Greetings, and Welcome to The Small Shoppe

After the example of my Chestertonian mentor, Dr. R. Kenton Craven, I here offer my ponderings and musings for your edification and/or education.

You are welcome to read what is written here, and encouraged to do so. Appropriate comments may well be posted.

Michael Francis James Lee
The Not-so-Small Shoppe-Keeper

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Revealing Look at a "Catholic" Cult ~ And Some Important Warning Signs!

Book Review

Spiritual Blackmail: My Journey Through a Catholic Cult
by Sherri Schettler
Lifelong Habits, LLC, 2014

I received this book today in the mail, and read it in one sitting. Sherri Schettler offers the painful benefit of her experiences of being misled, misdirected, and shamefully used by "charismatic" figures who employed typical brainwashing and cult leadership practices to control their followers.

Schettler performs an invaluable service while sharing her harrowing journey into, and finally out of a sect that she mistakenly had come to believe was the "only true Catholic Church."

Her book is well written, and is gripping. I found myself picking it right back up again, after deciding to take a short break; I simply had to read "just one more chapter."

Readers will be educated as to the types of arguments and deceptions used by those who seek to recruit and manipulate followers, as they build "religious movements" that amount to nothing more than self-gratifying personality cults.

I believe that Schettler's book is extremely timely and important. Having had a much shorter, yet frighteningly similar experience myself, with the Franciscan Brothers Minor – in Fort Wayne, Indiana (2012), I know "Catholic Cults" are not only to be found today among radical traditionalists. They exist even among new "religious communities" that have sprung up within the Church since Vatican ll, and the dawn of the "New Evangelization."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Dubious "Repentance" of one Fr. Somerville

"The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the lex orandi (law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite.  Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same lex orandi, ... These two expressions of the Church's lex orandi...are, in fact two uses of the one Roman rite."  +Benedictus  PP. XVI  "Summorum Pontificum," art. 1. 
I am sickened and wearied, nearly to the point of regurgitation, over Catholics, including, unfortunately, otherwise loyal priests, who continue to post and share a YouTube video in which one Fr. Stephen F. Someverville "Repents" of his involvement in the translation of the Mass into English, after the Second Vatican Council (*It should be noted that Fr. Somerville "repented" of his translation work, only after he got into trouble and was suspended from ministry).

This priest is in open rebellion against his legitimate superiors, and has taken, unofficially, or perhaps now officially, to cavorting with, and catering to the SSPX. 

The video is an unmitigated slam on the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and thus -- no matter how anyone, priest or lay, tries to slice it -- is an attack on the Holy Mass, and against the unity and peace of the Holy Catholic Church. 

Our Pope Emeritus, His Holiness Benedict XVl, while yet on the Chair of Peter, declared that the one Roman Rite is comprised of two forms; the Ordinary, and the Extraordinary. 

These veiled, and all too often not-veiled attacks on the Ordinary Form are shameful coming from anyone, and all the more shameful when coming from within the ranks of the clergy.

So that the status of Fr. Somerville may be known, here is the letter in which he was suspended from public (and, in all but one emergency case) private ministry:

~~ + ~~
(Father Stephen F. Somerville was suspended by the Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto on July 15, 2004. Here is the suspention letter- Truncated as it was very long and specific as to the reasons.)

(Originally Posted by +Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic)

Dear Father Somerville:

For the last several months, I have tried unsuccessfully to reason with you about your grave and persistent disobedience in continuing your association with and in celebrating the Eucharist for adherents to the schismatic Society of St. Pius X. Given your earlier and more recent communications with myself and with Monsignor John Murphy, Chancellor of Spiritual Affairs, it appears all our efforts to deal pastorally with your obstinacy in this matter have been in vain.

It is my understanding that you have not “formally” affiliated yourself with the Society of St. Pius X already mentioned. Such formal affiliation to that Society, whose founder’s ipso facto excommunication was declared by the Apostolic See on July 1, 1988, would, as you are probably aware, according to Canon 1364, likewise result in your own immediate de jure excommunication from the Church.

