Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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IVF Creates Dilemma God Never Intended

Posted: September 3rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

This piece at CNN caught my attention:

What happens to extra embryos after IVF?

The article concerns the moral struggle that people find themselves in after having conceived using in vitro fertilization (IVF). Not surprisingly, when we choose to violate God’s laws there are unintended consequences. Such consequences of IVF include hundreds of thousands of babies frozen in laboratory freezers indefinitely. In order to achieve one successful pregnancy using IVF, multiple eggs are fertilized, leaving “extra” children, sadly referred to as “left overs” in the article.

Many good people who struggle with infertility can fall into the lure of IVF if they are not made aware of the serious evil of this process. They then realize the moral problem they’ve created when they have these “extra” children that require a decision as to their fate. The article is about this struggle and some possible options. It really shouldn’t be so surprising that we find life seeming less and less special, or dare we say “sacred,” when we now have so many people who are mere “left overs.”

See the Pope Paul VI Institute and their site on NaProTechnology for fertility care information and morally positive alternatives to IVF.

Subsidiarity and Health Care Reform

Posted: September 3rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City/St. Joseph have released a joint pastoral statement on health care reform. See the full text of this letter here:

Principles of Catholic Social Teaching and Health Care Reform

One of the key issues addressed is a principle of Catholic social justice teaching known as the principle of subsidiarity.

The statement summarizes as follows:

“Subsidiarity is that principle by which we respect the inherent dignity and freedom of the individual by never doing for others what they can do for themselves and thus enabling individuals to have the most possible discretion in the affairs of their lives. (See: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, ## 185ff.; Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1883) The writings of recent Popes have warned that the neglect of subsidiarity can lead to an excessive centralization of human services, which in turn leads to excessive costs, and loss of personal responsibility and quality of care.”

The Catholic social justice principle of respect for the dignity of each human person rightly causes us to advocate for health care for all, as our bishops strongly support. However, the principle of subsidiarity not only allows but even encourages us to be very afraid of the idea of the government running our health care system. The entire Catholic hospital system was established under the principle of subsidiarity. Individual people and communities see a need and do something about it. You don’t wait for or expect that someone else, especially the government, will come in and do it for you.

Today, we not only expect that the government will fix all our problems, but we have the sad delusion that somehow only the government could really do the best job. It is too often the case that we have lost a sense of solidarity and community with those around us and no longer take personal responsibility for ourselves, yet alone our neighbor. We need health care reform, but more than that we need reform in personal responsibility.

There is no magic government money tree to fund stimulus packages, bailouts, cash for clunkers, or any other spending program. The government has no money; it has only your money and my money. Further, the government has no power other than what has been entrusted to it by the people through the constitution. The founding fathers were terrified of a large central government. Partly, they had pride in taking care of themselves and didn’t want to be dependent on anyone else. More importantly, they knew from experience that power ultimately corrupts. At best, they didn’t want some big central bureaucracy making decisions for them that were better made closer to home. Thus we find the principle of subsidiarity in the framework of our government.

Nowhere in constitution did we ever give the government the power to take over the health care industry. We all need to look for solutions to how we can have affordable health care for all, but the government is not the answer. You and I are the answer. That is the principle of subsidiarity.

The Good Word on Kennedy, Eulogies, and Catholic Funerals

Posted: September 1st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Cardinal O'Malley Incenses the Body of Edward Kennedy

This past weekend’s funeral Mass for Sen. Edward Kennedy has been the cause of scandal for many people, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Many question whether or not Sen. Kennedy should have been given the “honor” of a Catholic funeral. Given that no lawmaker ever did more to champion the cause of abortion on demand than Sen. Kennedy, it is understandable that people would be concerned that he would not be eligible for a Catholic funeral. If he had not repented from his position this would in fact be the case. However, the Church allows that, if one repents at the end of one’s life, he or she is entitled to Christian burial. It appears that Sen. Kennedy did call for a priest at the end of his life and did receive the sacraments. While this is certainly not the public repentance demanded by the very public sins of his life, the Church is very lenient and errs on the side of mercy if there exists even minimal evidence of “repentance.” I therefore concur with notable canon lawyer Ed Peters that Sen. Kennedy was entitled to a Catholic funeral Mass (go here for detailed information why).

