relics, we are talking about flesh that is awaiting the general resurrection, where the soul of a saint will be reunited with his physical remains.

As such, the way we treat relics is of the utmost importance. Ideally, relics should be kept in a Church or chapel where they can be made available for public veneration. 

The highest honor the Church can give to a relic is to place it within an altar, where the Mass may be celebrated over it. This practice dates from the earliest centuries of the Church. In fact, the sepulchers of the martyrs were the most prized altars for the liturgy.  

As an alternative to encasing them within altars, they may be installed within a devotional niche where people may venerate them. Such shrines are important as they afford people a deeper experience of intimacy with the saint.

The Church does not forbid the possession of relics by lay persons. They may even keep them in their homes. However, because of the many abuses that have been committed concerning relics, the Church will no longer issue relics to individuals – not even to clergy.

These abuses included failing to give them proper devotion (neglect), careless mistreatment of them, discarding them, and in some cases, even selling them. The abuses were not necessarily committed by the person to whom the Church had originally bequeathed the relics. But when such persons became deceased, and the relics were passed on by inheritance, they were often subject to great vulnerability. With the eclipse of the Christian culture in the western world, faith can no longer be taken for granted, even among the children of the most devout people.

Thus, to protect relics, the Church only issues them to Churches, chapels, and oratories.

How important is the authenticity of the relic? How does the Church go about determining authenticity of very old relics from the beginning of the Church? 

The authenticity is critically important.

But for the ancient saints, determining identity is much easier than you might think.  It was tradition to build a church over top of a saint’s grave. That is why St. Peter’s Basilica is where it is, or why St. Paul Outside the Walls is there. Both encompass the tomb for the saint, which is located directly beneath the altar.

Modern archaeology has only affirmed what the ancient tradition has believed.

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 11, 2017.
 

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Pope Francis: Synodality is what the Lord expects of the Church

November 29, 2019 CNA Daily News 8

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s theological commission Friday that synodality will be key for the Church in the future.

“Synodality is a style, it is a walk together, and it is what the Lord expects from the Church of the third millennium,” Pope Francis said Nov. 29 in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

The pope said that synodality is a topic close to his heart and thanked the International Theological Commission for producing a document on the theological roots of synodality in the Church published in March 2018: “Synodality in Life and Mission of the Church.”

“You have shown how the practice of synodality, traditional but always to be renewed, is the implementation in the history of the People of God on the way, of the Church as a mystery of communion, in the image of the Trinitarian communion,” Pope Francis said.

Synodality, as defined in this document, is “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”

The CDF document noted that in the history of the Church, synods and councils were nearly interchangeable terms for formal ecclesiastical assemblies. It said that the more modern view of a synod as something distinct from a council does not go back even as far Vatican Council II, and that its development was accompanied by the neologism of “synodality.”

Speaking of the Church as “synodal” by its nature is something novel, the commission said, and requires “careful theological clarification.”

“I thank you for your document because today we think that doing synodality is joining hands and going for a walk, partying with the boys … or doing a survey of opinions: ‘What do we think about the priesthood of women?’” he said.

Pope Francis then stressed that “synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul that is the Holy Spirit.”

“Without the Holy Spirit, there is no synodality,” he added.

The pope’s audience with the International Theological Commission marked the 50th anniversary of the commission’s formation. Francis said that St. Pope Paul VI created the commission as “a new bridge between theology and the magisterium.”

“He also wanted the diversity of cultures and ecclesial experiences to enrich the mission entrusted by the Holy See to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” he said. “In fact, as theologians from various contexts and latitudes, you are mediators between faith and cultures, and take part in this way in the essential mission of the Church: evangelization.”

“You listen to what the Spirit says today to the Church in different cultures to bring to light ever new aspects of the inexhaustible mystery of Christ,” he said.

Pope Francis also commented on the International Theological Commission’s latest document “Religious Freedom for the Common Good” published in March 2019.

“The sincere respect of religious freedom, cultivated in a fruitful dialogue between the State and religions, and between religions themselves, is … a great contribution to the good of all and to peace,” the pope said.

The pope highlighted the document’s critique of the ambiguity within an “ethically neutral” State, which, he said “risks leading to an unjust marginalization of religions from civil life to the detriment of the common good,” noting that this is “the legacy of the Enlightenment.”

Among the 30 members of the International Theological Commission’s 2014-2019 session were two Americans: Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M.Cap. and Sr. Prudence Allen of the Religious Sisters of Mercy.

