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Retired Bishop Kinney dies; recalled as 'kind, gracious pastoral leader'

Retired Bishop John F. Kinney of St. Cloud died Sept. 27 at Quiet Oaks Hospice in St. Augusta. He was 82.

Retired Bishop John F. Kinney of St. Cloud, Minn., died at age 82 Sept. 27, 2019, at Quiet Oaks Hospice in St. Augusta. Bishop Kinney is pictured concelebrating Mass at the Vatican March 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The bishop's body was received at the Cathedral of St. Mary in St. Cloud the afternoon of Oct. 4 followed by a private family visitation, then public visitation and a vigil service.

On Oct. 5, there was a period of public visitation followed by his funeral Mass, with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis presiding. Burial was held at Assumption Cemetery in St. Cloud.

Bishop Kinney headed the Diocese of St. Cloud from 1995 until his retirement in 2013. An ardent supporter of Catholic social teaching, marriage, youth and collaborative ministry, he strove to lead in the spirit of the diocese's mission statement: to be Christ's "heart of mercy, voice of hope and hands of justice."

"Bishop Kinney was a kind and gracious pastoral leader," said Bishop Donald J. Kettler, who succeeded Bishop Kinney in St. Cloud in 2013. "He was a strong defender of the dignity of every human being, and his love for the church was evident both in his public ministry and personal life. May our Father in heaven now receive him warmly into his arms."

Bishop Kinney was born June 11, 1937, in Oelwein, Iowa, to John and Marie (McCarty) Kinney. His only brother, Bernard, was eight years older.

He graduated from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis and held a bachelor's degree from St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul and a doctorate in canon law from Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

He was ordained to the priesthood Feb. 2, 1963, at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul by Archbishop Leo Binz. Bishop Kinney served in several positions in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, including nine years as chancellor. On Nov. 16, 1976, St. Paul VI named him an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese. Archbishop John R. Roach of St. Paul and Minneapolis ordained him a bishop Jan. 25, 1977. Bishop Kinney served as auxiliary bishop from 1977 to 1982.

On June 28, 1982, St. John Paul II named him the bishop of Bismarck, North Dakota. He was installed Aug. 23, 1982. On May 9, 1995, the pope named him the eighth bishop of St. Cloud. He was installed July 6, 1995.

While serving as bishop in Bismarck and St. Cloud, Bishop Kinney wrote six pastoral letters on liturgy, youth, AIDS, the sacrament of penance, marriage and social justice.

In 1993, the then-National Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed him to chair an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse. During his tenure as chair, the ad hoc committee published "Restoring Trust," a document then used by dioceses to address sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Following revelations of clergy sexual abuse around the country, Bishop Kinney set up listening and information sessions that he personally attended in parishes around the diocese. He used the sessions to understand the pain and concern of people in the diocese and to open doors for dialogue and healing.

Committed to the global church, Bishop Kinney served on Catholic Relief Services' board of directors from 1993 to 1998. CRS is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

Bishop Kinney helped the Bismarck Diocese establish a mission in Kenya. With Father Bill Vos, St. Cloud diocesan director of CRS, he initiated the partnership between the St. Cloud Diocese and Homa Bay Diocese in Kenya in 1999. The diocesan relationship with Maracay, Venezuela, was established in 1963 and became a Global Solidarity Partnership under Bishop Kinney's leadership.

Bishop Kinney visited Homa Bay and Maracay. He made trips to other areas of close relationship and connection to the Diocese of St. Cloud, including to the Diocese of Agats, Indonesia, where the Crosiers ministered, and to South Sudan during and after the years of war to visit Bishop Paride Taban and other Southern Sudanese bishops. Other travels took him to Angola, Cambodia, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam and Zanzibar.

Pope Francis accepted Bishop Kinney's retirement upon Bishop Kettler's installation. During his retirement, he lived at the Speltz House in Sauk Rapids and remained an avid reader.