That having been said, I do believe that the funeral Mass was a huge scandal. The reason the Church is lenient in allowing Christian burial for even minimally repentant public sinners is precisely because the central purpose of the funeral Mass is to implore God’s mercy for the deceased. To a point, you could say the bigger the sinner, the more appropriate a funeral Mass would be. Having a funeral Mass is in not intended to “honor” the person. The sadness of this particular funeral was that someone who very much needed our prayers instead received only praise. Tragically, the uncharitable pretended ignorance of the man’s grave sins cost him the one thing that could have really helped him, the potential prayers of thousands.

Perhaps the most serious scandal of this funeral Mass was that all this praise being heaped upon Sen. Kennedy was really not for him at all. The real purpose of so much show and ceremony was to provide reassurance to all those Catholics who, like Kennedy, reject the teaching authority of the Church. Can you still be a “good Catholic” and be in favor of abortion? Apparently. To the average person, here was “the Church” heaping countless praises upon the champion of abortion, homosexual activity, and scores of other moral outrages that the Church is supposedly against. What clearer teaching could there be? Actions speak louder than words.

Again, I am not saying that there shouldn’t have been a funeral Mass. I even think it should have been every bit as big and public as it was. I just wish it would have actually been a Catholic funeral Mass. What took place in Boston this weekend was a secular funeral shoved into a Catholic church. I actually hoped that the Cardinal would in fact preach and would use well the “teachable moment.” So many so-called Catholic politicians are leading lives in the same disastrous state as Sen. Kennedy. Here was a perfect opportunity to truly exercise the “care of souls” in an urgently needed way. Instead, more fuel was added to the already blazing scandal of Catholics in political life.

Might I suggest that much of the scandal of this weekend would have been avoided if an actual Catholic funeral Mass would have been celebrated according to the instructions for such a Mass. As I said, the central focus of the Mass is to pray for mercy upon the deceased. This is done with time-honored prayers and chants. The one thing that is not at all characteristic of a Catholic funeral is a speech. The Mass is for prayer, not making speeches, eulogies, remembrances, or whatever else you want to throw in. The instructions for the funeral Mass are clear:

“At the funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal #382)

Why were there not just one, but three eulogies at this so-called “funeral Mass?” Why were the General Intercessions perverted into political statements quoted from political speeches? The list of abuses goes on and on. If you just follow the instructions for Mass, most of what took place this weekend would not have happened.

The ancient counsel of the Church is evident here; lex orandi, lex credendi- the way we pray reflects and shapes what we believe. The manner of prayer this weekend (if you could call it prayer) clearly states that we believe that the good deeds done in life are sufficient to outweigh any sins, no matter how great and, most tragically, that the dead do not need our prayers. That is obviously what the people assembled in Boston believed as evidenced by how they prayed. The final scandal is to think about how people might have been helped to believe correctly if they had just prayed correctly.

May the soul of Edward Kennedy and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Homily 21 – Monday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

Posted: August 31st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Catholic Rapture

Perhaps you’ve heard various Protestant groups refer to something they call “The Rapture.” It can all be rather confusing as they speak of hoping to be “raptured” away from this life and speeded away to heaven. Catholics naturally back away from this idea of “rapture” because it doesn’t sound like anything Jesus every talked about nor anything the Fathers of the Church mentioned. While most of the Protestant understanding of rapture is based on misreading the Bible, there is a biblical idea of rapture.

In the first reading today, St. Paul speaks of the final judgement and the last day at the end of time. All those who have died will of course rise from the dead. But what about those who are still alive at the second coming? These, St. Paul says, will be “caught up” (in Greek…”raptured”) to meet Jesus in the air. So, yes, Catholics believe in a rapture. The problem is that the Protestant notion takes this idea and combines it with the teaching in Revelation that there will be a “thousand year” period of “tribulation” before the end of the world.

The Protestant belief is that those who are “good” should not have to undergo this tribulation and thus will be “raptured” out of the world ahead of time. Obviously this is not scriptural and denies a key part of Christianity. “In the world you will have tribulation, but have courage, for I have overcome the world.” Jesus is not going to save us from this world by preventing our suffering. Rather he gives meaning to our suffering. If we fight the good fight through this life as St. Paul did, then we will indeed be with Jesus on the last day. That will be a truly, and biblically sound, rapturous day.

