Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

THE SUN WILL COME UP TOMORROW

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Matthew has come, gone, and may make another appearance later next week. Matthew has left his path of destruction behind, a bad memory for a lot of people and a challenge for us all. Like many other Floridians I watched that storm for almost ten days, always with a funny feeling that “it is the one – the big one” and for the people of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas it certainly was. For many in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, it will also be a bad memory, although we seem spared the worst of its powerful presence.

I am amazed at the ability which the National Hurricane Center possesses to warn us of the likelihood of getting to know a storm. In my lifetime we have progressed from “guess” to almost pinpoint accuracy in predicting which act of nature is likely to befall us. With their computer base and spaghetti models, the NHC called this one perfectly, if one allows for the fact that such storms have a mind of their own. Government acted as good government should and the population responded as expected (sometimes listening and acting and sometimes in either denial or rejection). Here in the states, we have the ability to react in advance. In our island nation neighbors there is no such freedom.

These words are being penned on Friday afternoon while Matthew continues to challenge northern Florida and later tonight Georgia and South Carolina. Yesterday a majority of the priests of the diocese and I finished three days together in our annual October convocation. We knew what some of the least among us would have to endure from this storm and we prayed for them.  We also resolved that we would do more than pray.

Our presenter yesterday was Carolyn Woo, the President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services. On your behalf, I presented her with a check for $250,000 to assist our brothers and sisters in the hemispheres most desperately poor nation, Haiti, as well as in the Bahamas. Even our government recognized that when it comes to disasters, CRS responds quickly, effectively and well in helping people survive, rebuild, and renew. US AID (a branch of the federal State Department) yesterday made a multi-million dollar donation of money, food and supplies to CRS and the Red Cross for help for Haiti.

As a diocese we do not have $250,000 to throw around but I simply advanced it as the pastors present for the convocation said they would appeal to their people, to you, this weekend and next in a special collection to begin to stitch together again the lives Matthew tore asunder. I hope our response might approach the $1.7 million we raised for the tsunami in the Indian Ocean a few years back or the $1.9 million we raised nine months later for Hurricane Katrina assistance. If we receive more than $250,000 in the next few weeks, we will keep an eye on the needs along our Florida and Georgia east coasts and share it with Catholic Charities USA. Here in Florida, we bishops have a disaster response program located within the Florida Catholic Conference which is being mobilized along our east coast as I write this. CRS will be present in Haiti and the Bahamas, making you proud. None of the money raised here will go to our national episcopal conference where in the recent past a portion is often used to rebuild church infrastructure but directly to Catholic Relief Services to help those people whose nearly hopeless faces appear on our TV screens tonight and in our papers and media tomorrow.

The sun will indeed come up tomorrow, for everyone in Matthew’s path, and for many, their future is a matter of our generosity. Please respond as lovingly as you have done often in the past. God bless you.

+RNL

MIRACLE OF MIRACLES? WELL NOT YET BUT MAYBE

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

In my younger days, long, long ago and far, far away I would never have imagined that I would see the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the dismantlement of apartheid in South Africa, an African American president and an American pope, yet all have come to pass. Now there is a glimmer of hope that in Florida there is a possibility, perhaps not yet a probability, that the death penalty will be abolished. I think of these words spoken by Simeon when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, “now Master you have kept your word, you can dismiss your servant in peace.”

Several things have come together which place the death penalty in Florida on a new trajectory. First there was the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court which ruled that Florida law which made a jury’s deliberations about the death penalty in a case merely consultative and not deliberative (leaving it ultimately up to the judge) was unconstitutional. Bundled within this decision was that merely requiring a simple majority of the jury to recommend execution to the judge was also unconstitutional? As I have pointed out so often when addressing this topic in previous blogs, this minimalist approach to a life and death decision cried out to heaven for vengeance. Happily heaven can wait, the SCOTUS found similarly.

Florida is one of only three states (Alabama and Delaware) which do not require a unanimous jury and earlier this year, the Florida legislature took an easy path in applying what they hope is a “fix” by raising the number from seven jurors to ten. SCOTUS did not set a size for the jury’s vote but made it clear the seven was a legally unlucky number. Last week the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments derived from the U.S. “Supreme’s” decision in the case of the inmate on death row whose appeal formed the basis of the latter’s decision.

Then, manna from legal heaven descended yesterday upon the state when a Miami judge found the death penalty fix also to be unconstitutional. Now, before deciding the case heard last week, the Florida Supreme Court knows that a more foundational issue is on its way to them which may just skew their thinking in the earlier case. Wow!