- By Catholic News Service

Warmhearted stories, deeply felt prayers mark Archbishop Flynn's funeral

A funeral Mass attended by more than 2,000 people, including a dozen bishops and a U.S. cardinal, hundreds of laypeople, priests, seminarians, religious brothers and sisters, was made intimate by warmhearted stories and heartfelt prayers for the late Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Jon and Maria O'Malley of St. Michael's Parish in Stillwater, Minn., and their infant daughter, Mollie, stand over the casket of retired Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St . Paul and Minneapolis before his funeral Mass Sept. 30, at the Cathedral of St. Paul. The couple adopted six children from Ethiopia, and Archbishop Flynn baptized four of them in 2007. The retired archbishop died Sept. 22, in St. Paul at age 86. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, Catholic Spirit)

"Archbishop Flynn was a wonderful, wonderful human being," said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore in his homily Sept. 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. "He was warm, had a beautiful sense of humor, never forgot a name or a face, and he wrote out his Christmas cards in July, always with that personal note inside, with his distinctive handwriting."

There were more than a thousand cards each year, as Archbishop Flynn kept in touch with lifelong friends from his ministry as a priest in the Diocese of Albany, New York, as dean of students, vice rector and rector of Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, as well as coadjutor bishop and then bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana from 1986 to 1994 and coadjutor archbishop and archbishop of the Twin Cities from 1994 until his retirement in 2008.

After battling cancer in recent years, Archbishop Flynn died Sept. 22 at age 86 in his residence at the St. Vincent de Paul rectory in St. Paul.

Among those bringing up the gifts for Communion were his personal assistant, Bobbi Dawson; his driver of 25 years, Patrick Willis; and Dr. Peter and Lulu Daly of St. Peter Parish in Mendota and their family.

A sense of intimacy was struck with the first chords of a beautiful melody that used the words of Archbishop Flynn's episcopal motto, "Come Lord Jesus." It simply repeated those words as deacons, priests, bishops, friends and family members slowly processed into Mass, and pallbearers bore his casket, where it was received and blessed by Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Sister Andrea Lee, a former president of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, spoke to the congregation just before Mass, sharing her stories of Archbishop Flynn, a longtime friend.

"He introduced me to Jesus in a way I never knew before," said Sister Andrea, a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

If love overrides all else in someone's life, then for Archbishop Flynn it is "race over and won," she said. His love was "pure, generous forgiving, unvarnished and far-reaching."

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, the first bishop ordained by Archbishop Flynn, said the final prayer of commendation in the cathedral before the archbishop's body was transferred for burial to Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights.

But he prefaced the final prayer with a story about his ordination as a bishop, saying Archbishop Flynn was nervous, and accidentally anointed him with the entire carafe of chrism. Talking with Archbishop Flynn at a later date, Cardinal Cupich said, he reminded him of the incident.

"I told him I felt like I was hit by an oil tanker," Cardinal Cupich said. "He said, 'Obviously, you needed it.'"

Archbishop Hebda, undoubtedly inspired by the Holy Spirit, inspired his homily, said Archbishop Lori, who was a seminarian under Archbishop Flynn and habitually addressed him in the years that followed as "Father Rector," while Archbishop Flynn addressed him as "student Lori."

Based on a comment from Archbishop Hebda, Archbishop Lori's homily illustrated ways Archbishop Flynn embodied four central elements of priestly formation: Human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.

In addition to being thoughtful and ever-present to people in need, Archbishop Flynn had a passionate belief in the Eucharist, Archbishop Lori said.

He understood that the "Eucharist really is the source and summit of our lives, our lives as individuals and as community, whether a parish, a diocese or a seminary."

"He once said, 'Give me eight hours of sleep a night and one hour before the Blessed Sacrament, and I will do anything the church will ask of me,'" Archbishop Lori said.

Archbishop Flynn's intellectual formation included a powerful command of Scripture and English literature, and ways of telling stories that brought people great understanding of the faith, Archbishop Lori said.

As a pastoral leader, the archbishop walked with people in their struggles, he said.

"He knew that truth and love are friends, not enemies. He knew the importance of mercy, of listening to others," the archbishop said. "The importance of being present to people in their need. His was the voice you wanted to hear when discouragement set in, or when illness struck, or when big problems loomed. His was the voice that helped so many find consolation and direction and strength in the green pastures of God's love."

For years during his retirement, he continued to give retreats for priests and seminarians, religious sisters and brothers, to administer the sacrament of confirmation, say Mass in parishes and serve in other ways, Archbishop Lori said.

