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For U.S. Catholics, it’s time to stop the bleeding

15 Jun

The Catholic Church is bleeding.

It’s wounded from decades of abuse and neglect — sexual abuse, financial misconduct, cover-ups and the failure to adequately teach the faith, not to mention failure to live it. There’s enough blame to go around. Both lay people and the clergy have done their part to break trust with the faithful.

As a result, the Church is hemorrhaging. Badly. For decades, the in-joke among Protestants and Catholics has been that the second largest denomination in the United States is ex-Catholics. What was once a trickle is quickly developing into a massive flow.

Last year, a Georgetown study found that millennials leaving the Church stopped identifying as Catholics at a median age of 13, long before they ceased attending a parish.

A Pew study reports that more than half of adults who were raised Catholic have left the Church. “A significant minority of them returned, but most (four-in-ten of all those raised Catholic) have not.”

You get the picture.

Broken Trust

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Jose Gomez at a Nov. 12, 2017, presentation in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

As the U.S. Bishops meet this week in Baltimore for their General Assembly, they’ll discuss a host of issues. The abuse scandal is dominating the headlines, but the real underlying issue they should examine is broken trust. Catholics need to have confidence in their priests and bishops. Joe Catholic needs to know and see that Church leaders — priests, bishops and lay people — are living the faith they profess to believe.

Catholics are rightly outraged when news breaks that prelates like West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield are spending a thousand dollars a month on liquor. Having fresh $100 worth of fresh-cut flowers delivered to their offices daily. Dropping $350,000 in gifts to priests, bishops and cardinals across the country and at the Vatican. Not to mention Bransfield’s sexual harassment of priests and seminarians under his authority. I hardly need to mention the now-laicized former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Bishop Michael Bransfield resigned last year, but an investigation showed accusations of homosexual harassment were credible and it detailed the bishop’s extravagant spending.

At the same time, the Associated Press reports that attorneys general across the country have gathered hordes of evidence on clergy sex abuse, seized through search warrants and subpoenas at dozens of archdioceses.

Hanging on by a Thread

Many have had enough. A Gallup poll in March showed that 37 percent of adult Catholics are considering leaving the faith. Who can blame them? It’s a terrible time to be Catholic. So why stick around when other denominations are more transparent and welcoming? But scandal has dogged other Christian (and non-Christian) churches as well. The Southern Baptist Convention — also meeting this week — is itself confronting the issue of sexual abuse.

A Time for Saints and Heroes

Other say this is a great time to be Catholic. Throughout its 2,000-year history, God has raised up saints to steer the Church right again during times of scandal, abuse and misconduct on the part of its leaders.

Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest who gave his life for a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz, on Aug. 14, 1941.

The response to the Protestant Reformation gave us great saints like Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, and Ignatius of Loyola. In our day, we have stalwarts like Pope St. John Paul II, Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, and Maximilian Kolbe. More saints are born out of troubled times than any other period in human history. Our day is no different.

The challenge for the bishops — and lay Catholics as well — is to rebuild trust. Jesus founded the Catholic Church, so we who believe that he is the Son of God need to amend our lives to conform to that belief. That’s the call of every baptized Christian.

Rocky Soil?

Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed is applicable here. A farmer scattered seed, and some fell on rocky ground while other seed fell on good, fertile soil. The seed that fell on rocky ground sprouted, but its roots failed to go deep. The plant withered and died. The seed that fell on good soil blossomed and produced a bountiful harvest. A faithful witness rebuilds trust and helps create that fertile soil for others to believe as we do.

The Catholic Church’s bleeding won’t stop any time soon. It will only begin to heal once our shepherds and other professed Catholics start living what they profess to believe.

Patrick Novecosky is a Florida-based media relations professional, founder of this blog and NovaMedia. This article originally appeared on June 15, 2019, at The Stream.

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How the Oscars got grouchy: In your face politics

26 Feb

by Patrick Novecosky

(February 26, 2019) — When Jack Palance stood up to collect his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1992, I distinctly remember thinking, “I bet the old guy has a heart attack by the time he hits the third step.”