Homily 20 – Memorial of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Posted: August 29th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Uncomfortable Call of the Prophet

We often think of a prophet as someone who foretells the future. Yet, the primary job of a prophet is to speak not about the future, but about what is going on right now. The prophet stands in the midst of the present situation and is able to see things with God’s eyes and boldly speak out, “Thus says the Lord!”

The truth is that we really don’t like prophets very much. We tend to want to settle into a pattern of life that is comfortable and little by little we compromise with the societal forces around us. It’s easy to just keep on going this way, like the proverbial frog in the pot as the water keeps getting hotter and hotter. The prophet is the one who breaks in and disrupts this status quo.

John the Baptist was called “The greatest of all prophets” by Our Lord. It was finally his preaching against divorce and remarriage that led to his execution which we commemorate today. As the temperature in the pot continues to rise all around us today, we could use a few good prophets like St. John the Baptist. We are kind of in comfort mode right now, compromising our prophetic role for the sake of “political correctness” or mistaken ideas of being “pastoral.” Are there some prophets out there who are willing to stand up and call us to jump out of the pot?

Homily 19 – Memorial of St. Augustine

Posted: August 28th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Learning from the Life of St. Augustine

Today we celebrate a saint that had perhaps the most famous conversion in the history of the Church. Yet, there were many other people that helped St. Augustine to finally turn back to God. First, his mother, Monica, raised him well and taught him the faith from an early age. Second, in adulthood St. Augustine needed another teacher who could help his adult mind to come to a deeper insight into the faith. Augustine found this kind of teacher in St. Ambrose who was instrumental in his conversion. Finally, the thing most responsible for this famous conversion was grace. Augustine went on to to write so much on God’s free gift of grace. It is a gift that Augustine knew well in his own life and is God’s gift to all of us.

Homily 18 – Hayden High School 2009 Opening Mass

Posted: August 26th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Lessons from the Lunar Landing

[The following homily was given at the opening all-school Mass at Hayden High School in Topeka. It represents a summary of three talks given the they Hayden faculty retreat on August 10th. Those talks can be found at the following links:]

http://www.shawnthebaptist.org/2009/08/hayden-faculty-retreat-2009-talk-1/
http://www.shawnthebaptist.org/2009/08/hayden-faculty-retreat-2009-talk-2/
http://www.shawnthebaptist.org/2009/08/hayden-faculty-retreat-2009-talk-3/

This summer we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first landing of man on the moon. As we recall this event, there are 3 lessons that provide helpful insights as we begin a new school year. First, the entire mission to the moon would have never happened without the vision and leadership of President John F. Kennedy. He set the goal of landing on the moon by the end of 1969 and this goal gave direction to every decision made. We too need to have clear goals. We will never arrive at where we need to be if we don’t have a clear picture of where we’re going.

Secondly, we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. It took many many failures along the path that eventually led to the lunar landing. The rocket scientists had to watch rocket after rocket explode right in front of them in a great ball of fire. Yet, they learned from their mistakes and didn’t quit. How many times do we give up because we fail? Perhaps our biggest failure is that we never set challenging goals because we’re too afraid we might not reach them. Kennedy’s goal was a very challenging one and lots of people could have given up but didn’t. We need to have the courage to “fail well” as we risk achieving great things.

Finally, there is an important lesson to be learned from the mission of Apollo 8. This was the first time we ever flew away from the earth and went to the moon. We didn’t land of course, but we discovered something very important. The astronauts had trained very hard to learn everything they could about the moon. They had planned every moment of their trip with countless checklists, including every picture they would take. However, they found themselves completely unprepared for the surprise that awaited them when they got to the moon. As they came around the dark side of the moon and into daylight they saw something unexpected…the earth. They had to scramble to find their cameras to take the unexpected prize pictures. Astronaut Bill Anders remarked that they had concentrated all their training on learning about the moon and yet, when they got there, the most important thing they discovered was the earth. In the midst of all our plans and goals, don’t be surprised if God gets in there and throws in a few unexpected wrinkles. This is good. There are lots of things to learn this year, but don’t be surprised if along the way you learn a few things you hadn’t planned on…and those just might turn out to be the most important.

