Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pope Francis Scarecrow Wins First Prize


This is a straw man.

I don't think it's an anti-Francis (or pro-Francis) thing, nor necessarily an anti-Catholic thing. People at the Durrow Scarecrow Festival simply like making scarecrows, often with topical themes. I actually think the Francis scarecrow is pretty good, largely because it is, well, large. And the fact that it waves when a button is pressed is a nice touch.

Let me take some of that back. It probably is a somewhat anti-Catholic thing. Poking unfriendly fun at popes in pope mobiles goes back a generation or more. I suppose this shows how, despite the love that much of the secular world has for Francis, the fact that he is still allegedly a Catholic pope is a bit of a negative. Mocking the papacy itself is always fair game, now more than ever in Ireland, of course.

To be honest, I found many of the scarecrows to be a bit disappointing (see here, and also pictures, below). The Trump scarecrow just looks like a mannequin with bit of straw added to its head. Its childishly drawn face recalls that horrible Spanish fresco restoration. The Lady Gaga scarecrow (from a past festival) resembles a bedraggled muppet.

There's only so much you can do with straw.

The "Scarecrow of Liberty" is creepy, which I guess is sort of the point.

The trick, I think, is to make your scarecrow giant, which, among other things, is sure to get the judges' attention. This is why the King Kong scarecrow works.

Francis will be visiting Ireland later this month.

Unless they erect a giant crucifix at the airport. That would scare him off.      

From The Irish Times, August 6, 2018:

Giant scarecrow in image of Pope triumphs at Durrow festival 
Straw creation of Pontiff in his popemobile is star of the annual show in Co Laois 
A giant scarecrow version of Pope Francis has won joint-first prize in a competition at the Durrow Scarecrow Festival. 
The pontiff is due to visit the Republic later this month. 
The massive model of Pope Francis in his popemobile was created by a group of men in Durrow, Co Laois, for the popular annual festival. 
Chairwoman of the Durrow Development Forum, Evelyn Clancy, said there had been a huge amount of interest from across Ireland. 
The festival is known for its topical depictions, from Donald Trump to King Kong. 
“People expect it, King Kong was higher than a two-storey house, people have that expectation from this group of men,” said Ms Clancy. 
The talented and creative group behind the creation includes engineers and carpenters who have put many evenings of work into their scarecrow. 
Chairman of the Conahy Vintage Club, Michael Bergin, told the Leinster Express they enjoyed the camaraderie. 
“We always think that big is beautiful. There was work for everybody in it from steel to straw, overalls, shoes down to making tea and having a chat. You make it up as you go along.” 
The group added lights to the popemobile and when a button is pressed, the scarecrow Pope waves. 
Money raised from visitors to the festival is reinvested in the community, Ms Clancy said.






Monday, July 23, 2018

Where Fr. Phillips is Going; What Fr. Phillips Created


As we reported a few days ago, Fr. Frank Phillips, founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius and pastor of the church for thirty years, will be moving to St. Louis on the orders of Fr. Gene Szarek, the provincial superior of the Congregation of the Resurrection, with which Fr. Phillips was originally ordained.

Fr. Szarek is an accomplished letter signer.

The Resurrectionists are an international order with headquarters in Rome. Here in the American Midwest they have a seminary in St. Louis and a substantial presence in Chicago.

Indeed, on the Ministries page of their website they list St. John Cantius as one of their parishes.

They should take that down.

How do the Resurrectionists present themselves? Here is their Mission page:


Liberation of society, solidarity, unjust structures.

The paschal dynamic.

I've heard that people spoke that way once.

But I have no reason to doubt the Congregation contains some good priests.

Fr. Phillips is one of them.

By contrast, here is the Home page of the newly redesigned website of the Canons Regular:


And here is the first part of their mission statement:
The members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius seek personal sanctity by imitating Christ in radical opposition to the values of this world. They wish to “Restore the Sacred” in the Church, in the world and in their own lives in pursuit not only of their own sanctification, but also the salvation and sanctification of all.
Radical opposition to the values of this world.

If that's not cutting-edge, nothing is.