Jack Palance with his Academy Award in 1991

Palance did, indeed, drop to the floor. Not because he went into cardiac arrest, but to execute three one-handed push-ups – and one more with two hands to top off the performance. He checked his politics at the door.

Those were the days.

Over the past couple decades, the Academy Awards’ prestige — along with viewership of the live broadcast — has waned. It hit an all-time low last year when Jimmy Kimmel took a turn as host. The 26.6 million people who tuned in to the ceremony were the fewest to do so since Nielsen began estimating the program’s viewership in 1974.

Last night’s numbers weren’t much better, up a modest 2.1 million.

Why the Oscars Are Dying

Philip Bump at The Washington Post blames the slump on people not actually seeing the nominated films, therefore having no interest in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood’s biggest night.

Using statistical analysis, Bump makes some good points. The more popular the nominated films, the more popular the Oscar broadcast. Make sense.

But there’s something deeper going on here. Politics.

It’s Getting Too Shrill

Actors have always worn their politics on their sleeves. Humphrey Bogart organized a delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1947 against what he perceived to be the House Un-American Activities Committee’s harassment of Hollywood screenwriters and actors. Jane Fonda blasted the U.S. military’s involvement in Vietnam in the 1970s, and a bevy of stars — from Mark Ruffalo to Meryl Streep  — lined up to support Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in their 2016 bids for the White House.

But that’s on their own time.

Americans are free to tune out celebs’ activism (and they do) at the push of a button. While Fonda’s shrill rants against most of America’s war efforts are annoying, most of us are able to palate her on-screen performances. As annoying as I find Susan Sarandon’s liberal politics, it didn’t dissuade me from watching Thelma and Louise for the third time.

Marlon Brando famously refused his Best Actor statue in 1973 for his role in The Godfather, sending Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his stead. On stage, Littlefeather cited “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”

Brando’s stunt was an exception to what was generally an entertaining awards program.

Crashing America’s Party

Michael Moore delivers a rant against President George W. Bush at the Oscars in 2003 (Getty)

The last couple of decades, however, have seen an excessive number of stars use the Oscar pulpit to lecture Americans on how to vote, how to spend their money, and which causes to embrace.

In his acceptance speech for winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Cider House Rules in 2000, John Irving gave a nod to “everyone at Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights League” and thanked the Academy “for this honor to a film on the abortion subject.”

Three years later, Michael Moore delivered a blistering speech, lambasting President George W. Bush only four days after the U.S. invaded Iraq. “We are against this war, Mr. Bush! Shame on you, Mr. Bush! Shame on you!” Moore shouted, drawing boos and groans from the audience, as well as some soft applause.

When Leonardo DiCaprio accepted the Best Actor award for his role in The Revenant in 2016, he lectured America:

Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.

Spike Lee channels Prince at the 2019 Oscars

And last Sunday, Spike Lee (dressed as Prince), took a not-so-veiled swipe at President Trump. “The 2020 election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize and be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”

Americans don’t mind lectures from qualified experts. But they don’t have much patience for overpaid entertainers posing as authorities on anything but entertaining. Maybe if they’d take a page from Jack Palance’s playbook, we would give the Oscars a second chance.

Patrick Novecosky is a Florida-based media relations professional, founder of this blog and NovaMedia. This article originally appeared on Feb. 26, 2019, at The Stream.

The general and the cardinal: Separated at birth?

18 Nov

AVE MARIA, Florida (November 18, 2016) — In scanning the news this morning, I noticed that President-elect Donald Trump has asked Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Army, Retired), 57, to be his national security adviser. I also took note that Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, 67, will receive his red hat from Pope Francis this weekend. It’s a monumental weekend for both men.

And I couldn’t help but notice that from a certain angle they look very much alike. A Google search for them pulled up zero mentions that they are brothers or perhaps twins separated at birth. The cardinal-elect should be flattered. He’s a full decade older than the general. Further, no one else has pointed out the striking similarity. Your thoughts?

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Desperate times for Iraqi Christians

21 Aug

AUG. 21, 2014 — We live in difficult times. Others live in desperate times. Despite the 24-hour news cycle, most Americans are seemingly unaware that terrorists are wiping out Christians in Iraq — Christians with roots going back to St. Thomas the Apostle.

