Bishop Martino: Omit The Homily

Forget all this talk about vineyards, says Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton. Read my letter instead. No wiggle room permitted for northeastern Pennsylvania pastors: read the letter at homily time, all the letter, and only the letter.

Hat tip: Mollie Wilson O’Reilly at dotCommonweal.

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Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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14 Responses to Bishop Martino: Omit The Homily

  1. Christian says:

    The Bishop (my Bishop) has a message that he wants to be very sure reaches all members of the diocese on a very symbolic day. Since it is impractical for him to meet with all of them on that day, he wants his exact words to be read. I simply can’t see a problem with the method of delivery. I can clearly see a problem (for some) with the content of that message. He’s the Bishop and it is his obligation to teach — regardless of whether we like the message. The Noon reading in the liturgy of the hours is rather appropriate I think today, Isaiah 55:8-9, given how some people are very hardened of heart to hearing this message.

  2. Vicki says:

    Bravo, Bishop Martino. This is exactly what needs to be said in every Catholic parish in the USA.

  3. Especially in our own times, bishops are certainly not dependent on the homily time in local parishes to get their messages and teaching to the people of a diocese. There are other ways before, during and after parish celebrations of the Sunday Eucharist to communicate messages from the bishop. For a bishop to take this step is, to the best of my knowledge, extraordinary.

    I have no opposition to preaching on pro-life themes. The intercessions in my own parish include, every week of the year, two petitions for respect and reverence for life.

    Given that we live in the Catholic Church by a particular calendar which does, indeed, include “very symbolic” days, I find it a stretch to designate the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time a “very symbolic day” simply because in the US it’s been named Respect Life Sunday.

  4. Matthew Meloche says:

    I think it’s a bit much that it’s being read during the homily and being sent home in the bulletin. I think a better choice would be to have it read during the homily and then have copies “available” for those that want them and not make as many as putting it in every bulletin. That seems a bit much.

  5. Anne says:

    I agree with ConcordPastor that there are other means in this day and age to get the message out. The whole idea of “Respect Life Sunday” bothers me. We don’t need another theme replacing what is already built into the liturgy. Find other ways to teach. As someone who tries to prepare for the Sunday readings, I look forward to hearing the Word explained in the homily. I may be in the minority but to hear something not connected at all would be very disappointing.
    Also, Mollie has a good point that “No, there is no explicit endorsement of the Republican ticket in this letter”
    Not in so many words…Catholics are a whole lot smarter than this bishop is giving us credit for. His plan might just backfire when people vote for a candidate based on other important issues as well.

  6. Todd says:

    “His plan might just backfire when people vote for a candidate based on other important issues as well.”

    Not to mention the possibility that they might vote for a candidate just to spite the bishop. This is dangerous territory, especially in a state where the people are getting bombarded by media advertising.

  7. I think the bishop’s letter is outstanding: well written, addressing specific concerns and issues involved, explanatory, covering a lot of ground. I wonder how long it will take to read.

    Yes, it’s good to have the homily reflect on the readings, but it is, frankly, unreasonable to expect that each Sunday, the homily will explain the readings. It is not actually the case that preaching on Sunday must come from or address the readings; that is one option; also the homily can work from the prayers of the Mass, or from the season, and address teachings of the Faith.

    Fair enough, the bishop’s letter does not touch on the readings, and that is always good to do; but there is no question he addresses Catholic teaching very substantially–i.e., this is a homily, even if its not the homily one wants.

    The reason the bishop did this is not hard to understand: he wants to make sure everyone actually encounters his message. Publishing it in the diocesan newspaper, or inserting it in the bulletin, makes it all too likely some, or many, will skip over it, either because they are busy, or because they know they won’t like what he says, or they figure, “oh, I already agree.”

    Yes, it’s “extraordinary” as someone above says. The bishop is making a point: this subject matters a great deal. Is he wrong?

    There is nothing about this statement that endorses any candidates. If one candidate suffers because the life issues are highlighted, that is the fault of that candidate. Otherwise, you end up saying that the greater the disparity between the candidates, the more the bishops have to be silent, and that’s unacceptable.