Fr. Phillips is about to begin temporary residence in a place that is a sort of stale relic of an earlier century after being at the center of "where the action is" for thirty years.

And it was that center because he made it so. He created all of it, with the help and grace of God.

This is another reason why Fr. Phillips' exile fills me with sympathy and sadness.

What did Fr. Szarek create?

As you can see, the "Where Fr. Phillips is Going" images, below, are the three featured photographs on the "Mission" page of the Resurrectionists.

The "What Fr. Phillips created" images are taken from the substantial Flicker album at the new Canons site.

Are the following comparisons fair?

Of course not. Cantius has better photographers.

Where Fr. Phillips is Going:


What Fr. Phillips Created:




Where Fr. Phillips is Going:



What Fr. Phillips Created:







Where Fr. Phillips is Going:



What Fr. Phillips Created:





Friday, July 20, 2018

Fr. Phillips to Live at Resurrectionist Facility in St. Louis

Fr. Frank Phillips
On March 17 of this year it was announced that Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius in Chicago and founder and superior of the associated order, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, had been removed from public ministry (and thus from his positions as pastor and superior) by Cardinal Blase Cupich, allegedly based on "credible accusations of improper conduct involving adult males." (The more precise nature of these charges as well as the identities of the accusers has never been officially stated or released.) On June 23, after an investigation by the Congregation of the Resurrection ("Resurrectionists") - where Fr. Phillips was ordained and with whom he was also still a member - the archdiocese of Chicago declined to reinstate Fr. Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn. Though neither the investigation report itself nor any other details were publicly released, it is known that part of the recent decision was made against the recommendation of Resurrectionist Provincial Fr. Gene Szarek, based on the report and the results of the investigation. The contents of the report were said to have "exonerated" Fr. Phillips.

At the request of his superior, Fr. Szarek, Fr. Phillips has now relocated to St. Louis where he will presumably be living in a Resurrectionist facility. Today, Protect our Priests, the independent St. John Cantius parishioners group, published this letter from Fr. Phillips:


July 18, 2018

Dear Protect Our Priests:

From the founding of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, I have instructed the men how to live the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. One of those vows, obedience, may especially challenge Religious because it is difficult to submit your will to a superior.

As you know, the Canons are requested not to have contact with me, which is difficult for them and for me as their Founder. Also, I have been asked by my superior to relocate to St. Louis. I am requested to do this not under formal obedience but willingly in the virtue of obedience. Is this difficult? Yes, it is.

The great saints were always obedient to their superiors, and their examples help to sustain me now. We need only look to St. Padre Pio to see the extent of his lived obedience. If I could not or would not listen to my superior, how could I then expect the Canons, as their Founder, to be obedient to their superior?

What does the future hold for me? I am not certain. What does the future hold for the Canons? Time will tell. I feel confident that they will be blessed with vocations for their dedication to the restoration of the sacred in obedience.

I thank everyone who has supported the Protect Our Priests initiative with prayers, sacrifices, Masses, and contributions. May St. John Cantius, our heavenly patron, extend his blessing to all of you. Please keep the Canons and me in your prayers as well as all priests who find themselves in similar situations.

Rev. C. Frank Phillips, CR

Some Cantius parishioners initially interpreted the letter negatively in the sense that it makes it seem as if Fr. Phillips is "giving up."

I don't share this view.

Disobeying a superior concerning a request that is not obviously immoral or illicit would arguably make one a rogue priest. And that is decidedly not what Fr. Phillips had in mind when he wrote in his earlier letter: "I am free to continue in my calling to serve God in all other geographical locations on the planet."

Fr. Phillips is not Fr. Pfleger.   

Also, Fr. Phillips has to live somewhere, and staying with the Resurrectionists at this time is perfectly logical. If Fr. Szarek had not betrayed his old friend (to speak frankly about his role in this), it is reasonable to assume that Fr. Phillips might also have been invited to St. Louis, though obviously in a happier atmosphere.

Any communication from Fr. Phillips would naturally raise the spirits of parishioners. But I think it fair to say that the current mood is mixed. 

