Fr. Bauer's Blog

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102118.cfm   

Some times it takes us a while to “get it.”   That was certainly the case with the disciples in our Gospel for this weekend.   In the verses immediately preceding this Gospel Jesus has told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem where the chief priests and the scribes will “hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit at him, flog him, and finally kill him.”  These are difficult words, made more so by the fact that this is the third time Jesus had predicted his passion and death.   And yet his disciples, in particular James and John, still don’t “get it.”    Even after hearing these words we are told in our Gospel for this weekend that “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’    Jesus replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?’  They answered him, ‘Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left’”    
Jesus rebuked them and then reminded them that his disciples will find their greatness in suffering and service.    

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah.   As was the case several weeks ago, the section read this weekend is part of the Song of the Suffering Servant.   This “song” provided an important basis for our Christian understanding of the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death.  The section we read this weekend reminds us that life can come out of suffering.   “Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days, though his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”  

For our second reading we continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews.   It reminds us that, although  Jesus is our high priest, he is able to “sympathize with our weakness” because he “has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. How would you respond if someone asked you why innocent people suffer?
  2. Have you seen life, or some other good, come out of suffering?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus can sympathize with our weakness?  

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101418.cfm    

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”   This was the question the man in our Gospel this Sunday posed to Jesus.  (If we are honest, I suspect that, if we had the opportunity, all of us would love to ask Jesus this question.)   Jesus responded to the man by reminding him of the commandments.   But the man told him:  “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”   We are then told that Jesus looked at him, loved him and said to him:  “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”   In response to this, we are told: “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”     

I think there are a couple things that need to be said about this Gospel.  First, the man was obviously very sincere in his question.   I also have to wonder, though, if he wasn’t looking for just “one” thing he could do to guarantee that he would inherit eternal life, and then he could live and do as he pleased.  The reality is, though, that we have to do more than “one” thing to inherit eternal life.   Following Jesus impacts all the whole of our lives --- all that we say and do.   Second, though, I think we also need to be clear that selling all that he had and giving it to the poor was ultimately what the man in this Sunday’s Gospel had to do in order to follow Jesus.  For each of us there is something that ultimately we will have to do follow Jesus.  What this is will be different for each person.   

Our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom, shares the theme of the Gospel.  It reminds us that riches are deemed nothing in comparison to having prudence and wisdom.    

In our second reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews we are reminded that:  “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. The man in our Gospel this weekend was asked to sell what he had and give to the poor in order to follow Jesus.   What do you think Jesus is asking you to do in order to follow him? 
  2. How would you define prudence and wisdom?
  3. Have you ever felt “convicted” by the word of God?   
     

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100718.cfm   

Our Gospel this weekend comes in two sections.   In the first half of this Gospel Jesus talks about the difficult issue of divorce.  The occasion for Jesus’ teaching was a question by the Pharisees: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”    Jesus responded to their question by asking them what Moses had taught.  They replied correctly that Moses had permitted divorce, but Jesus told them that it was “Because of the hardness of your hearts” that Moses did this.    Jesus then went on to remind them that when God has joined two people together this union is blessed and sanctified by God and “what God has joined together no human being must separate.”    In the second half of this Gospel, we are told that people were bringing their children to Jesus to have him touch them.   When his disciples rebuked them, Jesus told them:  “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  

The theme from the first half of the Gospel is echoed in our first reading today which tells the story of the creation of man and woman.  The importance of pets notwithstanding, this story reminds us that the “suitable partner” for a human being is another human being.   

In both the Gospel and the first reading it is important to point out what is not being said.   Jesus did not say that it was okay to criticize or judge those who go through the painful experience of divorce.  Jesus did not say that people should stay in abusive relationships.   Rather, he spoke about the dignity, goodness and blessedness of the union of those whom God has joined together.    

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter to the Hebrews.  This letter was probably written somewhere around 90 A.D., which is relatively late compared to most of the other Epistles in the New Testament.   It was written to strengthen people’s faith, but also to increase their knowledge and love of Jesus.   In the section we read this weekend we are reminded that: “For it is fitting that He, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.”     