"To my mind, he was a priest's priest and a bishop's bishop," he said.

Archbishop Flynn also had a loving devotion to Mary, who led him to Jesus, Archbishop Lori said. Because he was so close to Jesus and his mother, the archbishop would want people to pray for him and for the happy repose of his soul, Archbishop Lori said.

"And so, with so much love, we commend you, Father Flynn, Father Rector, Archbishop Flynn, to the Lord of life and love, to the great Chief Shepherd you served so well. Come Lord, Jesus, come."

- By Joe Ruff / Catholic News Service
Ruff is news editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Editorial: Plenty to care about during Respect Life Month

October is Respect Life Month, and Oct. 6 is Respect Life Sunday. As has been the case for more than a decade now, Catholics and others of good will have the opportunity to pray for the protection of life through the 40 Days for Life apostolate. After the success of the movie “Unplanned,” which depicts the important role the 40 Days for Life organization played in the life of the movie’s real-life protagonist Abby Johnson, it’s an especially good time to help that organization dedicated to peaceful prayer outside abortion facilities to continue.

At the same time, we are also concerned with the end of life, as there have been repeated pushes to legalize assisted suicide here in Minnesota, as well as across the country and around the world.

As Pope Francis told a group of Italian doctors last month, this is a “false compassion” and a temptation to be avoided. Attempts to break the bipartisan consensus against this practice, which is completely contrary to the purpose of medical care, must be avoided.

Instead, Catholics can support efforts such as the one winning support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Medical Association, a bill funding training, education, and research for authentic palliative care, which gives patients the real love and care they need.

Our witness to life at all stages from conception to death is often countercultural, but it is one we can all feel good about taking up, rooted as it is in the gift of God that every human life represents.

Faith in the Public Arena: In politics, we can all be like Frodo Baggins

The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien is a beautiful work showing the important role even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant people have in the drama of history. In the trilogy, it was Frodo Baggins, the little hobbit, who embarks on a perilous adventure to destroy the ring of power at Mount Doom and save Middle Earth from the power of the evil Sauron.

Jason Adkins

Jason Adkins
Faith in the Public Arena

Frodo is like each of us: just another person who, when met with a perilous challenge, took up his Cross and carried it to his own Calvary. He left all that was comfortable — the Shire, with its strawberries and cream, good cheer, and plenty of beer — to follow his calling.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of history.” — Lady Galadriel

In this life, and especially in the public realm, each one of us as Christians will have the opportunity to be like Frodo. But often, we will be full of doubt. Who are we but seemingly insignificant spectators in a great drama that seems out of our control? Like little hobbits, we can do nothing and should just get back to tending our serene garden, minding our business.

That is a lie Satan tells us, when in fact, we can do something. As Gandalf the wizard tells Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” — Bilbo Baggins

Frodo came to mind following the recent court victory of Carl and Angel Larsen, the St. Cloud videographers who are challenging the State of Minnesota’s prosecution of wedding vendors who will not do business related to same-sex weddings.

Carl and Angel are inspiring people and joyful Christians. Their home is a model of Christian hospitality, including to people who experience same-sex attraction. They walk the walk and are just like others who sit in the pew on Sunday.

But Carl and Angel didn’t just sit there. They walked out the door of their own comfortable hobbit hole and embarked on the great adventure of standing up for civil rights — free speech and free exercise of religion.

Undoubtedly, they couldn’t imagine what this nationally significant case had in store for them. But they went out their door, and they are winning.

“Folk seem to have been just landed in [adventures], usually — their paths were laid that way. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten.” — Samwise Gamgee

Carl and Angel had many chances to turn back: a loss at the district court level with a sneering opinion by a judge who dismissed their case; media scrutiny and hate mail; discouragement and criticism from other Christians who do not believe that using the courts to protect the spread of the Gospel is appropriate. Yet, they have persevered.

Their case is a microcosm of work in the public arena generally, which is characterized by setbacks and advances.

Sometimes positive developments are hard to see, but history shows that the Gospel does advance, beauty and order can be brought into the world, and souls do come to know the Lord. All this can unfold through our daily labors of tilling the soil, sowing the seed, and playing our part so that others may reap the harvest.