Pope Francis told the theologians that the study of theology requires “humble and constant prayer” and “openness to the Holy Spirit.”

He also stressed the importance of “feeling in the Church and with the Church,” citing St. Albert the Great’s maxim: “In the sweetness of fraternity, seek the truth.”

“We don’t do theology as individuals, but in the community, at the service of all, to spread the flavor of the Gospel to our brothers and sisters today, always with sweetness and respect,” he said.

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Meet the monks who decided to go green years before Laudato Si

November 29, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Arlington, Va., Nov 29, 2019 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Years before Pope Francis’ ecological encyclical Laudato Si’ was published, a Trappist monastery in Virginia went back to its spiritual roots by embracing environmental stewardship.

“This really is a re-founding,” Fr. James Orthmann of Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Va. told CNA, a “real renewal and a re-founding, and in a real sense getting back to our traditional roots.”

Since 2007, the community has taken concrete steps to be better stewards of the earth in the tradition of the Cistercian Order, while also reaching into the outside world to draw more Catholic men to their monastic life.

The abbey was founded in 1950 after a planned Trappist abbey in Massachusetts burned down. The Diocese of Richmond offered to accept the monks and they procured 1200 acres of pasture on the Shenandoah River in Northwest Virginia, just in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east.

However by the early 2000s, the community had shrunk along with the overall number of religious priests and brothers in the U.S., which has fallen by more than 50 percent since 1965. The community’s Father Immediate – the abbot of their mother house – suggested in 2007 they start planning how to sustain the abbey for the long-term.

The monks discussed their most important resources and “literally everybody talked about our location, our land,” Fr. James recalled. “As monks who follow the Rule of St. Benedict, we have a vow of stability. So we bind ourselves to the community and to the place that we enter.”

The Trappists have a long history of settling in valleys and caring for the land, dating back to their roots in the Cistercian Order and their mother abbey in Citeaux, France, founded in 1098. Monks at Holy Cross Abbey began farming the land in 1950 but as the community grew older, they leased out the land to local farmers and made creamed honey and fruitcake for their labor.

“We live a way of life that’s literally rooted in the land,” Fr. James explained. “The liturgical life reflects the succession of the seasons, and the more you become sensitized to that, the symbolism of the liturgy becomes so much more compelling.”

So what specifically have the monks done to become better environmental stewards? First, they reached out to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment to author a study on how the abbey could be more environmentally sustainable in the Cistercian tradition.

A group of graduate students made the project their master’s thesis. The result was a 400-page study, “Reinhabiting Place,” with all sorts of recommendations for the monks. With these suggestions as a starting place, the monks took action.

First, they turned to the river. They asked the cattle farmer to whom they lease 600 acres of their land to stop his cattle from grazing in the river. This would protect the riverbanks from eroding and keep the cows from polluting the water, which flows into the Potomac River, past Washington, D.C., and eventually feeds the massive Chesapeake Bay.

They fenced off tributaries of the river and planted native hardwoods and bushes on the banks as shelter for migratory animals and to attract insects and pollinators to “restore the proper biodiversity to the area,” Fr. James explained. They also leased 180 acres of land to a farmer for natural vegetable farming.

Most of the abbey’s property was put into “conservation easement” with the county and the state. By doing this, the monks promise that the land will forever remain “fallow,” or agricultural and undeveloped, and they receive a tax benefit in return. The county provides this policy to check suburban sprawl and retain a rural and agricultural nature.

The community also switched their heating and fueling sources from fossil fuels to propane gas. They had a solar-fed lighting system installed in two of the guest retreat dorms, and they pay for the recycling of their disposable waste. The monks stopped making fruitcake for a year to install a new more energy-efficient oven and make building repairs.

The have even started offering “green burials” at Cool Spring Cemetery in the Trappist style.

Normal burials can cost well over $7,000 with embalming fluids and lead coffins that can be detrimental to the soil. A Trappist burial, by contrast, is “rather sparse” and “rather unadorned,” Fr. James explained. A monk is wrapped in a shroud and placed directly on a wooden bier in the ground.

The Trappist burials, while quite different from a typical modern burial, actually have an earthy character to them that’s attractive, Fr. James maintained.

After the “initial shock” at seeing such a sparse burial for the first time, “oddly enough, it’s very cathartic and you have a real sense of hope,” he said. The burials are “a lot less formal” and “people [in attendance] are more spontaneous,” he noted, and there’s “even a certain joyfulness to it.”

