When a Father Leads: Marian Consecration P. 2 –Guest Blog by Dave McClow

Dave McClow is a pastoral counseling associate with the Pastoral Solutions Institute.

How did Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades lead at least 12,000 Catholics in the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, in the Marian consecration as part of the New Evangelization effort?

In Part 1 I covered the “what” of the consecration and its rich insights from four saints.  If you remember, the consecration started with one woman in the diocese named Ida List.  Ida had made the consecration several times and was leading retreats—she was on fire!  She had heard that another diocese had implemented this and had called them to see what they had done.  Two hundred people had made the consecration with their bishop, but without the benefit of the DVD retreat for small groups.  She had felt called to talk to Bishop Rhoades and presented the idea about doing Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 days to Morning Glory retreat diocese-wide.   “A week later I received a letter from Bishop Rhoades saying that he loved the idea.”  He picked the date of the Feast of the Assumption, which happened to correspond with the Knights of Columbus Family Faith Festival.  Ida also “loved that the eve of the date was St. Maximillian’s feast day [August 14]!”

Bishop Rhoades announced it on 5/11/14, two full months before the start date, in Today’s Catholic, the diocesan weekly.  “We invited Fr. Gaitley to the priests’ Spring presbyteral meeting so that they could hear firsthand about this endeavor.”  “Bishop [Rhoades] was outstanding in his encouragement…”  There was something in the paper for weeks on the initiative. (Click here for the archives and start at 5/11/14-7/12/14).  Bishop did a video where he shared his own story with the Marian consecration and introduced the idea of consecration that was seen by over 1000 people.  When the 33 days started, Bishop did weekly podcasts where he reflected on the saint and the consecration.  He shared some of his personal experiences with Blessed Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II. READ MORE


Australian Couple Releases Full Text of Synod Speech

I’m friends with Byron and Francine Pirola, the son and DIL of Ron and Mavis Pirola, the Australian couple who presented to the Extraordinary Synod.  Byron and Francine run the Australian Marriage Ron-Mavis-hi-res-cropped-945x1024-276x300Resource Center which was founded by Ron and Mavis.  They have been getting  a lot of comments about the speech and they wanted to release the full text of Ron and Mavis’ talk to help clarify any confusion.  They asked if I would help spread the word.

We’ve had a number of colleagues contact us having seen media coverage of Byron’s parents address which was supposed to be confidential and therefore written for a ‘bishop’ audience. You may have seen media reports about the address given by Ron & Mavis Pirola at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family earlier this week. They are one of 14 couples who were invited to by the Vatican to participate in the Synod as ‘auditors’ (having equal ‘air-time’ as the Bishops). Their address has attracted considerable attention, in part because only the input of the lay people is being made public. Not surprisingly, much of the reporting is ‘over-reaching’. We have posted the text of their address (4 minutes) as well as an interview they gave to Rome Reports on the MRC website. You can watch and read it here.  

Ron and Mavis are the Chair of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council (and advisory council to the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life) and were members of the Pontifical Council of the Family for 25 years.  They were foundational in introducing Marriage Encounter to Australia and are National Leaders of the Antioch youth movement and Executive members of PMRC Australia.

In Faith and in Love,
Francine & Byron Pirola
Directors | Marriage Resource Centre

When Mercy Hurts: Cdl. Kasper and the Soft Clericalism of Low Expectations.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the need for the Church to be merciful in the application of its teachings. didnt

That’s hard to argue with.  In fact, I heartily agree that finding ways to be both positive and pastoral when articulating the teachings of the Church–especially as it relates to the difficult topics of sex, marriage and family life– is of paramount importance.  As someone who is responsible for conducting/supervising over 10,000 hours/year of pastoral counseling services for Catholic clients, who teaches graduate courses in pastoral theology,  and who has written almost 20 different books examining healthy ways to live out the Church’s teaching on sex, love and marriage, you might say I’ve made doing just that my life’s mission.

Which is why I’ve been watching the Synod discussion on divorce, remarriage and communion with real interest.  And further, why I have some real concerns about what some of the synod fathers consider to be merciful.

The More Merciful Option?

Let’s take one example that has gotten a lot of press; Cardinal Kasper;s proposal for dealing with the painful situation of couples who are not able to receive communion because they are divorced and remarried without the benefit of an annulment. Cardinal Kasper suggested, essentially, that the ban on communion for these individuals could  simply be lifted if the remarried Catholic would just confess the sin of contracting a second, illicit marriage.  This is a variation on the old “internal forum option” (internal forum refers to what happens in the confessional) which was floated and shot down in the 90’s.   I’ve already discussed the multiple problems with that idea (which was actually condemned by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict) here.  The short version is that you aren’t supposed to give absolution to someone who plans on leaving the confessional to go out and do more of the thing they confessed (i.e., continuing to have adulterous relations with the illicit second spouse).

Lay Catholics: Not Called to Be Heroes?

Many people who are in favor of this idea assert it is the more “merciful” option but I have serious issues with this view of mercy because I think it takes a rather dim view of the laity.  Several months ago, Cardinal Kasper gave an interview where he said that living the Church’s teaching as it stands calls for a heroic effort on the part of the laity, and while he respects those lay people who are trying to do what the Church teaches despite the difficulty, heroism is not for the average Christian.”