“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” — Gandalf

We might view Carl and Angel’s lawsuit as something more significant that only they could do. Again, this would be a mistake.

Each one of us has the opportunity to turn the tide in small ways — with a word of grace and truth here, with a letter to the editor there. Oftentimes, politics, especially at the local level, is just about walking out the door and showing up.

What we can do may seem insignificant, but collectively, it can change the culture, though we might not live to see it. Like little Frodo, we must step forward to do our part.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Betsy Kneepkens: We shouldn’t be ignoring children of divorce

Nearly every topic, syndrome, or condition that exists has been overly studied. As a culture, it seems when we want to move a particular agenda, those change agents can find a study that supports their cause even though there are a number of other studies that do not. Once a group finds the data that backs up its cause, it uses this supporting information to influence politicians, journalists, and granting organizations to go after what that group is looking for.

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

On occasion, though, there is thorough research done with findings which are consistent, but that information learned is not widely disseminated. In other words, scientists repeatedly come up with the same results each time, but that knowledge is overlooked and minimized. I believe these studies are dismissed because listening to the result would require our larger community to make difficult choices and act differently than we prefer to do.

What I am specifically speaking about is the legacy of divorce on children. The topic brings angst in nearly everyone that it is mentioned to. I don’t want to write about it, people don’t want to read about it, and we certainly don’t want to address the problem.

When 50 percent of marriages end in civil divorce and so many of those families have children, you quickly learn that no one is immune to the consequences that a broken apart family has on the lives of those the situation touches. I say “broken apart” instead of simply “broken” because most intact families are broken, because we all have the wounds of sin. It is when broken falls apart that we have the legacy of divorce that is so painful that as a society we want to ignore it, even though research repeatedly tells us that divorce has a devastating effect on children.

In too many marriages, the situation is unsafe due to alcohol and drug abuse or physical, sexual, or emotional cruelty. In each of these cases, to protect children and the spouse, one must remove the individual or individuals who make the situation unsafe. Although there are negative effects on children from this, there is really no other option for a parent.

For many more, the tenets of the marriage break down and the solution seems to be divorce. Often only one of the spouses want dissolution, and because of no-fault divorce the civil union is doomed.

Keeping married couples unified is at the heart of what we need to do for children, but for the sake of this article I am trying to illuminate how we are not solving the legacy of divorces because we don’t really want to address the topic.

Most of the time you can observe the change in a child after their family is broken apart. There is no particular expected behavior, but that child is changed and almost never for the good. When working with college students for nearly three decades, with the exception of abusive situations, I never heard a student say they were better because of their parents’ divorce. Rather I regularly heard that this event, and life after, was the most devastating time of their lives.

There are numerous adult children of divorce who still carry the pain, the suffering, and the wounds of their home broken apart by divorce. These adults have anxiety about commitment, conflict, struggle to accept or believe success is possible, and so many more life-altering conditions. With the exception of abusive situations, we have to stop saying that divorce is for the kids’ sake. It just is not the case.

Because we have chosen not to talk about or get real about the consequences of divorce on children, we have created a vacuum where we are starting to let folly reign within the silence. What I mean is that comedians are using the situation of broken apart families as a punchline to gain laughs. Or there are even commercials that are running, using the hardship of divorce on children as the plot line, as if it is something to laugh at in an effort to sell a product.

How sick and painful is that? Recently during an NFL game, an insurance company had an advertisement where a mom introduces a man, the insurance salesman, to her sons. The sons’ comment to the mom as she introduces this man to the boys was “don’t make me call him dad.” From my perspective, ads like this minimize the wounds and fear a child has in the situation. These advertisers are saying their feelings are a big joke.

Imagine the number of children of divorce who watch this kind of stuff and feel they are being slapped in the face by this disparagement and wounded again. Because we are not culturally seeking ways to support children in these crises, the populace has decided to normalize the dreadful condition.

Do I have the solution? I have ideas, but I think changing the premise of broken apart families might start us on a different approach. If, as a society, we reorganized the way we approach the severing marriages, we might find different ways to act and communicate. If the resolution of parenting was the primordial focus, even before legal matters of divorce were determined, perhaps we might reorder the importance children feel in these situations. When we better accept that children are the gift of a combined creation by mother, father, and our Creator, we might change some of our conversations around our children. If, when anything sacrificially happens, it happens for the sake of the children, we might make children believe they are a significant.