On the other hand, your ongoing association with and celebration of the Tridentine Mass for members of the Society of St. Pius X give external recognition to their illegitimate claims and their lack of submission to our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, to Bishops appointed by him, and to the teachings of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

In light of all the foregoing, with due observance of Canon 1342, 1, and Canons 1717-1720:

-Given your flagrant disregard for my previous warnings to cease and desist from your disobedient behaviour (fc. Canons 1330; 1347. 1);

-Given the existence of the condition for grave imputability of your actions (cf. Canon 1321);

-Given the absence of extenuating circumstances (cf. Canons 1322-1324);

-I hereby decree, in your regard, the imposition of the censure of suspension as laid down in Cannon 1333, 1, 1-3. That is, as of this 15th day of July 2004, you no longer enjoy the faculties of the Archdiocese. To wit, you are prohibited all public and private acts of the power of Order and of the power of governance. Namely, you are forbidden to celebrate, either publicly or privately, any of the Sacraments, including the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (this latter, outside the danger of death of a penitent [cf. Canon 1335]) You are likewise forbidden the faculty to preach or to celebrate publicly the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Word. Thus, this censure of suspension is global (cf. Canon 1334, 1).

This censure does not prevent you from receiving the sacraments in the churches of the Archdiocese provided you are otherwise well-disposed. It does prevent you from offering the sacraments to members of the faithful of our Archdiocese and elsewhere, even to those legitimately asking, the sole exception being the absolution of a penitent in danger of death (cf. Canons 976 &1335).

This censure of suspension is personal, that is, in keeping with Canon 1351, binds you not only within the territory of the Archdiocese of Toronto, but everywhere in the world.

With the assurance of my prayers, I remain

Yours in Christ

Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic

Archbishop of Toronto

[*Nota Bene: The fact that the excommunication mentioned in the above letter was later lifted by His Holiness Benedict XVI, does not relieve Fr. Somerville of his suspension for disobedience.]                                      

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Justice and Mercy on The Southern Border...and elsewhere

"The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:34

"Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt."

With regard to the subject of Illegal Immigration, and with particular regard to the present crisis on our southern border, I offer the following:

 I will never refer to the children (illegally crossing over) as "illegal children," nor as "illegals."

 In conscience, I can call them "illegal immigrants," or "illegal immigrant children," but I cannot use terminology that imputes an illegal "state of being" to a child or other person. Conservatives are often, rightly, reminding us that "words have meaning," and this case is no different.

I am neither a tea partier, nor a committed republican.  As a student of the writings of G.K. Chesterton, I have serious difficulties with both conservatism and liberalism -- actually with all isms, other than Catholicism.

Chesterton, accurately I believe, charged that it is the job of liberals to continue making mistakes, while the job of conservatives is to steadfastly prevent previous mistakes from being corrected.  One can see this in play throughout our history, especially over the past 4 or 5 presidential administrations.  

I am a Catholic before and above whatever other allegiances I have.  Thus, should it come to a "choice" between my allegiance to the Catholic Church, and my allegiance to a particular political ideology, the Church will always prevail within me.

These full disclosures having been made, here are my thoughts regarding the border crisis.

Our immigration laws are a mess -- and several of them actually conflict with each other.  If we try to absolutely enforce all of them, we would have border patrols snatching illegal immigrants from other border patrols, in order to take the apprehended individuals in opposite directions.  That would make a good scene for a Monty Python movie, but it's not so funny in real life.

Even if we assume, for the sake of discussion, that our immigration laws are fine, uniform, non-conflicting, and totally just (an assumption I am not prepared to make; lacking a complete study and understanding of each of these laws), for the Christian --and most especially the Catholic citizen -- there is always the pairing of Justice and Mercy to be considered.  We can never do the one without the other, without erring.  To give mercy without justice is a disservice to everyone, and the same is true when we apply justice without mercy.

So, the matter is clear as to "what" is required: Justice AND Mercy ~ Mercy AND Justice.  We have this model from God Himself - that is how He deals with us; and remember, EACH of us has sinned, and is deserving of death.

Now, the tricky matter is not the what, rather the how.