With their “green burials,” the body is wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable container like a wooden coffin, and buried in the first four feet of the soil. By one year, just the skeleton may be left, but it’s a harkening back to the Ash Wednesday admonition, “Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.”

And this contrasts with the complicated embalming process of normal funerals where chemicals like formaldehyde can seep into the ground.

The monks have already touched lives with their example of stewardship.

Local residents George Patterson and Deidra Dain produced a film “Saving Place, Saving Grace” about the monastery’s efforts to remain sustainable, for a local PBS affiliate station. The affiliate’s general manager had looked at the story and thought everyone needed to hear it.

The monastery has been an “example” to the county’s leadership with its care for the land, Patterson said. Dain, a retreatant at the monastery some 15 years ago, is not Catholic but found her time at the abbey “inspiring” and as a lover of nature praises their sustainability initiative.

All in all, the communal effort for stewardship is “helping to renew our life,” Fr. James said of the community.

Papal statements on the environment have given a boost to their efforts. “There was a lot of supportive stuff from the time of Pope Benedict about the environment,” Fr. James recalled, particularly in his 2008 encyclical Caritas in Veritate which upheld the responsibility of man to care for the environment.

This “helped bridge” any gulfs that kept certain members of the community from fully embracing the sustainability initiative, Fr. James said.

Parts of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment Laudato Si’ are “so sophisticated in (their) grasp of environmental teaching,” he continued, and it’s quite a support to have popes promoting environmental stewardship amidst the bureaucratic tediousness of upgrading the abbey’s land and facilities.

“At the end of the day, I can open up Laudato Si’ and say to myself ‘Ah, this is worth it. We should keep doing this. I’m going to keep putting up with the nonsense to get this done’,” he said.

The community hopes too that it can be a sustainability model for developing countries that might not be able to afford high-tech and expensive solutions to environmental problems. Their facilities are simple by nature and not sophisticated, and the monks’ consumption is already low because they take a vow of poverty.

Plus, retreatants at the monastery can observe first-hand the changes made and consider what they can do in their own lives to be more caring for the environment.

However, in its “re-founding” efforts, the community has also explored ways to attract more vocations to the abbey.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve lost most of our seniors first to illness, aging, and then death. So in a sense, the community has a whole new profile right now,” Fr. James said. The abbey was founded to be “separate” from the cosmopolitan world, but young men are not actively seeking out the monastic life like they did in the 1950s and ’60s.

So the community created a new website and continuously update it with new posts. They started hosting “immersion weekends” where men come and live with the monks for a weekend, praying with them. They expanded their local profile in the community by hosting teenagers to earn their school community service hours. “Only two students had realized we existed here,” Fr. James recalled in a telling moment.

“We’re reaching out to men of all ages, and it’s probably even more likely, given the limits of our way of life, that nowadays it’s going to be older men who are coming to this vocation,” Fr. James admitted. “This way of life and its limits make much more sense to people who have tried their quote-unquote dream, have been disillusioned by the result, and they’re yearning for something more.”

What distinguishes Holy Cross Abbey and the Trappist way of life? Their vocation to community life, Fr. James answered, “the silence, the discipline of silence, and daily familiarity with the Scriptures.”

The monks follow an intense daily schedule of prayer, contemplation, and work that includes 3:30 a.m. prayer and a “Great Silence.” They don’t leave the abbey grounds and don’t own private property.

“It’s a lifestyle that very much will develop one’s interiority, spirituality, relationship with God,” he said. “It’s a vocation of adoration, done in community, and offered to the world around us through hospitality here in this place.”

And the modern world offers special challenges to a man discerning this vocation, he admitted.

“There’s not much in the pop culture to invite a person to even think about interiority. And in fact it can be rather threatening to people,” he said. “Initially,” when one begins to seriously cultivate an interior life, “it’s the negative stuff that comes up.”

However, “with guidance you realize that’s the negative face of very important, unrecognized resources. And our vulnerability is perhaps the greatest resource we have in life. (Even if) that’s not the message you’d get from watching Oprah.”
 
This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 2, 2015.
 