This is not an easy subject to talk about, and it shouldn’t be. Many might think, “Who am I to say?” And I say somebody has to say something or we get nowhere. The lifetime consequence divorce has on children is impacting every aspect of our communities. Scientists have studied this problem, and we are certain of the outcomes. Not until we start getting real about the subject, start talking about the larger impact divorce has on society, will we be able to move children and adult children of divorce to a better place or create a place that they never have to go to.

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.

Father Richard Kunst: Arguing about religion can be a good thing

You may have heard it said that in the history of the human race, religion has been the cause of war more than anything else. Honestly, I do not believe that. As an amateur student of world history, I think land has been the biggest reason for war between peoples.

Father Richard Kunst
Father Richard

Whatever the biggest reason has been, I think we all can agree that religion has been a major cause of conflict, both on an international level and a very personal level. I would guess that every person reading this column has at one point or another been in conflict with another over religion. It happens, and it happens a lot.

From the Christian perspective, we know that conflict over religion was inevitable, because Jesus said it would be so! “Do not suppose that my mission on earth is to spread peace. My mission is to spread, not peace, but division. I have come to set a man at odds with his father, a daughter with her mother, a daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law. In short, to make a man’s enemies those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-36). Pretty amazing words from the Prince of Peace!

So how do we make sense of this seemingly out of character quote from Jesus?

First I would like to say this: Religious arguments can be a good thing. In fact, I think we need more religious arguments, because religion has become such a private affair, when it should be anything but private. Everyone who knows us should clearly know that we are Catholic. It should be obvious, and if it is not, then we have some work to do.

So how is it that arguments over religion can be a good thing? Let’s look at the basic definition of an argument. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, an argument is “a discussion of different points of view; debate.”

If our faith and religion are among the things we hold most sacred, then we should want to argue about them with people who have a different viewpoint. But what is most central, and what is most important to be aware of, is why would we argue religion?

The very worst reason to argue about religion is to win an argument. If that is your intent when engaging in an argument, then shut your mouth and walk away. The last thing an argument over religion should be is a contest to victory. So if that is what you do, stop. An argument over religion should be a free-flowing sharing of ideas in which we try to offer a logical counterpoint so as to win someone over to Christ.

When Jesus said those words that I quoted above, conflict was not his purpose, but he knew it would happen as a result of his coming. He is the Prince of Peace, and he wants all to accept him, but he also knows that many will reject him, and that will cause conflict. Think of all the conflicts you have had in your life due to your believing in Jesus and the church he founded.

So arguing about religion is a good thing, as long as we do it in charity and with the sole purpose bringing people into relationship with Christ and his church. We should argue religion because we love the person we are arguing with! And if we love that person, that means we will necessarily argue with charity.

One of my closest friends has become Pastor Peter Kowitz of United Lutheran Church in Proctor. Our whole relationship as friends is based on healthy debate and even argumentation. He has been my sparring partner in the Theology Uncapped series held in Duluth every three months for the past couple of years. I bludgeon him in our discussions, but we do it in faith and charity, and the funny thing is that he thinks he bludgeons me! But we have become great friends because of debate and argumentation.

So ask yourself, when you are tempted to get into a religious argument: Will the argument help or hurt your relationship? It is important to know the answer to that question.

The fact is we need more arguments about religion, and if we never had them, where would we be? It is how Christianity spread in the first place! “Paul entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly with persuasive arguments about the Kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected]

Father Nick Nelson: We must change minds and hearts when it comes to abortion

The month of October is dedicated to the rosary. The month of October is also the month we dedicate to protecting the unborn. The two are related, as the rosary is one of the primary weapons against the evil of abortion.

Father Nicholas Nelson
Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

In just the last year there has been an exponential intensification in the battle between the culture of life and the culture of death. The battle lines between life and death have now been drawn in such a way that there is no masking the difference between the sides.

As many as twelve states have passed abortion restrictions in the past year. Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi made it illegal to perform an abortion after the detection of a heartbeat. And Alabama went all the way, making it illegal to perform any abortion.