Virtually all believe Fr. Phillips to be innocent. Emotions now include praise for Fr. Phillips and his "obedience" as well as anger against the accusers (whose identities are now known to many) and the archdiocese. Many want a fight. Some advise caution. But I think almost all are, to use a word I heard a number of times in just the last hour, heartsick.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Funny and Touching Video of Young British Boy: "I Want Donald Trump to Come!"


While the haters here spew venom about military coups and impeachment, and the haters there launch silly balloons and hold slow-motion dance-in protests, one little boy has different ideas.

He just wants to meet Donald Trump.



H/t Bare Naked Islam from the Daily Mail.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

1775: "New England militia men screamed, 'No king, no pope' as they charged into British lines."

Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill by John Trumbull

For the record, I do not believe that the U.S. Constitution is an evil or anti-Catholic document, nor do I think that, say, swearing an oath to uphold it, and doing so, is wrong from a Catholic point of view.

And for this Catholic, I think Independence Day is worth celebrating, not just commemorating but celebrating.

For a contrary take on the constitution, see Justice Scalia: A man of “true faith and allegiance” by Louie Verrecchio. I have great respect for Verrecchio and his arguments, but I think he is wrong on this one.

I won't defend my own view, here. But I will say that it's not based on the documents of Vatican II or any similar nonsense. And I wouldn't call myself an "Americanist" Catholic, at least as I understand the definition.

In any case, there's absolutely no question that for faithful Catholics, wherever they come down on the "rightness" of the American Revolution or the founding era in general, the history of the Revolution and Catholicism is unquestionably mixed, to put it mildly.

Which in some ways is curious. After all, we were fighting the British, who had a bloody record of persecuting Catholics and attempting to destroy the Catholic Church in England.

Queen Elizabeth was a monster.

Two years ago, for Independence Day, Hillsdale College professor Bradley Birzer wrote a fascinating piece on 10 Things You Should Know about Catholics and the American Founding. Getting the history right on the founding is not anti-American, nor even anti-founding. But getting the history right, for anything, of course, is always important and often fascinating:
1. With the exception of Maryland—but only for a bit—each of the English colonies along the North American coastline despised and feared Roman Catholics as well as Catholicism. For most English Protestants, whether Reformed and Presbyterian or low-Church Anglican, Catholicism represented the corruption of the Christian faith. Catholics, far from being the brethren of Protestants, were the worst enemies—far worse than pagans or even Muslims. Why? Because Catholics, in the eyes of those Protestants, should have known better; that is, they should have seen the errors of their Catholic ways. In many respects, it was a case of nearness creating division. In New England, beginning in the 1640s, no citizen could enter a church on a Sunday morning without bearing both a bible and a firearm. When service ended, the men of the congregation secured the area before allowing women and children to leave the church, just in case Catholics might be out raiding that day. Even as late as the American Revolution, New England militia men screamed, “No king, no pope” as they charged into enemy lines.
2. Protestants, however, were rarely tolerant of even other Protestants; Calvinists, for example, often hated Baptists as much as they did Catholics. Far from the “land of the free” that our textbooks usually portray, colonies sought not religious freedom and liberty, but rather religious autonomy. That is, they wanted freedom to worship as they saw fit, but they certainly did not believe that other sects should have the same rights. In this, the first century and a half of American colonization (with only a very few exceptions) were defined by a whole variety of intolerances. Because the frontier was huge, however, such tolerances could be alleviated—at least as long as you were willing to move west, away from the respectable folks. From the 1600s through 1774, America was really a sea of intolerance with islands of tolerance. Your freedom was essentially the freedom to choose which intolerance you liked best.
3. Of the 13 original colonies, only Pennsylvania and Maryland offered anything that we might today recognize as religious toleration. Maryland, for an almost 30-year-long period prior to 1689, might very well have been the most tolerant place in the world when it came to religion. To enforce its religious toleration, however, it traded its freedom of speech. Society protected the diversity of religious communities by forbidding 1) blasphemy against the Holy Trinity; 2) mocking of Mary or any of the saints; and 3) referring to any Christian sect by a derogatory name. When radicals seized the provincial government in 1689, however, they undid all laws of religious toleration, demanding that every resident of Maryland honor the Church of England as the established Church. The new government of 1689, which lasted until 1774, for all intents and purposes outlawed Roman Catholicism, double-taxing Catholics, forbidding the education of Catholic children, and actually permanently removing children in danger of being “raised in a Catholic fashion” from their birth parents.
Read the rest, here.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Fr. Phillips Case: What Will the Archdiocese do Now?