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Has a friend or someone in your family gone through a divorce?   How did you respond? 
  2. What does it mean to be “childlike” in our relationship with God?   
  3. If someone asked you why Jesus had to suffer and die, how would you respond?   

 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/093018.cfm  

Jesus’ disciples didn’t come across very well in our Gospel last weekend, and they continue that pattern in our Gospel this weekend.    They complain to Jesus because “we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”   Notice they didn’t say “because he does not follow you,” but rather “because he does not follow us.”   Clearly, their idea of discipleship is far more restrictive than that of Jesus.   The fact is that Jesus had a far more expansive and inclusive view of discipleship than his disciples did.  We know this because He reminds them: “whoever is not against us is for us.”     

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus’ words seem a bit harsh.  He speaks of cutting off a hand or a foot, or plucking out an eye if any of these cause you to sin.   Now clearly Jesus is not suggesting amputation or blinding one’s self.  Rather he is reminding his disciples that we need to be aware of those things that lead us to sin, and seek to eliminate them from our lives.

Our first reading for this weekend from the book of Numbers shares the theme of the Gospel.  It raises the question of who can speak/act in the name of the Lord.   In this reading God shares some of the Spirit God gave to Moses with “seventy elders.”   Two of those who were given the Spirit were not at the gathering where this occurred, yet they too received the Spirit.    Joshua wanted Moses to stop them, but Moses replied:   “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets.” 

In our second reading for this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of St. James.   While at first blush this reading appears to condemn those who are rich, a deeper reading reveals that James is reminding the early Christians (and us) of the danger of trusting in wealth as opposed to God.  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Limiting the people through whom God works or failing to recognize God working through certain people seems to be part and parcel of the human condition.  When have you done this? 
  2. To borrow an old phrase, what are the “occasions of sin” in your life?
  3. It is easy to put our trust in something other than God.  When have you done this?      
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092318.cfm 

Our Gospel reading this Sunday is taken from the ninth chapter of Mark’s Gospel.  That is a little over halfway through Mark’s Gospel.  Earlier in this chapter the disciples had experienced Jesus’ Transfiguration.  In the passage we read this weekend Jesus offers the second prediction of his passion. (We heard the first prediction of his passion in last Sunday’s Gospel.)  “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”  We are told the disciples “did not understand the saying and they were afraid to question him.”   

Now you would think that Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death would have a sobering effect on Jesus’ disciples.  However, we are told that when they arrived at Capernaum Jesus asked his disciples what they had been talking about on the way “But they remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.”   Their behavior caused Jesus to remind them that “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”   Clearly for Jesus service is the true measure of discipleship and not status, power, position or prestige.   

Our first reading this Sunday, from the Book of Wisdom speaks of the just person who is beset by evil doers.  “With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for according to his words, God will take care of him.”    These words clearly connect with Jesus’ words in our Gospel today in regard to the fate that awaited him.  

We continue to read from the Letter of Saint James in our second reading this Sunday.  In this weekend’s selection James reminds us that “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist there is disorder and every foul practice.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Jesus’ words in our Gospel today seem to be at odds with the “Gospel of Prosperity” that is preached by some evangelists.  How do you reconcile Jesus’ words with the Gospel of Prosperity?
  2. How does service in the name of Jesus find expression in your life?
  3. Have jealousy and selfish ambition ever found safe haven in your life? 
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/091618.cfm 

Our Gospel reading this weekend is very familiar.   We are told that Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi and along the way Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?”     The disciples must have pleased that they could fill Jesus in on the local buzz.   They told him some say: “John the Baptist, others, Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”   Jesus then turned the question on them.  “But who do you say that I am?”   Peter responded: “You are the Christ.”   Jesus then went on to teach them “that the Son of man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priest and the scribes, and be killed and rise after three days.”   Peter took him aside to rebuke him, but Jesus in turn rebuked Peter and went on to remind all of his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”    

Certainly Jesus could not be accused of false advertizing.   He is clear that those who follow him should not expect a life of ease or prosperity.  Rather they should anticipate some hardship and perhaps even suffering.  If this were all that Jesus was offering it would be surprising if he had any disciples at all.   We also have come to know and believe, though, that it is in following Christ in this life, ultimately we will come to eternal life.  