Christians flee Mosul earlier this summer

Christians flee Mosul earlier this summer

Under Saddam Hussein, the brutal dictator driven from power in 2003, radical Islam was held at bay and anti-Christian violence was minimal. However, after Saddam’s regime fell, Christians have been under fierce attack. Millions have fled and many thousands have been killed, often brutally.

Proclaiming a caliphate (a new Islamic state) straddling Iraq and Syria, radical Islamists have swept across northern Iraq, pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious minority from their homes.

The sign of genocide

The sign of genocide

With the rise of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) over the summer, anti-Christian violence has gotten worse. Christian homes have been painted with the Arabic letter ن (nūn) for Nassarah (an Arabic word for Christian) and a declaration that they are the property of the Islamic State. On 18 July, the jihadists announced that all Christians would need to leave or be killed. Many have been slaughtered, often beheaded. Today, there are no Christians left in Mosul for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

The situation is so bad that Pope Francis told reporters on the plane back from South Korea last week that force is necessary to stop the progress of the insurgents. Reporters asked the Pope if he approved of U.S. strikes against ISIS.

Journalists asked Pope Francis about the situation in Iraq during his trip back to Rome from Korea

Journalists asked Pope Francis about the situation in Iraq during his trip back to Rome from Korea

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” he said, stopping short of calling for bombing or all-out war.

Being so far removed from the violence, most Americans are more concerned about the national economy, the upcoming mid-term elections and their own personal issues — whether that be health, employment, finances or family problems. In a country with a relatively stable political environment, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the situation in Iraq. But we must for two important reasons.

First, Jesus made it clear that his followers make up his Body, the Church (Rom 12:5-6). When one part of the Body of Christ is threatened, we are all threatened. We must be in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, praying for them and with them.

Cowardly terrorists prepare to murder journalist James Foley

Cowardly terrorists prepare to murder journalist James Foley

Second, military analysts say that the U.S. is more vulnerable to attack now than before 9/11. ISIS is armed, wealthy, and determined. Their leaders have made it clear that they have no intention of stopping with Iraq and Syria. They intended to ride the wave of violence all the way to North Africa, perhaps further. Jihadists beheaded American journalist James Foley in a video released earlier this week, and they say that America is on their hit list.

The bottom line is that it’s sackcloth and ashes time. Christians in America must repent and turn back to the Lord with all their hearts or the prospect for peace will remain out of reach.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor of this blog and the editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine.

Deep Adventure Radio: The exclusive Novecosky interview

21 May
Bear Wosnick (left) interviews Patrick Novecosky on Deep Adventure Radio

Bear Woznick (left) interviews Patrick Novecosky on Deep Adventure Radio at the Catholic Leadership Conference

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (May 21, 2014) — Deep Adventure Radio’s Bear Woznick took it out into the deep water today, interviewing Patrick Novecosky — editor of this blog and editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine — for his AdventureCast program, heard on stations across the country.

Woznick asked Novecosky about his snap decision to run the Rome marathon a few days after Pope Francis was elected in March 2013. They then discussed Legatus, the membership organization for Catholic business leaders founded by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.

In the third segment, the two talked about the cultural and political challenges for Catholic and other Christian business leaders, most specifically the Health and Human Services (HHS) contraception mandate. Legatus members are leading the fight to overturn the mandate. They also talked about the influence of business leaders and their responsibility to be steeped in the virtues.

BearswavecompodcastartBear Woznick is a two-time Masters World Champion tandem surfer. He is featured in TV’s “Clean Break” reality adventure series, has a weekly four-minute “Deep in the Wave” radio segment and posts weekly podcasts, blogs and video logs at BearsWave.com. Woznick lives on the beach in Waikiki, Hawaii, and is married to his Swedish bride Talin and is the father of four: Fawn, Jeremiah, Shane, and Joshua.

CLICK: Listen to the entire interview.

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bear

The battle for souls

16 Apr

by Patrick Novecosky

If there’s one thing that Lent has reminded me of, it’s that we’re at war. We’re in the thick of a battle for souls, and our eternal destination is one of two places.