Fr. Frank Phillips, Cardinal Raymond Burke and Deacon Kevin Mann, SJC in Rome, 2013

On March 17 of this year it was announced that Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius in Chicago and founder and superior of the associated order, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, had been removed from public ministry (and thus from his positions as pastor and superior) by Cardinal Blase Cupich, allegedly based on "credible accusations of improper conduct involving adult males." (The more precise nature of these charges as well as the identities of the accusers has never been officially stated or released.) On June 23, after an investigation by the Congregation of the Resurrection ("Resurrectionists") - where Fr. Phillips was ordained and with whom he was also still a member - the archdiocese of Chicago declined to reinstate Fr. Phillips and confirmed that his faculties for ministry would remain withdrawn. Though neither the investigation report itself nor any other details were publicly released, it is known that part of the recent decision was made against the recommendation of Resurrectionist Provincial Fr. Gene Szarek, based on the report and the results of the investigation. The contents of the report were said to have "exonerated" Fr. Phillips.

Yesterday (June 29), Fr. Phillips released a statement professing his innocence in strong and unambiguous terms:
I assure you I have done nothing that would scandalize the faithful.
[T]he Review Board returned its finding of no criminal violation, civil violation, or canonical violation in my case.
The Review Board found me innocent of the accusations which I have vehemently denied.
Notably, his statement seemed to directly contradict one of the claims in a letter, signed by the provincial superior of the Resurrectionists Fr. Gene Szarek, released only a few hours before:
The reports that an Independent Review Board exonerated Fr. Phillips are without foundation.
Another contrast was also notable. In that same letter we read:
Father Phillips will receive support and care by the Congregation of the Resurrection.
A previous letter, signed by Fr. Szarek but written by or under the authority of Cardinal Cupich read:
[Fr. Phillips] will be receiving support and will reside at a Resurrectionist facility away from your parish.
This almost made it sound like Fr. Phillips would be living out the rest of his life as a quasi-prisoner or "well-cared for" patient, unable to communicate with the Canons and perhaps having only limited interaction with the outside world, much as he had lived for much of the past three months during the process surrounding the investigation.

But this is not really the picture we get from Fr. Phillips. He begins by deferentially citing the Resurrectionists:
I am returning to serve God in any capacity under the direction of the Provincial of the Congregation of the Resurrection to build up the Kingdom of God.
But then he goes on:
I am currently in Rome engaged in consultations with the Congregation of the Resurrection and other church leaders. I have heard there is a misunderstanding concerning my status. Currently, by decree of Cardinal Cupich my faculties are suspended only in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I am free to continue in my calling to serve God in all other geographical locations on the planet. Therefore, I will continue to say mass for you daily and petition for reconciliation with the Cardinal.
Engaged with consultations with other church leaders.

All other geographical locations on the planet.

Continue to petition for reconciliation with the Cardinal.

I do not know precisely what those things mean beyond the obvious implications of the claims themselves. But they do not sound like the words of a man about to meekly enter into enforced seclusion.

I should add that while Fr. Phillips obviously appears to have some enemies, he also, as an enormously successful and outgoing pastor and superior who worked very hard to cultivate good relationships with many on all "ideological" sides over thirty years, has many friends in the Church, in Chicago and outside, including, I assume, Rome.

As far as I know, the press release from Fr. Phillips did not technically contradict any statements from the Chicago archdiocese, unless we count the claim that the allegations were ever "credible" in the first place. This is for the simple reason that though the archdiocese has taken clear actions in this case, it has said very little, or at least very little of substance. Instead it has preferred to speak in vague terms - the original and so far only charge made against Fr. Phillips was "improper conduct involving adult men" - drop hints or make insinuations - "There are standards for behavior," "other information," "other factors", etc. - or use others - Fr. Szarek - to do its speaking for it.