On the other hand, Illinois, Vermont, New York, and Rhode Island all enacted laws loosening abortion restrictions. Some are as extreme as making abortion legal until birth and even allowing babies to die if they survived an abortion and were born alive — in other words, legalizing infanticide.

In this current climate, it is necessary to pray, but it is also necessary to change minds, which will also lead to a change of heart. We must change hearts by changing minds. I’d like to take this month’s column to speak on the various issues and arguments surrounding the right to life.

Every human being has dignity, not just value or worth. Dignity is of infinite value or worth. It is not quantifiable. We can’t speak of one person having more human dignity than another. Infinity is not less or more than other infinities. You can’t say a fetus has less human dignity than a neurosurgeon.

We are naturally pro-life. Try explaining to a child what abortion is. You can say, “Well, honey, when a mommy and daddy don’t want the baby in the mommy’s belly, they will take it out and not let the baby live.” The child will respond with something like, “But why would they do that?” The children naturally reject the disorder and senselessness of abortion.

Roe v Wade was decided on several kinds of faulty reasoning. One is that they argued that because the unborn weren’t explicitly written in the Constitution, they therefore were not protected by the Constitution. That is the same argument that was used to defend the enslavement of African Americans. They argued that because Africans were not explicitly named in the Constitution, they didn’t deserve the protection of it. But that is like saying that because “35-year-old priests who enjoy playing hockey and golf and reading the lives of the saints” isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, I shouldn’t get the rights that the Constitution provides.

We only question someone’s personhood when we want to harm them. Nazis questioned the personhood of the Jews and gypsies and those with disabilities. Pro-slavery people questioned the personhood of African Americans. And no one questions the personhood of a wanted pregnancy, it’s only when it is unwanted or undesired. When we desire to harm them, that is when we question their personhood.

Safe, legal, and rare? Well, for who? Abortion advocates will say, “We don’t want ‘back alley abortions’ because that is unsafe for the woman.” Besides the fact that abortion clinics are notorious for lacking basic health standards and abortion always harms the woman in many ways, abortion is never safe for the baby. That’s like saying, “We need to make it legal and easier and more convenient for a bigger person to beat up a small person. We want the bigger person to be kept safe.”

“My body, my choice” is a common argument for abortion. First, a right is only a right if you apply it to everyone. It can’t be a right for me and not for you. So “my body, my choice” is my right. Well, what about the baby’s body? It’s the baby’s body, and therefore the baby gets his choice. Also, for the woman, it isn’t just your body. How many bodies do you know that have two heads, four legs, two hearts, etc.?

What about when the life of the mother in danger? Direct intentional abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother. There are times when a certain procedure is done to save the mother (such as chemotherapy or the removal of part of the fallopian tube due to an ectopic pregnancy), and as an unintended consequence, the baby dies. This is unfortunately part of the brokenness of the world, but is morally acceptable.

During this Right to Life month, let’s pray for the changing of minds and a changing of hearts within our country. Let’s continue build a culture of life in whatever sphere of influence we have.

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of St. Mary, Cook; St. Martin, Tower; and Holy Cross, Orr. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected]

Father Michael Schmitz: How can ‘curiosity’ be a bad thing?

I have heard that curiosity can be considered a vice. That doesn’t make any sense to me. The advances of science, technology, and social reforms wouldn’t have happened if people had suppressed their natural desire to venture into the unknown and ask questions that challenged the status quo. It seems more like an intimidation tactic on the part of institutions.

Father Mike Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

This is a fantastic question. I am grateful that you mentioned how odd (and even seemingly evil) it is to call curiosity a potential vice. I had read an article that described curiosity as the “virtue” that “oppressive states fear.” Free-thinkers and those who truly make progress in this world are the ones who are constantly feeding their insatiable curiosity, aren’t they?

Some people have such a negative view of Christians and of the Catholic Church that they would maintain that defining curiosity negatively is merely another way the church wants to control how and what people think. But that would be to completely ignore the very foundations of Christianity. As Catholics, we believe that God is Truth Himself. Jesus said, “I … am the Truth ….” In John’s Gospel, God is revealed as the “Word (Logos or “Reason”) made flesh.” This reality has not only guided the church’s approach to faith but also paved the way for scientific inquiry and study in the first place.