Our Attorney General, Pam Bondi, has often said publicly and in conversation with the state’s bishops that she fully supports the application of the death penalty, fully supported the simple majority allowance in the Florida law, and is fully against any effort to require a unanimous jury. I suspect that she was pleased to argue the case before the Florida Supreme Court last week. She would have me say: make no mistake about it; I am 100% in support of the death penalty application and hopeful that it can be attained with the minimum roadblocks possible. At least she is clear, if wrong-headed. She assures us of her unambiguous pro-life position, which is strong when it comes to abortion. But for me, it is like asking Mary Todd Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, “other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the first act?”

Governor Scott is a more interesting case. After many conversations, he has said that he is very uncomfortable signing the death warrants but is obligated to do so by oath and office. He has intimated that were the Legislature to outlaw the death penalty he would likely sign and not veto the bill. He has also said that he only signs those warrants where the evidence is rock-solid that the person accused and found guilty actually committed the crime. He is also fully supportive of most other pro-life positions and I actually believe his wrestling with his conscience when it comes to executions. Equally candidly, he has said, that one cannot be elected to any office in Florida if one is seen as “soft on crime and/or criminals.”

That leads me to the conclusion of this reflection. Those of us who see the death penalty in America as a pro-life issue need to ratchet up our opposition to Florida’s inhumane approach to capital punishment, using whatever means might be available to us to make our case. We can think of the Baptist Church congregation in Charleston, South Carolina who earlier this year, including survivors of those murdered, went to the prison to forgive the perpetrator. They surely did not tell him that it was forgive and forget, for they will never forget his atrocity and they don’t ever want him on the street again. The same for the Amish community in Pennsylvania whose children were massacred but who also marched to the jail to forgive the aggressor. And how about the early Christian community who found it in their heart to forgive Saul of Tarsus, directly responsible for the death of Stephen and the torture of many others. If as we say so pointedly and well in our pro-life effort that God alone has the ability to choose when life begins and when life ends, then justifying capital punishment is beyond the logical pail.

Step up Florida. End the barbaric death penalty in the sunshine state. While I feel deeply for those whose lives have been changed, transformed, deeply hurt by violent crime and we must do everything to see that it does not happen again and those who committed the crime are never free to do it again, it is time to take a deep breath and do the right thing. Finally, if any Catholic wishes to use Saint John Paul’s minuscule opening against me, bring it on, but recall the words of Pope Francis to the US Congress on this very topic.

+RNL

 

 

OF LIFE AND DEATH

Friday, March 6th, 2015
With the other Florida bishops waiting to meet with Governor Scott. Photo kindness of Bishop Parkes' Facebook page.

With the other Florida bishops waiting to meet with Governor Scott. Photo kindness of Bishop Parkes’ Facebook page. See more photos from Catholic Days at the Capitol here.

The bishops of Florida, minus our dear brother Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach who is rapidly recovering from very serious surgery, met Tuesday and yesterday (Wednesday)  in the state capitol, Tallahassee. We do it every year, usually always during the first week of the annual legislative session and conclude it with a Red Mass at St. Thomas More Co-cathedral. During the bishops’ visit to Tallahassee, about 350 people, mostly women, come wearing red almost always and they call on their elected representatives to “lobby” for the province’s agenda for the session. They meet with the staff of the Florida Catholic Conference before invading the capitol and they have lunch with us at the Convention Center midday on Wednesday and prior to the Mass. A stirring call to religious liberty was delivered by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to the assembled during the lunch. I hope to share the content of that talk with you soon.

It has been a long custom that during this visit to our state capitol we usually have a meeting with the Governor. In my now nineteen-plus years, I began with Governor Lawton Chiles, followed by Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Charlie Crist, and now Governor Rick Scott. All have been gracious hosts for these meetings, patiently listening and one of us after the other brings up matters of concern to the Church. For some inexplicable reason I have become the spokesman for “health care matters” which was not all that hard until the Governor was suddenly someone who spent his whole professional life in the health care arena.

One aspect this this year’s visits which I wish to share with you, especially in light of the fact that the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS later in this blog) will be hearing soon a case involving capital punishment is that very subject. I do this secure in the knowledge that my comment responses will be overwhelmingly negative and nasty (second only to the immigration issue I might add).

We also met Wednesday afternoon with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi who was also gracious and very hospitable.