Imperfect person, and sinner that I am, I see it this way -- in light of the Teaching of the Church, as I understand it:

1. We have a right to either open or close our borders -- and we must live with the benefits and consequences of either decision.

2. We have a right to regulate who, and how many, enter our country -- and we must live with the benefits and consequences of such regulation.

3. We have a right to enforce just laws - and an obligation to do so in a way that yet respects the inherent dignity of each person.

4. Our enforcement, to be both just AND merciful, must take into account the human condition and situation of those upon/against whom our enforcement is directed. For example: Would we apprehend an armed attacker in the same exact manner as we would a 7 year old, unaccompanied child -- or an 85 year old woman struggling to stand with a walker? Clearly, we would adjust the "pressure" of our actions.

Taking these points into account, and again operating under the assumption that our laws are coherent, consistent, and just, here is what I would DO with regard to the current flow of illegal immigrants over the southern border.

Unaccompanied Children would be given an immediate "urgent needs assessment."  Are they old enough to be "sent back" with any realistic hope of getting home alive?  Are they hungry? Are they clean?  Are they in need of rest?  Are they in need of medical attention (remember the Good Samaritan)? Are they in need of someone to sit down and respond to them as a human being who cares whether they live or die (c.f. Lev 19:34, Deut 10:19)?  

I would suggest such needs be addressed prior to carrying out an orderly, and compassionate procedure to reunite them with their families in their home countries (provided that they are not legitimate "refugees" according to our legal definitions).

These needs do not necessarily have to be addressed entirely at government/taxpayer expense.  Catholic Relief Services would assist, as would similar organizations connected to other religious entities.  Maybe by so doing, Mr. Obama would come to an appreciation of the role of the Church in society.

Adults who cross illegally, should also be given an emergency assessment designed to be sure that they can physically tolerate being sent back -- then, when these immediate/urgent needs are addressed (think religious service agencies again), they should be sent back -- again, unless they qualify as refugees under U.S. law.

Incomplete and imperfect as these are, they are my thoughts -- subject to further study,discernment, and correction in light of our Catholic Faith.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Shem and Japheth, Rather than Ham

  Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard;  and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent.  And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.
~Gen 9:20-23

I admit to having "an issue" with negative pope-talk. Before I begin, I'll offer something close to full disclosure (not exactly full, because I'm going to keep it to the point) - I have nothing negative to say about any of the men who have held the Petrine office in my lifetime; and that begins with Pius Xll. And, to be glaringly clear; I love both the Pope Emeritus and the Pope. 

My "issue" with negative pope-talk really flows from my Franciscan style of Spirituality. The pope is my papa; my dad, my pops, my father. In all of my life, even with regard to those things I may not have particularly liked, I have never - outside of a few conversations with him - felt the need to publicly criticize my dad, nor his actions. 

What does such criticism really serve? Whom does it really serve? What (virtuous) good does it advance? I prefer to approach the "papal negatives" from a contemplative stance -- I'll pray, fast, sacrifice, and do penance for the Holy Father. If I feel it absolutely necessary, in fraternal charity, then -- I'll write to him; as did several saints with regard to popes of the past. I won't take to my facebook page, nor my blog (shameless plug for: to point out my judgment on the particular actions or decisions of the Holy Father. 

Another thing that gives me pause about "negative pope talk" is the very real possibility that my judgement is flawed. Are there things about the decisions and actions of the Holy Father of which I am unaware, or perhaps misinformed? I'm pretty sure that there often are such things. So, as I've said, until an occupant of the Chair of Peter attempts to teach error as Truth, or to strike down Truth as error, I will not be pointing out my judgments on his daily actions and decisions; not even those pertaining to liturgy. 

For the record, I am one of those "Extraordinary Form" people, who, according to "popular wisdom," are supposed to love Benedict, and hate Francis. I'm just a Catholic who strives to practice filial obedience and charity with regard to those set over me in my family; the Church.

Monday, May 5, 2014

There Are Times When What the Shepherds Really Need, is to Know the Sheep will Follow Them...