With the worldview of Catholic Christianity, philosophy and the arts flourished. Inquiry into meaning and the way things work was given a solid setting for the pursuit of truth. In fact, despite what some people might say, the church not only developed modern science but actively led the way and continues to make contributions in virtually every scientific domain. The church is not opposed to asking questions, or the fact that we, as human beings “want to know.”

But if that is the case, then why be down on curiosity?

In order to understand the classic assessment of curiosity as a vice (and not a virtue), we have to understand the term and what it means. For most of us, curiosity is simply “wanting to know.” It is the desire to know the story or to know the details; it is the desire to know the truth. Now, St. Thomas Aquinas (a great mind who pursued truth his entire life) wrote that knowledge in and of itself is a good. Where we can get into trouble is with regard to the method and motivation the undergirds the pursuit of that knowledge.

In that sense, curiosity is at least as “morally neutral” as the Internet. We know that the Internet can be a powerful tool for good, and that it can be a powerful tool for harm. In and of itself, it is neither good nor bad. How one uses the Internet is often the determining factor when it comes to the moral question. In particular, when it comes to the Internet, it can direct a person toward knowledge, freedom, and ultimately wisdom, or it can rob a person of sense, enslave them, and make them foolish.

There could be any number of ways to misuse curiosity. St. Thomas Aquinas names a few. There is the desire for knowledge that isn’t my business (gossip). In these cases, we all know how curiosity can poison our conversations and relationships. A couple of teachers gather together and begin talking about a student in order to help him or her, but then the conversation steers away from what is genuinely helpful and begins to focus on details that help no one. And yet, the desire to know these details drives the conversations so frequently that the content of relationships in the teachers’ lounge centers around the next piece of information.

There is the desire for knowledge that arises out of a sense of pride and wanting to “one up” those around me. This could be connected to the desire for knowledge that is beyond me, but is motivated by the desire to appear more intelligent than I am. We have all known people like this, and we have often been people like this. We don’t necessarily know a subject through and through, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have an opinion about it! Aquinas mentioned those monks (his particular context) who would venture into parts of the monastic library where complicated and sophisticated tomes were kept so fellow monks would take note of what they were reading. These monks didn’t necessarily desire to know a topic through and through, but wanted to gather enough information to appear to be wise.

We could also desire to know (and be so driven by this desire) that it becomes the end. St. Thomas noted that people who hand themselves over to unchecked curiosity could lose sight of the ultimate goal of any pursuit of truth: God himself. All truth has God as its source and God as its proper end. But some make the acquisition of knowledge to be the goal. Aquinas notes that, in doing this, they are missing the entire point of study.

And this is where it helps to define our terms. Curiosity, as St. Thomas understood it, was the vice that opposed the virtue of “studiousness.” While curiosity might be loosely defined as I’ve used it (“the desire to know”), studiousness is defined as “knowledge pursued well.”

Take a look at your own life. How often has the “desire to know” gotten in the way of what you were supposed to be doing? How often have we all put the more important task of the moment aside in order to satisfy our curiosity? This is why terms like “clickbait” and “YouTube rabbit trail” exist. We have a natural inclination to “want to know,” but we also have a difficult time governing that impulse.

This is one of the reasons why spiritual writers would talk about the ways in which Christians need to be “temperate” in their pursuit of knowledge. Think of this in terms of food. Food is a good. But I could use this good in a bad way, so I must be temperate in my approach to food. From ordering a certain kind of food because I believe that it will make others think well of me (vanity), to eating far more than my body needs (gluttony), to being unable to enjoy what I am currently eating because I want to go back up to the buffet and try “the next thing” (dissatisfaction).

I mentioned before that some influential people have been described as having an “insatiable curiosity.” This might be so. But they placed that desire for knowledge (a certain kind of curiosity) at the service of studiousness. They pursued knowledge well.

We all have the desire to know. It would serve us well if we were better able to identify the fact that there are things that we don’t need to know and things that we do not have a right to know, regardless of how enticing they may be. We have the desire to be informed, but it would be good for us to be able to put our primary duties ahead of the curiosities that vie for our attention and time. We want to become wise, but wisdom includes knowing what is worth knowing and knowing what can remain unknown.