On the death penalty, we bishops unanimously wish that it would be abolished in Florida. It is a natural, logical and responsible extension of our commitment to the protection of all human life, born and unborn, and flows from the basic belief that God is the author of all life and to God alone falls the task of determining both birth and death. Seven states in recent years have abolished the death penalty (either the legislative branch supported by the governors or the latter acting alone). There are now about two-thirds of the states where the death penalty no longer exists and then there are Florida and Texas which lead the others in annual executions.

A tandem issue is that Florida is only one of two states (Delaware is the other) which does not require a unanimous jury for the death penalty sentencing phase. We find that an embarrassment of the highest order.

We got no where with either the Governor or the Attorney General on either of these matters, although the former is willing to think through the unanimous jury question. Every Governor during my time here as bishop speaks, truthfully I think, of  how much they dislike having to sign the warrants which lead to an execution. I am sure that it is not easy. All have said that they have done so with a clear conscience that the one being executed was indeed guilty of the crime beyond a shadow of a doubt. I believe them also on that. And finally they seek the cover of fulfilling their oath of office to uphold the laws of the state of Florida which I can also understand.

Governors Bush and Scott have embraced our pro-life position on abortion and euthanasia. Governor Chiles respectfully demurred always and who knows what Governor Crist’s real position was/is. But it is so hard to get any elected official, pro-life or not, Republican or Democrat to see the natural extension that God alone should determine when we are born and when we will die. Saint John Paul II on the matter of the death penalty, said that while it might be justifiable in the rarest of instances, he knew of no good reason to justify it. Pope Francis has condemned it as barbaric as does the world community at large when it looks as us (the US) from a distance.

Yesterday, four Catholic newspapers/publications of very differing leanings and differences signed a single editorial against the death penalty. What may never be decided in Tallahassee, ever, may be decided soon by SCOTUS as they wrestle with “death by lethal injection” as a form of cruel and unusual punishment. With this court, who knows? Utah is thinking of reinstating the firing squad and will Florida return to using that never too certain to work “electric chair” if this form of execution is ruled unconstitutional.  It takes all the restraint which I can manage not to invoke recent images from other parts of the world.

I love my adopted state and I deeply respect everyone elected to public office. They have a hard job. In such cases, one can invoke instead the power of the Holy Spirit. That the same Spirit come upon all those who exercise any measure of control over the beginning and end of life and grant them wisdom to choose life over death, always. Hence, the Red Mass.

+RNL

CHALLENGING THE TRADITIONAL TEACHING ON MARRIAGE

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Everyone living in the state of Florida knows by now that various judicial rulings in recent months has led to a change in state law allowing same-sex marriages to be recognized as legal. I write not as someone schooled in the law, which I am not. Were I, I would love to study how courts can overrule a decision of the citizenry passed as a state constitutional amendment. I am also not a sociologist or psychologist. Were I, I would love to plumb deeper into my uncertainty about the consequences of this new definition of marriage for the future of society. I am rather a pastor and shepherd looking to the peripheries for people in the Church who long have felt alienated, unwanted, embarrassed, angry and marginalized.

In this moment in Florida, I take some comfort in that my beloved Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of Pope Francis had already begun a discussion about how we might reach out in love to those same people in the peripheries while upholding the traditional sacramental definition of marriage even as the civil society appeared to be moving away from it. It is indeed a tightrope to be treaded but I find myself akin to the Wallenda family standing at one end attempting to gain some balance to begin a thoughtful journey across the seeming chasm.

As I was beginning yesterday to develop my first thoughts on what was happening for this space, I received an email from the editor of the “Perspectives” section of the Tampa Bay Times editorial section asking if I would submit my thoughts on all of this for publication this morning. He accepted that work product and I agreed that I would wait a day before posting it here and in our diocesan web page. What follows is what appeared in today’s Times.

In light of the judicial decision effective January 6, 2014, I wish to lend an additional voice to the discussion regarding the challenges we face as we strive as a Church to preserve the traditional sacramental understanding of marriage even as the law now accommodates couples of the same sex. 

As one of our seven sacraments, the Catholic Church upholds marriage as an indissoluble relationship between a man and a woman committed to mutual consolation and open to procreation.  Such a view is rooted not only in the Church’s longstanding theological understanding of married life, but in the Church’s understanding of Christian anthropology as well, which views the conjugal and complementary relationship between a man and a woman as part of God’s Providential design whereby human beings are able to be co-creators of life with God.

Therefore, any dialogue which reaffirms such a view of marriage and which seeks to ensure that such a view continues to be respected and enabled to serve and edify both the Church and the wider society is to be commended and supported.