Our first reading this weekend is from the book of the Prophet Isaiah.   In it, Isaiah is clear that in the face of any difficulties: “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced, I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”       

For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint James.  In today’s section, James reminds us that our faith must find expression in our actions.  “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works!   Can that faith save him?”

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What would you say to someone who had lived a good life, was a good Christian person yet continued to experience trials and difficulties?
  2. What does it mean for you to pick up your cross and follow Christ?
  3. How do you understand the connection between faith and works? 
     

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/090918.cfm 

In our Gospel this weekend we read the story of Jesus’ cure of a deaf man with a speech impediment.   While the story is brief there are some interesting details to note.  First, the story takes place in the “district of the Decapolis.”  This would have been a gentile area.  Second, the man didn’t come to Jesus by himself. Rather he was brought to Jesus by friends who begged Jesus to “lay his hand on him.”   Third, Jesus “took him off by himself away from the crowd.”  Fourth, Jesus “ordered them not to tell anyone.  But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”   

What do the details in this story tell us?  Well they remind us that with Jesus there are no restrictions/limitations.  He is for all people, for all time.  We are also reminded how important friends can be in bringing us to Jesus.  Further this story tells us that Jesus knows our needs perhaps better than we do.   Jesus knew the deaf man needed his time and attention.  I believe it was for this reason that he took him off by himself away from the crowd.  Finally, the various cures and miracles Jesus worked could easily have led the crowds to believe that he was the messiah who would restore Israel to a place of prominence and power.  That was not the kind of messiah Jesus was.  I think this was why he told people not to tell others about his marvelous and miraculous actions. 

Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  It shares the theme of the Gospel.   It encourages people not to lose heart, but to remember that God will come to his people and when God comes:  “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.”   Clearly these things happened with Jesus Christ.

In our second reading this weekend we read from the Letter of Saint James.  In it James urges the people to show “no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion.   

  1. Where or how do you see God’s healing power at work in the world today?
  2. After prayer have your eyes or ears ever been opened to see or hear things in a new/different manner? 
  3. At times, it is easy to think that some people are more deserving of God’s love and care than others.  Yet, if God shows no partiality why do we have difficulty doing this?  

 

STATEMENT REGARDING REVIEW BOARD FOR BISHOPS
From Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens

 

Right now, the Catholic Church desperately needs an independent structure, led by experienced lay personnel, to investigate and review allegations made against bishops, archbishops and cardinals – and not just priests, as is the case in many dioceses throughout the United States. As a practical matter, bishop-led investigations have mixed credibility in the public domain: some inevitably believe the accused bishop is being treated unfairly; others believe he is receiving preferential treatment. A fair resolution becomes unachievable. The accuser deserves better. We all deserve better.

I am acutely aware of this, because I was personally involved, along with Bishop Lee Piché, in guiding the investigation of Archbishop John Nienstedt in 2014. In retrospect, it was doomed to fail. We did not have enough objectivity or experience with such investigations. Nor did we have authority to act. Throughout our efforts, we did not know where we could turn for assistance, because there was no meaningful structure to address allegations against bishops.

In the case of Archbishop Nienstedt, in early 2014, Archbishop Nienstedt asked his subordinates to conduct a review of allegations against him. When affidavits containing serious allegations of misconduct by Archbishop Nienstedt with adults were brought forward, Bishop Piché and I tried our best to bring them to the attention of people who might have authority to act and guide the investigation. This included the then nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó. When Bishop Piché and I believed that we were being told by the nuncio to close the investigation, we strenuously objected. When the nuncio clarified that we should focus the investigation and complete it, we did so. Although there were internal disagreements about how to complete it, Bishop Piché thought it best to hire a second firm to complete the review, because Archbishop Nienstedt contended the first firm had been unfair to him. Father Daniel Griffith strongly disagreed with that decision. During this long period, on more than one occasion, I counseled Archbishop Nienstedt to resign for the good of the Archdiocese.

