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Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

The wildly popular message that priests don't deliver

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 23, 2012

So I guess Father Roger Landry isn’t the only priest tackling the topic of contraception these days. Maybe it’s a trend. Let’s hope.

Jennifer Fulwiler tells readers of the National Catholic Register about the young priest in her parish who, after speaking about the Obama mandate, went a bit further into the subject.

The question hung in the air: “Is he going to go there?”
He did.

Father Jonathan Raia preached a fine homily about the Church’s teaching on marital love. The full homily is available on the parish web site. But according to Fulwiler the recording ends just a bit too soon, so you don’t hear what happened immediately after the homily, “when, as Fr. Jonathan returned to his chair at the side of the altar, the pews erupted in spontaneous, thunderous applause.”

Years ago a fine young priest who is a friend of mine was on vacation, visiting his parents. It happened to be the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, and he was meditating on that encyclical when the local pastor called, asking whether my friend could act as an emergency substitute to celebrate Sunday Mass. My friend agreed, of course. Then he thought to himself: I have to preach on Humanae Vitae.

As he began his homily my friend realized that he didn’t know anyone in the congregation (except his parents, I suppose), and in all likelihood would never see any of them again. There was no reason to hold back. He gave them the straight 185-proof stuff. He didn’t know how they would respond.

As he turned back toward the altar, he heard a rumbling in the pews behind him, and wondering whether the parishioners were coming to lynch him. They weren’t. They were rising to their feet for—yes—a thunderous standing ovation.

If only more priests knew how many of us out in the pews have been waiting for years, longing to hear that message! Not a timid, watered-down apologetic defense. Not an overly detailed biology lesson that would be inappropriate for children. Just a clear, whole-hearted embrace of the Gospel of Life.

C’mon, Father. You can do it. Wanna see your congregation go wild? We’re waiting.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Apr. 01, 2019 12:56 AM ET USA

    I understand that the unedited version of the video shows him allowing some to kiss the ring. In a way, however, this makes the incident even more confusing. Why some and not others? Is he worried about spreading germs at one moment and not worried five minutes later? Like so much in this Pontificate, it’s hard to make sense of it.

  • Posted by: mclom - Mar. 30, 2019 5:29 PM ET USA

    This was embarrassing in the extreme to watch, embarrassment for Pope Francis' unbelievable rudeness; I could not bear the thought of it being witnessed around the world. I felt humiliated too, on behalf of those poor pilgrims at Loreto, a sense that I was being mocked personally because had I been there I would have wanted the opportunity to venerate the Papal ring. Dr. Taylor Marshall and Prof. Tim Gordon gave a good podcast on the incident. I learned much I had not known about the tradition

  • Posted by: koinonia - Mar. 28, 2019 3:15 PM ET USA

    Really a bizarre video. The Pope's indifferent attendant nearby, his facial expression, the unsettling urgency in " jerking his hand away", the unrewarded piety of the guests and simultaneously unfazed and uninterrupted procession of merciless futility... Can't say I've ever seen anything quite like it. If the goal was no ring-kissing, could not the ring hand simply been removed from contention, placed behind his back and kept there?

  • Posted by: SentimentalGent - Feb. 26, 2012 6:50 AM ET USA

    My current pastor has spoken on contraception at Mass (the first one I've heard in my 58 years of life). He didn't get any standing ovations, but there was no lynching either. He has put in full-page messages on the subject on the Church's teachings in the Sunday bulletin from time to time. He doesn't back off from telling the truth, and I love it. So many Catholics don't know what the Church teaches. That's what the pulpit is there for.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 24, 2012 10:32 PM ET USA

    Hear, hear! Honestly, though, we must pray and sacrifice for our priests. I know of more than one priest who was "taken to task" by less than receptive parishioners. One local priest was chided for mentioning "adult" subjects near their cherubs ears. We have to pray for bold and courageous priests, not wait for them to saunter in. This is our part and one that is often neglected.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Feb. 24, 2012 9:12 PM ET USA

    I did something like this last Sunday. The pastor told me it was the best homily I ever preached, and a number of folks from the congregation did the same. I did this in conjunction with the news on the "mandate from hell." The tide has turned.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Feb. 24, 2012 12:24 PM ET USA

    Where's that "Like" button when I need it?