However, together with Pope Francis and in light of the discussions at the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome, I also recognize that the reality of the family today, in all its complexities, presents the Church with pastoral challenges as the Church strives to accept people in the specific circumstances of their lives and support and encourage them in their search for God and their desire to be members of the Church.  Therefore, I do not wish to lend our voice to notions which might suggest that same sex couples are a threat incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and, thus, incapable of contributing to the edification of both the Church and the wider society.

In the midst of changing societal definitions and understandings of marriage, there may no doubt be some confusion.  However, with patience and humility, our Church must continuously strive to discern what the Spirit is saying and respond to the Synod Fathers’ suggestion to discern what pastoral response faithful to Church teaching and marked by respect and sensitivity might be appropriate for same sex couples, even as God’s creative designs for and the Church’s sacramental understanding of marriage are also affirmed.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch
Diocese of St. Petersburg

GOING TO POT! REALLY?

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

The topic/subject of this blog has been tossing around in my mind for several weeks. At first, I was not going to address the issue of Constitutional Amendment Two on the November ballot which would legalize the use within the State of Florida of “medical marijuana” but then after consulting with friends in the medical field, in the law enforcement field and in two states, California and Colorado, I decided to share with you my thoughts. Please bear in mind that in all likelihood the Church will not “have a dog in this hunt” so today what I am sharing with you is the prayerful conclusion of simply one voter – myself, and is not Church teaching. The whole issue entered the political process due to the determined doggedness of one person, attorney John Morgan of Orlando. His passion, he says, came from the palliative relief given to his brother or another close relative by the use of marijuana. Morgan became a believer and an advocate for change in the law.

Florida was breaking no new ground in this initiative because other states and particularly California and Colorado had already paved the way. It is hard not to like something which claims to remove the physical pain from certain illnesses when nothing else seems to work. I must admit, the claim caught my interest and I suspect it would have won my ballot support if that was all that was involved. However, what law enforcement in this state as well as the medical associations point out is that there is “wiggle room” language in the proposed amendment which would extend the use to “other needs.” The docs say that they do not need such an amendment and that there are less risky ways of achieving the same goal of pain alleviation and law enforcement which has a tough time, they claim, dealing with instances of illegal use of marijuana and its “effects” on human behavior don’t even want to think of wholesale marijuana becoming available in the state.

So how about my Church friends in California, what do they think of “weed availability” in their state? The camel’s nose and neck under the tent they would say. Californians are among the first to take on anything controversial and experiment with it and usually they find a way of accommodating “California dreaming” into their daily and civic life. They also have generally developed a somewhat defeatist attitude that if it is going to happen anyway, why not in California? My friends in Colorado are a slightly different story. They long for the days long ago when one went to Colorado to buy Coors beer and export it back into the Eastern states where it was not commercially available. Now the state is seeing a lot of buying and exporting of marijuana and some of them say that the social dangers of this new reality are alarming.

There is a fine reporter for the TAMPA BAY TIMES by the name of Stephen Nohlgren and he has recently completed extensive research into almost every aspect of the issue. This morning he notes for the first time that the amendment may not be the “slam dunk” which it has previously appeared to be and last week-end and during this week he has authored a series of very fine pieces on both the truths and myths of the issue. At the end of the day, I was left with enough  uncertainty about the issue to decide to vote “no” on the amendment myself. I remain unconvinced of the medical argument at least as a necessity and am a vigorous opponent of smoking anything, legal or illegal. It seems to me that what John Morgan and the other proponents are proposing, albeit somewhat silently, is the decriminalization of marijuana and that is what I wish the electorate was truly deciding on this issue, not some back door proposal.

This may, however, be one issue where reasonable people can differ. I trust the doctors (Lord, knows I see enough of them personally for one thing or another) and not the ads that this amendment is not necessary for palliative care and while personal experience may be helpful in something like this, the research is still lacking. Amazingly I find myself thinking a “no” vote is really “for the people.”

+RNL

FUTURE NOW

Friday, March 21st, 2014

It has been my custom all these years to visit our two seminaries annually and when I can manage it, our seminarians also studying in Rome at the North American College and outside of Boston at St. John XXIII National Seminary (n.b.: I know, I am anticipating!).

Last year the seminary visitation was not necessary because we were all together for the extraordinary trip to the Holy Land during the New Year’s break from their studies. And, while my presence is needed twice a year at both Florida seminaries for meetings of the Board of Trustees, it is never possible to spend any quality time with the seminarians or those responsible for their formation on those occasions.