Throughout this process, there was confusion about who was ultimately in charge and what should be done to ensure a fair outcome. I think that Bishop Piché believes that the investigation was completed to the best of his ability. I understand the strong frustrations expressed by Father Griffith, whom I believe acted in good faith and with sincerity and integrity. We all did the best we could in a difficult situation.

In contrast, today we are better prepared. When there is an allegation against a bishop or archbishop in our Archdiocese, it is reported to the Board of Directors, lay people. They play a vital role in making certain that all allegations are investigated and addressed. I believe that a similar approach utilizing lay expertise is necessary on the national level. An independent national review board would result in a more fair process for holding the hierarchy accountable. In this way, there will be more confidence in our Church leaders in the future.

 

STATEMENT REGARDING ACTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY
From Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda

In the aftermath of the demoralizing Pennsylvania grand jury report and the troubling claims made by our former nuncio, Archbishop Viganó, much has been said about the scandals in our Church  worldwide and here in Minnesota. I can only imagine how jarring those reports must be for those who have survived abuse and for their families. I am sorry for the harm inflicted and the ongoing pain caused to so many.

In recent days, I have continued to hear from many concerned people: young parents worried about the safety of their children, seasoned parishioners wondering when this crisis may end, priests asking how they can serve their parishioners when they themselves no longer know who is trustworthy, and bishops regretting that we were so slow to seek the help of lay experts and act with fuller transparency. In the midst of this darkness, it is the Lord’s promise that he will be with us always (Mt 28:20), that he will never abandon his Church, that gives me hope. As the darkness of the past is brought to light, I am trusting in St. Paul’s insight that what is illuminated will itself be light (Eph. 5:13).

I have been encouraged to put these global issues in a local context and reaffirm publicly both our commitment to justice and healing for those who have been harmed and our conviction that abuse can never be tolerated. Yet, I offer my comments knowing full well that mere words and apologies ring hollow unless accompanied by actions.

With that in mind, allow me to briefly describe the actions that have been taken in this local Church. Working with the lay volunteers on our Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board, Corporate Board of Directors and Finance Council, along with many other volunteers, employees and clergy throughout the Archdiocese, we have constructively and openly confronted our failures – the failures that led to criminal and civil charges, bankruptcy, a loss of trust and a weakening of our moral voice. Although we have more to do, we have come a long way. In 2015, we entered into a far-reaching Settlement Agreement with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office that requires us to take verifiable actions to prevent future abuses. The agreement has improved the way we respond to victim/survivors; the way we hold priests accountable; the way we accept, prepare and promote seminarians; the way we train our priests, employees and volunteers; and how we educate our children and youth in every parish and Catholic school in the Archdiocese. It has helped to improve our culture. We have not only abided by that agreement, but have done more than it requires. This has been verified in court every six months. More recently, we worked with victim survivors to file a joint plan in the bankruptcy court that financially compensates those who have been harmed in our Archdiocese. We have also changed our governance within the Archdiocese, embracing greater involvement and collaboration between the Corporate Board and Finance Council, which assures greater oversight by lay leaders.

Certainly, we cannot rest on these actions alone. There will be challenges in the future, but we now draw on the expertise of a broad range of individuals, primarily laity, to address those issues with integrity, objectivity and transparency. It is my hope that what has been learned here can serve the broader Church nationally and internationally.

Turning now to the issue of bishop accountability, let me first explain the improved process that has been in place here since 2015. Based on the Ramsey County Settlement Agreement, when an allegation is leveled against an auxiliary bishop or archbishop, the Director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment is required to notify the Corporate Board. Thus, the allegation is made known to lay leadership who have duties to provide oversight and fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities. Moreover, a claim today cannot be settled without the knowledge and involvement of our lay leaders. Both of those measures of accountability are new, and critically important.

Regarding accountability for bishops around the world: I fully support engaging lay leadership. Church leaders must be judged by outsiders who have the independence, objectivity and expertise to be fair and credible. We need the assurance that any cleric  whether a newly ordained priest or a Pope  who abused minors or knowingly protected or enabled such abusers, will be held accountable. The same is true for those who abuse their position to take advantage of vulnerable adults, persons receiving spiritual care or seminarians. An oversight board similar in make-up, independence and authority to our Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board should be empaneled to address accusations of misconduct against bishops and archbishops. We would also benefit from the appointment of a number of trusted outsiders who can assist those who have grievances. Locally, former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson fulfills that role as our appointed ombudsperson, giving those aggrieved a safe avenue for pursuing claims without fear of repercussions.

