Dear Readers,

The devil must love ambiguity. Trap the faithful on a moving seesaw until they don't know whether they're up or down. To be honest that's how I feel about the diocese. We have many orthodox priests and seminary training is relatively solid, but there are worrisome signs too.

The Fr. Verecchia scandal continues to unfold and the reports indicate more legal maneuvering than shepherding on the part of the diocese. Bishop Loverde says the diocese acted "honorably and properly." But it's chilling to see diocesan attorneys excuse withholding information from Jim Lambert about his wife's affair with Verecchia citing the diocese's "duty" to "protect" Nancy Lambert's so-called "privacy." Jim Lambert might have won custody of his children, but for the diocesan cover-up of the lovers' ardent e-mails. Who did the silence serve? The adulterers. And how does this relate to what the Church calls sins of omission? The diocese won a legal victory; not a moral one when the judge dismissed Lambert's civil suit.

It is troubling to see a columnist in the Herald, Msgr. Robert Aucoin, who as rector of Wadhams Hall College Seminary in Ogdensburg (now closed) invited notorious sex educator Fr. Richard Sparks to speak to catechists. Sparks is responsible for the horrendous Growing in Love program which teaches youngsters the nitty-gritty of homosexual sex. As a speaker Sparks has made blasphemous comments about Jesus and Mary Magdalen and Mary and Joseph that are too disgusting to repeat. When faithful Catholics held a prayer vigil in reparation for his talk, retaliation was swift. One couple was banned from continuing as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist at the Cathedral parish. What kind of example did this man give young seminarians? And why did the bishop instruct the Herald to hire him?

Bishop Loverde has done many good things in the three years since his installation. His monthly vigils at the abortion mills are welcome. His regular celebration of Mass at the Cathedral is the faithful fulfillment of a duty and a blessed opportunity to teach. Early in his tenure he forbade Mary Hunt and Diann Neu from speaking at the Dominican Retreat House. It wasn’t a difficult call. The lesbian couple exemplify the lunatic fringe of heresy. However, other dissenters, more dangerous for being more “nuanced,” poison the faithful unhindered. Monika Hellwig, who denies the divinity of Christ and Gerard Sloyan, a founding member of the Association of the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), one of the worst dissent groups in the country, have spoken at churches in the diocese without problem, Hellwig more than once. Did the bishop know? Yes, we told him.

When Sr. Joan Chittister, who has directly defied the pope, gave the keynote address at the National Catholic Education Assoc. (NCEA) convention in 2001, five dioceses spoke out. Arlington did not. The diocese sent a delegation headed by School Superintendent Timothy McNiff who says it’s okay for pro-abort politicians to speak in schools if they address other topics. Parents’ rights continue to be violated through sex ed and unnecessary and intrusive homeschool guidelines.

But the things I have found most disturbing relate to the Mass. Why does the bishop, despite the pope’s call for a generous application of the indult, continue to refuse the Tridentine Mass? Personally, I prefer a reverent novus ordo, but there are many rites in the Church. Why should those who want to worship as our forefathers did for hundreds of years be treated like errant stepchildren? It is ungenerous and unpastoral.

Why are priests forbidden to encourage the faithful to receive Communion on the tongue? One of the most beautiful sermons I’ve ever heard described the two times in life when we are fed: as dependent infants and when we’re in love. What a powerful metaphor of our relationship to God.

Bishop Loverde speaks of unity, but at Christendom’s opening Mass his actions brought disunity. Christendom’s custom is to receive Communion at the altar rail. What greater sign of unity than a college president, faculty, and students kneeling together as equals to receive the body and blood of our Lord! When the bishop stood to distribute Communion while Fr. Robert Ruskamp distributed to those kneeling at the rail that unity was broken. How sad to see the faculty kneel before the bishop to vow their loyalty to the Church, but forced to stand before God Himself. Too often the appeal to “unity” has been used to suppress the more reverent behavior in favor of the less reverent. Fr. Verecchia also spoke of unity when he forbade the students from Seton School in Manassas to kneel for Communion or even genuflect before receiving.

I exhort our readers to pray for Bishop Loverde and all the bishops of the U.S. We live in tragic and schizophrenic times. Trust carefully and only those who earn it. If you see inconsistent behavior that sets you off-balance beware. Jesus told us to say yes when we mean yes and no when we mean no. Ambiguity was not His way.

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