So, last week I resumed the custom again and visited St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach where our men spend their last five years of study and formation and St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami where they complete their college studies or pre-theology.

With our seminarians at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. (First row, left to right): Alec DeDios, Anthony Astrab, Connor Penn, Patrick Lambert, Chris Grevenites, Manny Gozo, Ralph D'Elia. (Second row, left to right): Fr. Carl Melchior, Joshua Bertrand, Drew Woodke, Billy Augensen, myself, Msgr. John Cippel, Joshua Hare, Mark Yarnold

With our seminarians at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. (First row, left to right): Alec DeDios, Anthony Astrab, Connor Penn, Patrick Lambert, Chris Grevenites, Manny Gozo, Ralph D’Elia. (Second row, left to right): Fr. Carl Melchior, Joshua Bertrand, Drew Woodke, Billy Augensen, myself, Msgr. John Cippel, Joshua Hare, Mark Yarnold

 

At the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. (First row, left to right: Msgr. Mike Muhr, myself, Father Carl Melchior, Deacon Jonathan Emery. (Second row, left to right): Elixavier Castro, Kyle Bell, Dan Angel, Deacon Kyle Smith, Tim Williford, Jackson Reeves. (Third row, left to right): Anthony Ustick, Chuck Dornquast, Curtis Carro, Lou Turcotte, Bill Santhouse, Deacon Brian Fabiszewski

At the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. (First row, left to right: Msgr. Mike Muhr, myself, Father Carl Melchior, Deacon Jonathan Emery. (Second row, left to right): Elixavier Castro, Kyle Bell, Dan Angel, Deacon Kyle Smith, Tim Williford, Jackson Reeves. (Third row, left to right): Anthony Ustick, Chuck Dornquast, Curtis Carro, Lou Turcotte, Bill Santhouse, Deacon Brian Fabiszewski

Our medium size diocese has been generous for some time in lending both seminaries some great priests for the faculty and for Spiritual Direction. As strapped as we are for priests, it only makes sense to most of us that we invest in the quality, education, spiritual and pastoral formation of our future priests. Currently both the Rector/President of St. Vincent de Paul (Monsignor David Toups) and the Spiritual Director of the same (Monsignor Michael Muhr) are from the St. Petersburg Diocese.

When two years ago, the Archdiocese of Miami was unable to provide a sufficient number of in-house priest spiritual directors, I asked Monsignor John Cippel, who had been retired from administrative duty for a few years, if he would pitch in and help by going to and living at St. John Vianney for two years as Spiritual Director (something he had previously done at St. Vincent de Paul before becoming pastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Spring Hill in 1995). He is completing those two years of heroic service and wishes to return to our area to continue his amazing retirement activity.

I mention this because I am aware that last week Father Arthur Proulx, pastor for eleven years at Nativity in Brandon, announced that he would be leaving that parish to begin a term of service as a Spiritual Director at St. John Vianney in Miami. I have already heard about the pain that announcement and the decision which preceded it has brought to many at Nativity. I understand it and acknowledge that it springs from great respect and appreciation which is held for Father Proulx.

But we have fourteen men at St. John Vianney in pre-theology and college and Miami (which owns and operates the seminary and promised when St. Vincent de Paul Seminary became provincially owned by all the Florida dioceses that it would cover the cost and staffing of the college) still has no one to provide at this time. If you sat where I sit, you would not stand idle either and deprive not just our men, but others in the 85 student strong resident college seminary community of spiritual direction during a very important part of their lives. The parishioners of Christ the King understand this, in their heart and from experience. They gave up both Monsignors Muhr and Toups to the seminary with the fond hope that young men being ordained would come back better for having these two guides and examples during their formation.

I have an opportunity on these visits to have some private moments with each seminarian. They share with me their joys as well as their trials and readily provide me with an insight as to how they are doing in their pursuit of understanding better God’s call in terms of their own vocation. Believe me, dear reader, it is not easy in today’s world to give up the love of a potential wife and the attraction of another profession. Some of our pre-theologians hold degrees in engineering from UF or FSU or UCF and USF to name a few. They once dreamed of something else and then felt this calling from the Lord, which they will test out right up until the moment of their ordination. I admire them so deeply and firmly believe that without exception you would be honored to have any of them as your sons and we will be honored, please God, to have them some day as our brothers in the priesthood.