Scripture and Church teaching are clear that heaven and hell are real — and that all souls in purgatory are destined for heaven. There’s nothing new in this. The battle for souls has been going on since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. However, it seems we’ve forgotten about the battle. In the comfort of our modern world, it’s easy to forget that 3,400 children are murdered via surgical abortion every single day in America. It’s easy to forget that the multi-billion-dollar porn industry is destroying marriages and warping people’s sense of reality. It’s easy to forget that Christian values are under assault from our own government.

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Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the 2014 Legatus Summit

Sen. Rick Santorum reminded Legatus members at its annual Summit last February that secularists are relentless in their efforts to change the culture, to remove every vestige of God and faith from the public square. Christians, he said, seem to have surrendered without a fight in the culture wars. His point is that we need to be equally relentless in our efforts to win back the culture — and, similarly, we need to be relentless in our efforts to win souls for Christ.

“America is broken because we’re afraid to fight,” he said. We must be committed, be all in, we must know what is on the line: “souls, eternal souls,” he said. “We don’t live in a time in America when we can afford to stop fighting.”

Legatus is the perfect venue for business leaders and their spouses to be formed for battle. Legatus exists to help its members “learn, live and spread the Catholic faith.” Formation happens at monthly chapter events, at conferences and pilgrimages, and through Legatus magazine. But that formation needs to be rooted in each member’s personal prayer and friendship with Jesus Christ. Without those roots, sunk deep into fertile soil, the culture will rip us out of the ground and blow us away like a tumbleweed rolling across the desert.

Bishop Daniel Jenky (left) strolls with Cardinal Raymond Burke

Bishop Daniel Jenky (left) strolls with Cardinal Raymond Burke

Post-Christian America is rarely friendly to those who take their faith seriously. In 2012, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky told a group of Catholic men in his diocese: “We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction. In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work … we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation.”

We are on the front lines of this battle for souls, where every person we encounter has an eternal destiny. Let’s do all we can to get to heaven and take as many people with us as possible.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor of this blog and Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief. This article appears in the May issue of Legatus magazine. It is reprinted with permission.

Overcoming the darkness

1 Nov

NOVEMBER 1, 2013 — For most people, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to allow Catholic priests contracted by the government to voluntarily minister to our troops, including Sunday Mass during a partial government shutdown.

Military+Chaplains+Travel+Afghan+Battlefield+qSydjrkwiXPlBut that wasn’t the case last month. One priest — Fr. Ray Leonard, a contractor at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia — sued the federal government for access to his base. He did not withdraw the lawsuit after the government ended the shutdown in mid-October.

Contrary to what the mainstream media were saying, 83% of the federal government was still funded and operating during the so-called shutdown. And for two Sundays in early October, President Obama’s Department of Defense prohibited 50 Catholic priests from saying Mass and administering other sacraments at U.S. military facilities across the country. While Catholic priests were barred from military bases — even to voluntarily administer the sacraments — Protestant ministers were unaffected by the shutdown. The government has not explained the discrimination.

rtxlxh4By singling out Catholics, military leadership tipped its hand to a deeper vein of contempt for Christians in the U.S. armed services. Christian men and women in uniform are being told to park their beliefs at the door or face the consequences of a military that is rapidly being secularized. But our First Amendment freedoms do not end when we enter the classroom, the courtroom, our business place — nor should they end when we enlist to serve our country in the military.

Christian civilians and all citizens of good will need to take notice of how men and women of faith are being weeded out of leadership positions. They’re either being demoted or forced to retire, while secularists and those with a socialist bent are advancing. There’s a lot at stake here. In his farewell address, George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” John Adams made it clear that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

If Americans want the Republic to continue as we’ve known it — one nation under God — we have very little time to reverse course. We can only expect to maintain our rights and freedoms if we exercise them. We must always remember that knowing and living our faith publicly is the first step. As St. John wrote, we’re called to be “the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness [will] not overcome it.”

 PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor of this blog and the editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine. This article appeared in the November issue of Legatus. It is reprinted with permission.