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Essay

Thanksgiving with the Saints

November 27, 2019 Joseph Pearce 3

It is of course right and proper to keep Christ in Christmas, but can it be right and proper to introduce the saints into Thanksgiving? Isn’t Thanksgiving a secular holiday, as oxymoronic as that might […]

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Michigan diocese supports priest accused of LGBT Eucharist ‘discrimination’

November 27, 2019 CNA Daily News 10

Grand Rapids, Mich., Nov 27, 2019 / 06:55 pm (CNA).- A Michigan diocese said it supports a priest who told a parishioner that because of her same-sex civil marriage she should not receive the Eucharist.

“Inclusion and acceptance have been a hallmark of Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Grand Rapids throughout the diocese’s history. They remain so. They presume, however, a respect on the part of individuals for the teachings and practice of the wider Catholic community,” the Diocese of Grand Rapids said in a statement Thursday.

“No community of faith can sustain the public contradiction of its beliefs by its own members. This is especially so on matters as central to Catholic life as marriage, which the Church has always held, and continues to hold, as a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.” the diocese added.

The diocesan statement came after a Nov. 26 report from local news channel WOOD TV 8, which claimed that Fr. Scott Nolan of St. Stephen Parish in East Grand Rapid had “denied Communion,” to Judge Sara Smolenski, chief judge of the Kent County District Court.

Smolenski, 62, did not apparently tell the news channel that she had been denied communion during Mass, but rather that Nolan had instructed her by telephone not to continue receiving the Eucharist at the parish.

The priest did administer the sacrament to Smolenski Nov. 17, according to a letter some parishioners sent to Grand Rapids’ Bishop David Walkowiak.

The parishioners wrote that Smolenski stopped attending St. Stephens “last spring for fear that she would be denied the Eucharist,” as other parishioners apparently had.

While Smolenski attended Mass Nov. 17, and received the Eucharist, the parishioners wrote that Nolan subsequently “called her to demand that she ‘respect the church’ and not return for the sacrament in the future.”

Smolenski told the news station that: “The way he said it was ‘because you’re married to Linda in the state of Michigan, you cannot accept communion.’”

“I try to be a good and faithful servant to our Lord Jesus Christ. My faith is a huge part of who I am, but it is the church that made that faith, the very church where he is taking a stance and saying ho-ho, not you,” she added, also telling the local news station that she had devoted her life to the Church and recently given a $7,000 gift to the parish.

Smolenski reportedly told a fellow parishioner that she was attending Nov. 17 Mass to see whether Nolan would administer communion to her, according to sources in the parish.

The priest told WOOD TV 8 Nov. 27 that he “taught what all of the popes who have ever said something about the emergent family have said up to and including Pope Francis,” regarding the reception of holy communion.

Nolan said that he is required in his ministry to ensure that those who receive the Eucharist do so in accord with Catholic doctrine and discipline.

The Church teaches that homosexual activity is a moral evil, and that those conscious of grave sin should not receive the Eucharist. The Church also has taught that contracting a same-sex civil marriage can be “obstinate perserverance in manifest grave sin,” which would prohibit a person from being admitted to communion.

The diocese agreed with the priest’s version of events. “Father Nolan approached Judge Smolenski privately. Subsequent media reports do not change the appropriateness of his action, which the diocese supports,” the Nov. 27 statement said.

Nolan, 33, was ordained a priest of the Grand Rapids diocese in 2013.

Smolenski and Nolan have had previous run-ins. The judge is one of several parishioners who has criticized some of Nolan’s actions as pastor of the parish; which have included requiring that lectors at parish Masses be Catholics.

In October, Smolenski co-authored a letter to Michigan lawyers raising concerns about Nolan, who is chaplain to the Catholic Lawyer’s Association.

The letter said that Nolan had refused the Eucharist to two women in a same-sex civil marriage.

“This hurtful and humiliating action of publicly denying communion because they are gay has caused much hardship at the parish and in the greater community.”

“This act by Fr. Scott is a clear indication that he will continue to practice selective discrimination against members of our community,” the letter said.

Nevertheless, Smolenski wrote, “We acknowledge Fr. Nolan’s right, under the authority of the Church, to deny communion to those who are not in conformity with the teaching of the Church.”

The diocese also recognized that right.

“Father Scott Nolan, pastor of St. Stephen Parish, has dedicated his priesthood to bringing people closer to Jesus Christ. Part of his duty in pursuing that end is to teach the truth as taught by the Catholic Church, and to help it take root and grow in his parish. Mercy is essential to that process, but so are humility and conversion on the part of anyone seeking to live an authentically Catholic Christian life,” the diocesan statement said.

 

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