Having sought, and gratefully received, permission from my friend and brother in the Faith, Thomas Pringle of Lutz, Florida, I am here sharing a question he posed earlier today via social media:

Why do some Catholics, including some clergy, insist on neglecting their responsibility to teach the moral truths of the Church on human sexuality? If we don't lift our voices now, and defend what we know to be the Truth, we will lose our opportunity in the future. It's time to take a stand on these issues, (and) not back down from the fight.

And, here is my "answer," which I offered as a comment upon his post:

This is ONE reason we need to pray constantly for our clergy! The strength and courage they NEED to overcome the socio-political inertia only comes from Grace. In the Divine Economy, this grace is gained for them through the prayers, penances, fasting, sacrifices, and pain offerings of the faithful; especially the laity in their daily lives in the world. As we make these offerings, we must also clearly communicate to our shepherds that we are ready and willing to stand with them in this fight; and to follow them when they bravely step out in moral leadership.

In my life of some 60+ years, I have learned that there are times when those who would lead us simply need the reassurance that we will actually follow.

"Should" it be thus?  Oh, I suppose one could argue that it shouldn't.  Then again, as soon as one remembers that we deal with fragile human beings like ourselves, then it seems rather likely that whether or not it "should" be thus; it simply is.

The challenge I offer is therefore twofold: Take up arms as faithful laity in this spiritual warfare. And let your deacons, priests, and bishops know that you are doing so -- and that you will support them when they take what may be unpopular stands.

As we rightly expect our shepherds to assume the role proper to their God-given offices, we must rightly assume ours as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ss. John XXlll & John Paul ll ~ The Coming Schism: Remember to Look Both Ways....

As we near the canonizations of Blesseds John XXlll & John Paul ll, I have heard and read many remarks as to a coming "schism" in the Church.  Many of those saying such things speculate that the schism will "come from the right."  

While I don't normally use "right" and "left" in reference to the Church, I'll indulge here, just this once: 

I think the schism will be well populated by people from both the right and the left. Many of these, from both extremes, are already in operative schism

The priest (name withheld) right here in my diocese, who still uses the previous translation of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite on weekdays, is no less in "schism," than the people I know who won't use the Luminous Mysteries because they claim that these came from "modernism." 

A pox on both their houses.  

The Catholic Church will remain as the splinters fall from the edges.  

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl prophesied, we will become a smaller and more faithful Church.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wisdom From a 3rd Grader!

"gather the children in this wild country
and teach them what they should know for salvation."
Our Lady of Good Help, to Adele Brise, 1859
This took place last night (03.11.2014) in my Elementary Grade Catechism Class at St. Joseph Oratory in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  

I have 39 students in class.

We were discussing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, from Lesson 10 of the New Baltimore Catechism #1 (St. Joseph Edition).

As we discussed grace, we reviewed briefly how the life of grace can be darkened or destroyed in us by sin.  There was a question from one young man, "How do I know if I have a mortal sin."  So, we reviewed the 3 conditions which make a sin mortal: The matter must be gravely wrong, the sinner must know it is gravely wrong, and the sinner must give full consent of the will in committing the sin.

Then, as some still seemed unsure of what sins might be so grave as to be mortal, I asked for some examples of things that would, objectively, be gravely wrong.  We came up with most of the things you'd expect; murder, abortion, intentional physical injury of another (or of yourself), suicide, etc.

One answer, however, rather amazed me.

A young man, whom I will only identify by his first name, "Gus," said this:

"Like if you use a gun or something and force someone to give up the Catholic Faith, or do something so they have to give up being a Catholic or they'll die."

Yes!  To induce someone to abandon the Catholic Faith is a seriously grave matter! Objectively speaking, it is a mortal sin.

I was remarking to the class that I've never heard that answer from anyone in a Catechism Class before, nor even from adults in the many adult faith formation classes I've taught.  Then, I stopped myself and asked Gus, "What grade are you in?"  He smiled and said "Third."

I told him, "God has given you wisdom to say what you've said, and your angel has helped you to say it!"

Matthew 21:14-16 ~

"And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' they were indignant; and they said to him, 'Do you hear what these are saying?' And Jesus said to them, 'Yes; have you never read,
‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings
thou hast brought perfect praise’?”