Homily 17 – Feast of St. Bartholomew

Posted: August 24th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

God Sees Us

The Apostle Bartholomew is believed to be the same Apostle also called Nathaniel. Today’s gospel speaks of how Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus just as we all need to bring others to know Jesus. Nathaniel has a powerful encounter with Jesus that leads to him becoming one of The Twelve. Perhaps Nathaniel was feeling down and wondering if God heard his prayers. “Do you see me?” he might have prayed. Jesus says “Before Philip called you, I saw you.” He sees each of us as well. We don’t really know much about St. Bartholomew, but maybe this in itself is a good lesson. You don’t have to do extraordinary deeds and be written about in the history books in order to be holy. Bartholomew was a “true child of Israel” and a true follower of Jesus. May the same be said for all of us.

Homily 16 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: August 23rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Finding Freedom Through Commitment

We are so blessed in this country to have many choices. We have the freedom to choose everything from where we worship, where we live, and even what we eat. Yet, all these choices can lead us to a sort of paralysis of decision. What should I choose? We are experiencing in our society what might be called a crisis of commitment. Some people think that maintaining our freedom means “keeping all our options open.” However, you probably can’t think of anyone whom you admire who is famous for “keeping all their options open” and going through life without committing to anything. Rather it is precisely our commitments in life that define who were are.

Our readings this weekend are all about these two things: choices and commitment. In the first reading, Joshua and the Israelites boldly choose to worship the true God. In our second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the beautiful commitment expressed in marriage. Husband and wife joyfully commit to each other in marriage and thus become “subordinate,” ordered to each other, or “submissive,” under a common mission. Does such a commitment close the door on some options…yes, but the result is not a lessening of freedom, but the finding of a new and greater freedom. Once you are in your vocation there is a great freedom knowing where your life is going and with whom.

In the Gospel, Jesus asks for a commitment of his disciples. He gives them the choice of accepting his teaching or parting ways. Sadly, St. John tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples left him. We might think that perhaps there was a misunderstanding, but then Jesus turns to the apostles and is willing to let them go too if they can’t commit to what he is asking. What could be so important that Jesus would allow everyone to leave if they can’t accept it? It’s the Eucharist! Jesus has just told his disciples that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life. Those who were there understood Jesus literally and Jesus made it plain to them that he was not speaking symbolically. Thus many leave rather than trust in his words. The Eucharist is the sacred sign of total commitment to Jesus and of being his follower.

Today Jesus requires no less of a commitment from us if we are going to receive him in the Eucharist. St. Paul uses the image of marriage to describe the love that should exist between us and Jesus. Just as you can’t get married half way or choose only certain things of your spouse that you will marry, so you can’t take only part of what Jesus teaches and still be a member of his Church. Jesus wants a total commitment from us, a commitment that is expressed in our eating his body and drinking his blood in the Most Holy Eucharist. This is where we become one flesh with Jesus in the marriage banquet celebrated at every Mass. Today we renew the wedding vows made to God in Holy Baptism and are then invited to share in the wedding supper of the lamb. What a beautiful choice.

Homily 15 – Memorial of St. Pius X

Posted: August 21st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

God Works Through the Unexpected

Today and tomorrow our first readings are taken from the Old Testament book of Ruth. This short book tells the story of a very important person in God’s plan of salvation. Every year during Advent we read what seems to be that rather long and boring geneology of Jesus. “So and so begat so and so” and on and on and on until we are finally relieved to arrive at Jesus. In St. Matthew’s geneology it is of particular importance that he includes several women in the list. This would not have been expected and the women he includes are equally unexpected. Ruth is one of those women.

The inclusion of Ruth in God’s plan of slavation is interesting because Ruth is not even an Israelite. She is of the clan of Moab. However, through God’s providence she ends up converting to the faith of Israel and marries Boaz of Bethlehem. Together they have a son named Obed who then becomes the father of Jesse who is of course the father of King David. God has always worked in the unexpected and we shouldn’t be surprised to find that true in our own lives. God took a poor Moabite girl and made her the great grandmother of the most famous king in the history of Israel. Imagine what God might be doing with the unexpected events in your life!