They care for one another very well also. Our men, on their own, make it their personal duty to weekly pray together, share their life experience over the past week with their peers, and fairly regularly to recreate together. They are already a “band of brothers” and this augurs well for the future of ministry in this diocese. Priests today and more so since the sexual abuse crisis of the last decade need to support one another. Almost without exception I find them devoid of clericalism and in the seminary because they feel called by the Lord to serve His people and not themselves. They know how to gently “needle” one another but never in a manner or way that hurts someone else. In fact, at the dinner which I have with them during these visits, they can be quite fun. I don’t remember during my seminary days of ever being as open, unthreatened and casual with my bishop at the time. In the end, however, they are very respectful of authority and genuinely understand its place in the Church.

Before I leave both seminaries we celebrate the Eucharist together and it is then when I see their deep commitment to prayer. I pray that the men are learning that it is what they do after ordination as priests at Eucharist and not what they wear that is important. I pray that they will come to appreciate that the greatest privilege that can be accorded any priest is to be truly and genuinely called “Father” and not to worry about other honors, privileges and distinctions. I pray that they will understand that if they have truly become whom they have received in the Eucharist, they will yearn to walk out of that chapel or any Church like Jesus would and serve the poor, battle societal injustice, call to serve both women and men in our parishes, embrace the great gifts of women to serve in any and all ministries and offices open to them, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Yes, it is a tall order but something tells me that the men I spent time with last week will not repeat the mistakes of my generation and will serve the Lord with genuine gladness, sacrifice and dedication.

They are the future, now!

+RNL

IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

On Christmas eve I celebrated three Masses for Christmas around the diocese as has been my custom almost every year since coming in 1996. I try for the first Vigil Mass for Christmas to go north in the diocese since they often feel left out on many things.This year I was the celebrant and homilist for the 400pm Vigil Mass at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Citrus county. At almost every parish in the diocese, the first Mass on Christmas eve targets children and families and this was no exception. The parish is largely a retirement community so there are not an awful lot of children to begin with but add to their number the grandchildren and nieces and nephews who travel at Christmas and we had about forty kids between the age of 3 and 7. I invite them to come forward to the altar after the Gospel proclamation and there I tell them my favorite Christmas story. Here are some of the pictures from the Mass yesterday afternoon.

Mostly all ears!

Mostly all ears!

 

Land the plane, Bishop. one of the kids was thinking

Land the plane, Bishop. one of the kids was thinking

 

With special thanks to Father Ryszard Stradomski. gracious host and splendid pastor of St. Benedict parish

With special thanks to Father Ryszard Stradomski. gracious host and splendid pastor of St. Benedict parish

With  barely two hours to spare, seminarian Joseph Plesco who was driving for me last night as well as assisting in the ceremonies and I left for ninety mile trip to Nativity parish, Brandon. I wanted to go there because Christmas is, after all, the feast of the Nativity for birth of our Lord and they had a scheduled Spanish Mass for 730pm, giving me time to celebrate the Mass and be back in St. Petersburg with time to spare prior to the Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude.  So off we went to Brandon.

Nativity is our largest parish in the diocese and from its inception under the pastoral guidance of Monsignor Jaime Lara, retired and still very much a force major, Nativity has always been a happy home for and mixture of the Hispanic as well as Anglo cultures. It produces the greatest number of vocations for the diocese and is known for its excellent liturgies. Last night was no exception, except maybe for the principal celebrant whose Spanish sometimes cries out to heaven for vengeance.

About 800 people came for Mass in the Main Church while another 800 attended Mass in English in the parish hall. With full choir and my discovering my voice once again, we sang the newborn Christ Child into life.  The liturgy was reverential yet lively, congregation fully participating and the celebrant singing away in Spanish. Sometimes I do find I make less mistakes singing the Mass parts in Spanish than in simply reciting them because I go much slower when musically inclined.

Here are some pictures from the liturgy in Spanish a Nativity. A last minute decision was made to have Father Nelson Restrepo preach the homily whiles yours truly at the end invited the children between 3 and 7 years old to come forward for a second retelling of my favorite Christmas story. Once again the kids “got into it” and their parents also full participated.

IMG_9351

By the time Midnight Mass had begun at the Cathedral I had failed to hand my camera over to anyone to take pictures of that beautiful setting. But if you wish to see the whole Mass, you are in luck. Simply log on to www.dosp.org and click on “Click here to watch Christmas Midnight Mass at the Cathedral.” You and those lucky people will not and did not hear my favorite children’s Christmas story.