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Reach him at [email protected]

Dallas’ Bishop Burns says forgiveness in court was act of Christian love

By Rhina Guidos
Catholic News Service

A Dallas bishop said that the public forgiveness offered by the brother of a murder victim toward the person who killed him was “an incredible example of Christian love.”

Brandt Jean
Brandt Jean, the younger brother of murder victim Botham Jean, hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to Guyger at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas following her Oct. 2 sentencing to 10 years in prison for murdering Botham. (CNS photo/Tom Fox pool via Reuters)

Bishop Edward J. Burns, who heads of the Diocese of Dallas, offered the statement after 18-year-old Brandt Jean forgave former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in court, as he read his victim impact statement Oct. 2. He also asked and was granted permission by the court to give her a hug, even though she fatally shot his 26-year-old brother, Botham Jean, in his apartment last year.

Guyger said she believed he was a burglar, but she was the one who entered his apartment without permission and later said she believed she was entering her own apartment.

Guyger was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years.

“I love you as a person and I don’t wish anything bad on you,” Brandt Jean told her in a video widely viewed and praised and in which the young man asked her to give her life over to Christ.

“I pray we can all follow the example of this outstanding young man. Let us pray for peace in our community and around the world,” Bishop Burns said in the statement.

However, some were upset that Guyger wasn’t given a harsher sentence and protested what they viewed as a light sentence.

Allison Jean, the victim’s mother, said she hoped Guyger would use the time in prison to reflect on her actions.

Bishop Paul Sirba: Help make our Church a beacon of light in the darkness

It is difficult to return to realities that are painful. We want relief and resolution. We don’t like pain or suffering. The expression “no pain no gain” may be a helpful sports mantra, but not so much when we are facing what seems insurmountable.

Bishop Paul Sirba

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Our Church, universally and locally, has been dealing with the effects of the clergy sexual abuse crisis for years. It became more intense for us when our Diocese declared bankruptcy almost four years ago on Dec. 7, 2015. Our efforts have always been focused on helping and healing for victims and their families, to bring about justice, repair scandal, and restore what has been damaged.

Resolution and sacrifice involves the whole local Church. I am grateful for the abuse survivors who have come forward to tell their stories. They have been courageous.

This month of October stands to be a very important chapter in the resolution of our bankruptcy. On Oct. 21, in Duluth, we will meet with Judge Robert Kressel, United States Bankruptcy Judge, and the Unsecured Creditors Committee, which represents survivors in the bankruptcy process, to offer a renewed apology for sins and crimes committed against them when they were children. I will apologize to victims and pledge to continue to make our churches, schools, and religious education programs the safest places for our young people to be. They will also receive a financial settlement.

Pursuit of justice at times has been painful, complicated, and long-suffering, but we hope in some measure that it has been achieved.

This is the work of our lifetime. The collateral damage includes not only victims but their families, relations, families of accused priests and the priests who have been credibly accused, and all of the rest of the Body of Christ. For when “one member suffers all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Ongoing work includes reconciliation and healing through prayer, sacrifice, and the grace of God. In all of this Jesus saves. We can make no progress in addressing these issues without Jesus. He alone heals. He alone can bring peace. Jesus is the only one to teach and help us make any sense out of redemptive suffering.

I have a few things to ask of all of you. Help make our Church a beacon of light to shine in the darkness. Please pray during this month for a merciful and just resolution to this process. The month of October is the month of the Rosary. Please offer your rosaries for victims who have been hurt by the sin of clergy sexual abuse. Please find in your heart to pray for all involved. Please pray for all those who are advising me and for me. Though you yourself may never have had to face this issue personally, know that so many others have been hurt and need to feel the healing touch of God.

I have great hope in the midst of the darkness that our beloved Church will make real progress in addressing the church-wide and society-wide problem of sexual abuse of young people. I hope that for those who have been harmed in the past, this brings healing and closure for them. I am hopeful that a heightened collaboration with the lay faithful, who bring experiences as parents and professionals, to the work of child protection, transparency, accountability, and recommendations for suitability for fitness in ministry will change our culture.

Our Lady of the most holy Rosary, pray for us.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.