One might be forgiven for suspecting that in an archdiocese long known for a scandalous level of homosexual behavior among priests and seminarians, someone might be banking on people assuming from the vagueness and ambiguity of things that Fr. Phillips was a homosexual (not in and of itself a violation of canon law, etc.). But they would surely also know that there is no credible evidence in the report or anywhere else, nor has there ever been in the previous thirty-years, to suggest that.

The most charitable explanation for the behavior of the archdiocese in all this is that it acted swiftly to avoid scandal amidst the scandal-of-the-month atmosphere within the current Church. Even so, it appears to have gone way too far in its almost frantic attempts to circumvent the usual standards of due process and transparency in order to ram through a pre-determined result. And it took something that arguably could have been resolved much more easily - a fair investigation leading to a dismissal of the not credible charges - and instead created something much bigger.

The faithful have been scandalized. But Fr. Phillips did not scandalize them.

The archdiocese did.

Leaving aside the motivations, personalities and politics of all concerned, the case was a botch.

Things are moving quite quickly now. Last night a secondary source told me that one of the accusers had already privately "recanted". This is unconfirmed. But that one or more might recant - or at least clarify their actions or charges in a way that would be favorable towards Fr. Phillips - in the near future would not surprise anyone with knowledge of the case. (Though I should add that given the nature of the evidence and the testimony given about all of the players, recantations, while welcome, would hardly be necessary, at least for Fr. Phillips.)

The credibility of the archdiocese is already quite low in this matter - consider the embarrassing contrast between its recent public statements and the actual text of the votum from the Resurrectionists, for example - and further developments will almost certainly not make it look any better.

No one would want to see a cover-up or white-wash involving a guilty man (as we unfortunately have witnessed so often in the contemporary Church). But neither would any one want to see (or think they see) a Cardinal destroying the reputation of an innocent man and damaging or destroying one of the most thriving and beloved parishes in Chicago out of (it might seem) sheer stubbornness or pettiness.

Cardinal Cupich would establish or re-establish much credibility with everyone by changing course now. A favorable solution to this, avoiding any additional embarrassment for the archdiocese, is still possible.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fr. Phillips Press Release: "The Review Board found me innocent of the accusations which I have vehemently denied."


A few minutes ago, Fr. Frank Phillips, pastor of St. John Cantius for thirty years and founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, released this statement through the offices of his lawyer, Stephen Komie:



Press Release 
From Fr. Frank Phillips 
June 29, 2018 - Chicago 
I wish to express my thanks to Father Gene Szarek, Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Resurrection, for providing an independent Review Board to examine the accusations against me. Thank you to the members of the Review Board who spent hours listening to the accusers as well as individuals who gave testimony of the facts and on behalf of my character. I assure you I have done nothing that would scandalize the faithful. 
My prayers were answered when the Review Board returned its finding of no criminal violation, civil violation, or canonical violation in my case. The Review Board found me innocent of the accusations which I have vehemently denied. I am returning to serve God in any capacity under the direction of the Provincial of the Congregation of the Resurrection to build up the Kingdom of God. 
I want to express my appreciation and gratitude to all those who called me, sent me letters, made phone calls, and spoke publicly in my defense. To all those who supported me, please rest assured that I remember you daily in my prayers and my heart has swelled with knowing that you stood by me in the difficult times I have just experienced. I will always stand by you. 
I am currently in Rome engaged in consultations with the Congregation of the Resurrection and other church leaders. I have heard there is a misunderstanding concerning my status. Currently, by decree of Cardinal Cupich my faculties are suspended only in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I am free to continue in my calling to serve God in all other geographical locations on the planet. Therefore, I will continue to say mass for you daily and petition for reconciliation with the Cardinal. 
Lastly, I want to express my appreciation, gratitude, and thanksgiving for my lawyer Stephen Komie who guided me through the process. As we walked together he provided counsel and advice which allowed me to stay the course, keep my head up, and seek my prayers for justice.