I write these thoughts with two hours remaining in Christmas of 2013. I am exhausted and going to bed but there will be least two more posts before we call 2013 a wrap. Merry Christmas all.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch aka +RNL

A POX ON ALL THEIR HOUSES

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

The 2013 regular session of the Florida legislature has come to an end and the impasse between the Congressional Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate continues with no hint of progress on many fronts. It is enough to drive a person of feeling and compassion to despair. Little was done in Tallahassee of benefit to all the residents of the state (lobbyists for big business generally got what they sought) and a number of important matters were left on the table at the end because of the intractability of many members of the legislature.

Among the more egregious actions to my mind or in some cases inactions would be the following:

(1) The failure to come to any agreement about the expansion of Medicaid benefits for the poor under the Affordable Care Act which practically guarantees that over fifty million dollars and benefits which would have come to Floridians from the federal government will now find their way to another state. Shameless!

(2) Not only does the Florida legislature not wish to do away with the death penalty (as last week did the Maryland legislature and two years ago the New Mexico legislature) but they wish to speed up executions in the state. Establishing a strict timeline almost insures that the number of innocent people executed will increase (DNA results applied to Florida death-row inmates alone has resulted in a score of convictions of those planned to be executed in this state to be reversed but it took a lot of time). I hope Governor Scott vetoes this possibly prairie popular law.

In the interest of fairness, I do wish to acknowledge that additional protection for the pre-born has been provided this session and a long overdue increase in salary for public school teachers has been put in place as well.

Now, for the Washington scene, a major disappointment was the defeat of a very modest first effort at very limited gun control. It came close but not enough. Immigration reform now seems caught up in the party partisan debate and at times it seems like President Obama has decided he can not do anything about the Congress he has been dealt so doing nothing is a virtue. How many more Sandy Hooks (Newtown) or Auroras (Colorado) will it take, ladies and gentlemen of the House and Senate? Finally, there will be someday a national debate on drone missiles, but how much discussion on collateral damage and loss of innocent life will precede that?

Some may think that this bishop got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but I hope a few of you can see the strong stream of Catholic moral theology which courses throughout political debate and decisions. Thirty years ago last Saturday, the bishops of the United States issued their pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.” It had its critics but it also had its effects, all salutary. Today it would seem that corporately, we bishops, at times, solely tend to focus on abortion, contraception, euthanasia when once all “life and death issues” were a part of a “seamless garment.” No political party I know of is truly and fully pro-life. No legislative body either, at the state or federal level, is truly and fully pro-life. Hence, a pox on all their houses.

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DEATH COMES TO THE COUNTY

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

HOMILY AT THE PRAYER VIGIL TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY

Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle

April 10, 2013

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg

Giving the homily at the prayer vigil. Photo kindness of Sabrina Burton Schultz. To see a few more photos from the prayer vigil, please click here.

Giving the homily at the prayer vigil. Photo kindness of Sabrina Burton Schultz. To see a few more photos from the prayer vigil, please click here.

For the first time in my seventeen years as bishop of this diocese, the consequences of a heinous crime and the application of the death penalty has come to our area and in just a few minutes Larry Mann will himself experience death by lethal injection. My thoughts first go out to the family of Elisa Nelson, the young girl brutally murdered by Mann over three decades ago who are hoping that the death of this man will help bring closure to their long period of grief and suffering. No one, least of all myself, can speak of their experience of the loss of a daughter in an unspeakable way which this family has lived with. It would be tragic not to take this moment to pray for the Nelson’s and to commend again their darling daughter Elisa to eternal rest with God.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

We gather this evening also to pray for the abolition of the death penalty in our state. We take as articles of faith that even one who has fully violated the fifth commandment, Thou shalt not kill, should not have their life taken by anyone other than the author of all life, the Lord God. All of the modern popes since the Second Vatican Council have spoken to the issue of capital punishment. While all have allowed it in the narrowest of circumstances, it was Blessed Pope John Paul II who said that it should be extremely rare. It is extremely hard to be pro-life when it comes to its beginning and postulate the arguments against abortion and still be for capital punishment. That same heart and mind which abhors the horror of abortion should logically abhor the state deciding who will live and who will die.

Proponents of the death penalty argue that justice can only be served when one violent act is responded to by another. As a child, my parents always taught us that two wrongs do not make a right. When “right dwells in the desert” and “justice abides in the orchard”, then the great prophet Isaiah promises that “justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security.” After over two hundred years of the exercise of the death penalty, there is no valid evidence that it reduces crime, that murders diminish, and that the people live in greater security. It is not and never has been a deterrent.

