Monday, May 12, 2014

Kissing the hands of the unclean ...

For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch, 
   And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

This past weekend I encountered something online that kind of troubled me.  One was a photo of the Holy Father kissing the hand of a priest who was described as a homosexual activist.  He is known for his good works as well, and Pope Francis obviously holds him in great esteem - or at least respect for his priesthood.  It's long been a Catholic tradition to kiss the hands of priests - because they are consecrated.

Likewise St. Francis made a show of kneeling before a wayward priest to show his respect - to demonstrate the reverence due to Christ in front of the townsfolk who were scandalized by the priest's lifestyle.  Some say the priest lived openly with a woman - others suggest he may have held heretical views.  Francis showed him reverence and respect, and the priest changed his life.

It is good to recall that St. Teresa of Avila confessed to a priest who was also involved in a sinful life - indeed they became friends and she frequented his confessional.  Her fondness never became dangerous, although she voiced those concerns.  Ultimately she was instrumental in obtaining the priests conversion and he broke off a relationship he had with a woman.  Teresa went away and soon learned that the priest died a holy death.  What if - rather than befriending him - she had scorned him?

All things considered, I'm not sure there is the slightest reason for Catholics to be scandalized that Pope Francis kisses the hands of a priest, a leper, a Muslim, a homosexual, or the hands of Jesus Christ.

Don't forget St. John Paul kissed a Koran.

Pope Benedict gave communion to Brother Roger of Taize.

Popes do stuff we may not always understand - but surely Francis kissing the hand of Don Michele de Paolis cannot be a scandal.

I un-Friend you then.

"That's not how it works - that's not how any of this works."  That's a line from my favorite commercial - you have to watch it if you don't watch TV - and you live online.

An online acquaintance sent me an email this past weekend.  Evidently he received a 'friend request' from someone we know on Facebook.  The guy refused the friend request ...  for reasons which kinda-sorta seem to tie in somewhat with the criticism leveled against the Pope for kissing the activist priest's hand.

Before I go on, just let me point out that one's membership or participation on Google, Facebook, and other social media sites such as LinkedIn automatically generate 'friend requests' without our knowledge.  I've had many requests and at first, in some cases, I responded sending personal emails explaining I'm no longer on Facebook, or though I'm on Linkedin, I am not active.  The blog is more than enough exposure for me.  Long story short, the recipients responded that they never sent a request - it is either our personal computer or the sites we belong to which recognize links/cookies what have you, and automatically generate the requests.  So how does one respond when one receives a friend request?  I don't.

Having said that - a legitimate friend request should be a personal thing - between you and the person who wants to friend you.  If you don't want to be-friend them - don't acknowledge - unless you have something to say - yet as I said - it should be between the two of you.  Unless you want to write an 'open letter' to them and get a link on some Catholic portal for being a defender of the faith.

I don't know either of these people personally - we've never met.  So what is an online friendship?  How can it exist without personal interaction?  That's another post - in fact I've written about this stuff before.  I've had online 'friends' I never ever heard from again.  I'm also un-friended or have people drop me in their links for whatever reason - and believe me when I tell you, more than likely I never knew you were there in the first place.  Is that 'friendship'?  Can I trust you'll be there for me when I need you?

The point here is that I don't need to be apprised of any ones personal rebuke of another person.  When you share your personal communication to another person with me, how do you expect me to trust you to keep confidence with me or anyone else?

I can't trust people who do such things.  I don't trust people who make contact with others in order to report back to someone else what is going on in the other person's life.  There is something dishonest about that.

Fraternal correction.

Years ago I had a friend who insisted 'we' write a letter to a friend who happened to be the sister of my sister-in-law.  Her fiance had been waiting for an annulment, but the two decided to get married right away - before the annulment came through.  My friend - a former seminarian objected and warned they would be sinning.  The couple knew all of this but decided to marry anyway.  My friend said it was incumbent upon me - it was my duty as a Catholic to pen a letter declaring that we would not attend the wedding - since we could not witness an invalid marriage.  Fine.  I wasn't even going to be in town when the wedding took place, and chances are I would have quietly avoided the wedding anyway.  I don't like going to weddings or funerals.

Long story short, my friend had a letter all prepared, had me sign it and sent it along.  The censure simply added to the dysfunction already blazing with my friends, the in-laws and my brother.  The wedding took place, the couple eventually had the marriage blessed, although truth be told, it is questionable the marriage was ever consummated - don't ask.

My self-righteous friend eventually left the Church and joined a Protestant sect and has led a rather curious life himself.

What's my point?  Not sure.

No man can be trusted - all have left the right path.

All things re-considered here, if, in your practice of Christian charity and evangelization you want to blow people out of the water - just be careful.  As St. Paul said, 'If you think you are standing - watch out, lest you fall."
Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God. - 1 Corinthians 4
I am, on the other hand, very much aware of my failings and shortcomings.  I am a weak man.  I cannot even trust myself.  Indeed, I trust very few people, precisely because of stories like these, and other situations of betrayal and denial I write about.  Yet as I said, most especially I do not trust myself - I like to repeat the prayer of St. Philip Neri from time to time, "Lord, I want to love you, but you know you can't trust me!"  Therefore, how could I rebuff someone who might extend his hand in friendship?

Over the years I've received sharp criticism from Courage members, gay-Catholics, as well as from people who despise gay people - because they believe I am 'soft' on people who are so-called gay-activists or who simply do not accept Catholic teaching.  What can I say? Who am I to rebuke or condemn?  I always pray for forgiveness and hope our Lord will have mercy upon my weakness.  I'm not better than anyone.


  1. I saw a good reply to today's homily at The Bones... called "Reading Between the Lines".

    I believe we are in a very bad place.

    1. That's not what this is about. That's not what any of this is about.


    2. BTW - I know who you are and I saw what you did there.


    3. Even if you did link to that post, Terry, that is not what this is about, not as I read it. I'm grateful to be Catholic. I'm grateful for whom the Holy Spirit through the weakness of humanity and chosen and continues to guide us. I actually believe that bit about against which the gates of hell etc. I suppose if you did not believe that then a person may well be in the loneliest place in Rome. I'm also happy I am not my own magesterium. What? I imply nothing to no one.

    4. Thanks Owen - I'm so happy you are Catholic.

  2. Whenever someone kisses my hand - which is common among my Filippino Catholic parishioners- I take it as an opportunity to examine my own conscience and marvel at the wonder of the priesthood which Our Lord shares with such poor and weak men as ourselves. It cannot but remind any priest of the intimacy he is called to live in Christ and of his obligations in conscience to the flock entrusted to him.
    I have seen photos of John Paul II doing the same thing, usually to elderly priests or bishops, as a recognition of the grace of the priesthood and of the years of service given by the "senior" man. It should be seen as an edifying act - and a remarkable sign of humility on the part of the Vicar of Christ who is also "servant of the servants of God."
    Thank you for writing of this, Terry.

    1. Thank you very much Father.

    2. Hang on now, you're saying you would judge yourself before God rather than judge another against yourself or say against your understanding of God? That's like, practically Gospel, nigh on Christian even. ;-) Amen.


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