    Finally, I think the idea that people will vote in a contrary way to spite him is, with respect, silly. If someone can figure out a way to measure it, I’ll take that bet: i.e., if someone is going to go vote for Candidate X “because of that letter,” I bet that person was going to do so anyway; or else that person is very unlikely to follow through.

    But even if that is true, a prophet must say what he is sent to say; for heaven’s sake, what happened to the prophets when they spoke up–they certainly provoked negative reactions! Should they have backed off?

  8. Jimmy Mac says:

    The day that “Respect Life Sunday” is truly devoted to ALL “life” issues is the day that I’ll pay attention to it.

    If Catholics and their bishops demand that the politicians they vote for embrace the entire Catholic position on abortion and other life issues, no politician would ever get elected. But this takes us into the issue of political strategy. Really being pro-life means more than having an anti-abortion sentiment or attitude. But this should also go for people who are telling other people that they are sinning if they don’t vote for someone who belongs to the “pro-life” party. These people should themselves consider the possibility that they themselves have been enablers and that perhaps we should stop looking into other people’s souls and start thinking about what we can do in the short term. Because the short term is in fact all we have.

  9. My question for Bishop Martino, Archbishop Chaput, and other Republi–I mean, other bishops concerned about pro-life issues–is this: Since one party is admittedly pro-abortion, and the other party is apparently willing only to render lip service to the anti-abortion cause, what is the practical moral difference between the two? For four of the last eight years, the Republican party had control of the White House and both houses of congress, and nothing changed. You don’t need to wait for the Supreme Court; there’s Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives congress the power to remove issues from the jurisdiction of the courts. They happily invoke this pre-emptively in their wiretapping legislation; why not invoke it on behalf of the unborn? All this is before one gets to whether or not the GOP SCOTUS appointments have been at all effective in this area.

    So again the question is this: What is lip service worth?

  10. Jim McK says:

    Having heard the letter twice this weekend, I have to say it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. A wisiting priest described St Paul and others writing letters to early churches, and then proceeded to read in stentorian, proclamation tones. (I am amazed he could keep his voice like that for so long!)
    Sunday morning I heard our pastor read it, in a somewhat less formal style. Then I was dismissed with our catechumens where we had an interesting discussion about bishops and authority as well as little on the content of the letter.
    Personally, I found the letter disappointing. Was motherhood even mentioned? The reading from Philippians and the visitor pointing to it for context alleviated some of the sterility of the letter, but I am unhappy that he missed the chance at giving the fuller context of our faith. Our tradition is rich with images –Mary’s choice, our freedom, the intimacy of 9 months together — that could easily have been woven into a more hopeful message. Instead the unborn and those who wish to kill were portrayed as opponents, setting up an alienation of mother and child that may well promote the alienation that is the basis for abortion. I would rather have people come out of church with a desire to love an unborn person, than with a desire to outlaw abortion.

  11. Anne says:

    “…and then proceeded to read in stentorian, proclamation tones. (I am amazed he could keep his voice like that for so long!)”

    Now that is just too weird IMO.

    “I would rather have people come out of church with a desire to love an unborn person, than with a desire to outlaw abortion.”

    I agree!!

  12. As I seem to recall from reading Church History, the ordinary celebrant of the Divine Liturgy, and particularly the one who made the sermon, was the Bishop. I seem also to recall that while the Church, both East and West, delegated the duty of celebration to priests in the 4th Century A.D., and the duty of giving the sermon in the 13th to 15th Centuries, that it still remains the primary duty of the Bishop.

    I also seem to recall that the Bishop, at his discretion, may direct his priests from time to time to deliver a sermon which he, the Bishop, has written.

    So just what is your bleeping problem here? Just out of curiosity.

  13. Todd says:

    “So just what is your bleeping problem here? Just out of curiosity.”

    My problem is that the letter is no homily, and is a sermon that has little connection to the liturgy. I’ve blogged here what I think the better alternatives are. I expect bishops to be liturgically aware and not lazy. That’s about it.

  14. Todd: I accidentally clicked on “grot” when I wanted to come to this thread…you won’t want that link on your site.

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