Florida’s use of the death penalty is one of the most egregious in the nation. It does not take the same unanimous jury which convicted the felon in the first place to initiate the death penalty. In fact, it only takes seven out of twelve members of a jury to recommend death, by lethal injection or the electric chair. Only one state in the union shares this sad statute with ours. Our elected judges can overrule a jury and assign the death penalty if they do not concur with the jury’s recommendation in capital cases. Death comes cheaply in Florida in our statutory law.

In the last two years, the governors and legislatures in two more states have abolished capital punishment: New Mexico and Maryland. Tonight we pray once again that what the rest of the world views as a barbaric response to admittedly heinous crimes becomes rarer and rarer to use our Holy Father’s words. “Forgiving one another as God has forgiven” us is part of our religious DNA. It is why we are here tonight. We use this occasion of yet another moment in Florida’s sad history to pray to God, the author of all life, to enlighten the hearts and minds of our people and elected officials and remove this last statutory remnant of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

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MAY THE ANGELS LEAD YOU INTO PARADISE

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Thomas A. Horkan. Photo courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thomas A. Horkan, the first director of the Florida Catholic Conference (now known as the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB)), is soon to enter eternal life. According to his children, no one could be more willing and ready than Tom and he knows his situation. Thus, before he leaves us, I wish to add my memories of this grand man. I first became involved with State Catholic Conference in 1969 when I was hired as a layman to staff the Ohio Catholic Conference’s new office of Government Programs in the Education Department. State Catholic Conferences were still relatively new at that time and only about twelve states had genuine state Catholic Conferences fully staffed. In 1970, all of the directors met for their summer meeting in Columbus, hosted by our state director, Ted Staudt. It was that August that I met Tom Horkan of Florida for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful, unfailingly kind and bright as could be, Tom made no effort to impress anyone but did so nonetheless.

State Conferences of bishops were an early outgrowth of the Second Vatican Council and its invitation to the Church to invite competent lay people to represent the case of moral values to the political arena. Prior to that, bishops were the only trusted spokespersons before governmental officials. Almost every nascent state Catholic Conference in existence in 1970 had a lay man as Executive Director (soon a religious sister and a religious brother would accede to that role in Michigan and Texas). It was an exciting time. Ohio and Pennsylvania had tuition tax credits for parents of private school children, it was before Roe v. Wade, and the era of abortion simply on request was unthinkable. I learned at that first summer meeting in Columbus that the true wisdom of church-state relations rested with a few of its directors, like Tom Horkan. He told me how he had been practicing law in Miami when its first Bishop/Archbishop, Coleman Francis Carroll asked him to move to Tallahassee and begin to represent the Church before the government of the state of Florida. He told me that he and his wife were full of misgivings, not about representing the Church but about picking up, leaving the practice of law in Miami and moving to faraway Tallahassee. I asked him how he got along with Archbishop Carroll who had something of a national reputation for being irascible and he told me that the Archbishop trusted him and they got along swimmingly, and indeed they did.

After Roe, the pro-life effort within the Church began to grow significantly and Florida, under Horkan’s leadership, began to expand staff to meet the growing needs and expectations of a growing Church. Soon the state Catholic Conferences began to do more than simply represent the Catholic Church before the three branches of government in state capitals. They started serving as coordinating offices for schools, religious education, health care, etc. Tom Horkan had an expert eye for choosing great staff, one of whom, Dr. Michael McCarron, remains as Horkan’s only successor to this day. But a great measure of the success of our state Catholic Conferences was not how they satisfied the Church they served, but the respect and esteem they gained from legislators and members of the Executive branch. To this day, we continue a practice begun by Tom Horkan of meeting with the governor once a year and we often are the recipients of gratitude for the integrity and assistance which our women and men in the FCCB in Tallahassee have and share. Tom Horkan got it all started well and he served with honor and distinction, a true Catholic layman as envisioned by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council and a cherished person in the history of the Church in Florida for over fifty years. With failing eyesight but unfailing mental acuity behind the scenes and never interfering since his retirement, he remains a fountain of wisdom to many. There are many priests, religious sisters and brothers who stand out as bright lights of the Church on the Florida peninsula, but Thomas Horkan in the modern era stands alone for his love of and service to the Church of his baptism.

Tom, I hope Mike McCarron or your daughter can read this to you today and I regret that I am unable to be at your bedside, but I will do everything I can to be present at your funeral as you have been present to me during my fifty years of service to the Church we love. May the angels lead you into paradise, dear friend. You have earned a place in eternal life with your wife so keep working for us that have not yet earned fully our entrance “ticket.”

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