Having had good reasons to place my trust in both Pope Francis and Archbishop Viganó, I am personally at a loss as to how to evaluate the claims that have been made by the Archbishop. Based on my experience in this Archdiocese, I believe that some form of an independent review led by credible outsiders is the only way to resolve such situations and restore trust.

In conclusion, I am fully committed to the course we are on to correct our failings, advance accountability, assist those harmed and prevent future abuse. I realize that I am far from perfect, but I always try to act to the best of my ability and with integrity, collaborating with the many hardworking and committed individuals in this Archdiocese who contribute every day to making our Church a better place through their steadfast dedication to safe environments and the Gospel.

Mindful of Pope Francis’ recent call for prayer and fasting, I invite our priests, and all others, to join me for a Eucharistic holy hour of reparation and prayers for healing at the Cathedral of Saint Paul on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, Saturday, September 15 at 11 a.m.

 

 

This past week as I was reflecting on our Gospel today I kept returning to Jesus’ question to his disciples:  “Do you also want to leave?”   Given the news involving priests and bishops in the Catholic Church the past couple weeks, this is a question I have asked myself.  I suspect many of you have also asked yourself this question. 

And to be honest, I know more than a few people for whom the latest news was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  They have decided that --- at least for now --- they need to take a step away from the Catholic Church. While I am grieved and deeply saddened by this, I understand and respect their decision.      

For myself, though, despite the news of the past couple of weeks, despite the failures of our bishops, and despite the sinful and evil actions of many priests, I cannot leave the Catholic Church.   I say this for two specific reasons.  

1.  I need to belong to a community.  I need to be with people who believe as I do.   I don’t think we can be our best selves unless we are part of a community.  And I don’t believe that we are saved alone, as isolated individuals. 

Rather, I believe that God draws us to himself, through the communities of which we are a part, and for me the Catholic Church --- and particularly the Basilica --- is my community.   It is too much a part of me for me to let it go.    

2.  I need the Eucharist and the other sacraments.   As I tell the children making their First Communion each year,   I know I am not the best person/priest that I could be, BUT I would be far worse without the Eucharist. 

The Eucharist helps me to be a better person than I would otherwise be.   I need the Eucharist to live as a follower of Jesus, and I need the faith of the community to make the Eucharist real and alive in my life.   

Now in deciding to stay in the Catholic Church, I also want to be absolutely clear that this does not mean that I think we can gloss over the events of the past few weeks.  
It is essential that we acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by priests, by bishops and by those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for the most vulnerable among us.  

With shame and repentance, we must acknowledge that the leaders of our church allowed grave damage to be done to so many young lives.  We need to beg forgiveness for this.  As Pope Francis said in his recent letter: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

We also need to be clear that no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. 

The pain of the victims and their families is a wound from which our church will not soon recover.  It is vital that we reaffirm our commitment --- and take steps to ensure --- the protection of children and vulnerable adults.  Specifically what this means is that all of us must demand honesty, accountability, transparency, and a willingness on the part of our leader to accept responsibility for their actions.  

No effort must be spared to create a culture which will prevent such situations from reoccurring and to ensure that there is no possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. 

I believe that if there is a lesson to be learned from the current crisis facing our church, it is that we must listen to the voice of you --- the laity --- the people in the pews.   Reform, healing, renewal must come about from every single member of the church.  Since the ordained haven’t or can’t provide it, you must demand it of us.  You’ve been commissioned by your baptism to be salt and light, leaven and courage, agents of renewal, and witnesses to hope in our world.  And at this moment, particularly, our church desperately needs to hear your voice.   

As sinful and incompetent as the leaders of our church have been in responding to the issue of sexual abuse, however, this Church is still my home.    And so as I close today I paraphrase Peter’s words in our Gospel today: “Master to whom shall I go?  Your church is my home.  I can have no other.”   

Pages