Friday, June 29, 2018

Eleven Year Anniversary

Today, June 29th, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, is the 11th year anniversary of the launch of this blog. Since June 29, 2007, this blog and the sister site have been viewed 3,063,832 times with an average of 24,683 views per month for the previous year.

Not too shabby!

I cannot believe it has been so long; when I registered this domain name, St. John Paul II was still pope and even had a year left in his pontificate. When I started posting regularly, Benedict XVI had not yet even issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. Since those early days, the two USC sites have featured over 1,700 essays. Just looking at that number kind of astonishes me—that I've ever had the time to write so much. Of course others contributed to that as well, for whom I am truly thankful.

It's surreal how much things have changed since then. Back in the old days, I felt like, even though the American Church collectively might have a profound case of rectal-cranial inversion, at the very least the Big Man in Rome had our backs. I could make a bold and determined stand against the problems that beset me because I stood with the Universal Church and the Pope Over the Water who was reigning justly and speaking the truth to a rebellious, stubborn people. Now, in 2018, the feeling is quite different.  The landscape is a littler grimmer. I feel less like a soldier making a brave stand before the walls of his city and more like a rogue wanderer, a kind of Catholic Johnny Appleseed roaming about an unsettled land scattering seeds and hoping they will take root wherever they may fall. And I am more uncertain of my own standing. That's how I feel. And note I am careful to say feeling, because obviously there is a lot of room for subjectivity here.

As always, I am sorry I could not write more. I remember one reason I had the time and initiative to begin this blog was because it was an outlet to write for fun about subjects important to me; nobody cared what I wrote and everything was just a hobby. Now I write professionally and I have so many projects bogging me down that I can't see the end of it. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy to be writing professionally now, but there is a tinge of sadness that I can't just be a hobby blogger anymore. 

That being said, I am finding myself with a bit more free time than last year and hoping to do some more writing. I'm also really wondering what to do about the other site; it's a very old Joomla platform and it is starting to get kind of glitchy. A lot of times the images aren't showing up anymore and the formatting gets off at times. I don't really have the money to invest in a new website, nor the time to transfer it all over to something new, but I also don't like the idea of the old site just continuing to get glitchier as its plug-ins go out of date and stop being supported. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

One thing I am planning on doing in the near future is making an appeal to help me get my RCIA notes and outlines translated into Spanish. I have a native Spanish speaker ready and willing to do the translating work but I just need to raise the funds to pay for it. I will be doing a post or video about this in the near future; if you are interested in contributing, email me at uscatholicam[at] If this is successful, I will then go on to getting them translated into Arabic and then who knows.

Thank you again for a wonderful year; the comments and feedback I get from my readers is what makes this endeavor so rewarding. An active and well-regulated combox is a gift to readers and the blog owner alike. Even Lionel with his ridiculous spam has a soft spot in my heart.

One final thing: keep in mind, we do have a Youtube Channel with a modest amount of videos, and a Facebook page if you'd like to stay in contact other ways.

God bless you all.


Friday, June 22, 2018

"Courageous" Ideas from the God of Surprises

Earlier this month it was announced that the Vatican's preparatory document seeking input from South American prelates for the run up to the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon calls for "courageous, daring, and fearless" to combat the priest shortage in the region. Of course this language is in reference to the ordination of married men, so-called viri probati, to the priesthood. The document also calls for further inclusion of women, not just in a participatory way but in new "official ministries."

So, it looks like the 2019 Synod will dish up a whole smorgasbord of novelties from the God of Surprises. The real ironic thing about the call for "courageous" ideas to combat the priest shortage is that the contemporary Church has failed to try the most courageous idea of all—an aggressive, confident appeal to the traditional ideals and discipline of the priesthood. There are many reasons why the Church does not make this appeal; part of it is simply that the progressive wing of the Church wants Catholics to simply accept the need for married priests as a fait accompli (see "Priestless Parishes as a Fait Accompli", USC, Aug, 2008); they have no interest in stopping the vocations shortage because they want the Church to be forced to adopt married priests. In that sense, the priest shortage is artificial, like a planned famine.

But beyond the "political" policy aspect of this problem, there is an identity problem; the Church by and large has lost the sense of priestly identity. When our perception of the priest has been largely reduced to that of a pious social worker, it's difficult for young men to grasp what transcendent value there is to be found in the priesthood. Why sacrifice marriage and career for something whose identity is so obscured?

It has been proven that when Catholic identity, specifically that of the priest, is made clear, the vocations crisis evaporates immediately. For example, take these two little towns in Michigan, which together have a combined population of only 2,162 but which have produced 80 nuns and 44 priests.

The vocations crisis is contrived. It could be overcome. But the contemporary hierarchy has made no effort to; to quote Ned Flanders' parents, "We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas."

One thing I have learned in the past few years is that what seems at first to be courageous isn't always courageous; sometimes the truly courageous choice is not what is self-evident. We must choose our cross, yes, but sometimes the cross doesn't look like the cross. Part of learning to carry the cross is learning how to identify it, and it's not always straightforward.