Years ago,  WaPo columnist Michael Gerson, coined the phrase, “soft bigotry of low expectations.”  An article in the Daily Kos explained the phrase well, noting that it referred to, “the preconception that disadvantaged folks won’t ever succeed, and the resulting development of policies predicated upon their inevitable failure .”


In reading Cardinal Kasper’s comments, I can’t help but wonder if what we’re seeing here isn’t the soft clericalism of low expectations.  My parents always taught me that Christianity called all of us, ordained and lay person alike, to be heroes, indeed, to be saints.  One of the major assertions of Vatican II was the “universal call to holiness” the idea that everyone was called to “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” not just the ordained class, but the laity as well.    In short, Vatican II asserted that Jesus’ call to heroic virtue applied to all Christians even–contrary to Cardinal Kasper’s assertions–the “average” ones.    Cardinal Kasper has suggested that those who disagree with his (what I’m sure are well-intentioned) proposals are clericalists who are interested in controlling the lives of others.

I would respectfully suggest that the Cardinal needs to look up the word, “clericalism”  because, in my dictionary, it refers to having a double standard for the ordained versus the laity and it appears to me that this is exactly what he is proposing.

Mercy isn’t mercy if it literally damns people with low expectations.  As St. John Paul the Great asserted, there is a difference between the law of gradualism (which is good) and the gradualism of the law (not so good).  The “law of gradualism” refers to the fact that we need to be merciful and provide support for people who are earnestly trying to live out the call to heroic virtue.  By contrast, “gradualism of the law” refers to simply letting people off the hook for responding to the call to heroic virtue and instead simply affirming them in their okayness because, after all, we can’t expect those average Christians to be heroes, not like the ordained class, anyway.

Where Can We Turn for Answers?

Pope St John Paul the Great, as the first Pope to reign entirely in the post Vatican II Church, dedicated his life to exploring what living out the universal call to holiness meant for the average lay Catholic. That’s why he wrote almost 2/3’s of everything the Church ever produced on marriage and family life.  I would respectfully suggest that rather than re-inventing the wheel, the synod fathers might do well to dive more deeply into his profound work and mine it for ideas on how to promote the Church’s vision of sex and love in more positive and pastoral ways.  Too long, progressives have dismissed Pope St John Paul the Great’s work as being unnecessarily obsessed with sex (when, in fact, a holy sexuality is at the heart of the spiritual life of the lay person) and conservatives have been confused by it (and similarly ignore it) because it isn’t legalistic enough.  It is time for our leaders to get past their political preferences and truly understand the significance of Pope St John Paul II’s work in this regard.

I fully agree that the Church needs to find more positive and pastoral ways to explain her teachings and to help the faithful live those teachings out. But whatever solutions the Synod eventually proposes, the one thing I am confident about is that the answer can’t possibly involve telling some Christians that they are  not expected to be as holy as the other, more special Christians with the Roman collars and pointy hats are called to be.

If you’d like to learn more about positive ways to explain the Church’s teachings on love, sex, marriage, and family life, I hope you will find some of the following resources helpful.

Holy Sex!  The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind Blowing, Infallible Loving      ~ For Better…FOREVER!  The Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.

Parenting with Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.     ~  Just Married:  The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage


Help For Struggling Couples

My newest book, When Divorce is Not an Option:  How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love is a resource for people who want to save their marriage (even if their spouse doesn’t want to).  It examines the 8 habits happy couples exhibit in their relationship and teaches readers how to develop those habits.

Here’s the publisher’s description.

God has put you and your spouse together for a reason and it’s not to argue. You are bonded together to cultivate in each other those virtues that lead to sanctification. That’s why this book isn’t just about saving your marriage it’s about transforming it into a joyful, loving relationship.

In these pages, acclaimed author and psychotherapist Gregory Popcak shows you how to heal the hurt in your marriage and develop the crucial habits necessary to resolve conflicts, renew the lovedivorceoption you once had, and discover the passion you always wanted.

Dr. Popcak’s clinical experience and recent research show that the difference between happy and unhappy marriages lays in the habits both good and bad that are practiced in the home. Here you’ll discover the simple steps needed to root out behavior that leaves you resentful and demoralized, and to begin practicing positive habits that facilitate mutual respect and cultivate admiration.

Even if you feel lonely and abandoned in your marriage, Dr. Popcak offers sensible ways you can work alone at resolving conflict, repairing damage, building rapport, and maintaining intimacy. Because of the graces given to husbands and wives, you have tremendous untapped power to be a catalyst for change even if your spouse is not participating.

By following the wise advice in this book, you will take the guesswork out of building a stable, healthy marriage. You will also learn:

-Eight marriage-friendly habits that couples in healthy relationships exhibit 
-How to identify those areas of your marriage that require the most attention 
-What to do when you feel your spouse is out to get you 
-Simple ways to integrate prayer into the life of your marriage 
-How to make God part of healing your marriage 
-How your mind handles feelings and emotions and what you can do about it 
-Tips for keeping your conversations focused on solutions instead of emotions 
-How to see each your spouse’s faults as opportunities for you to grow in holiness.

I hope When Divorce is Not and Option:  How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love will be a great help to hurting couples everywhere.

Toddlers Adjust Behavior Around Angry Adults

Children as young as 15 months can detect anger when watching other people’s social interactions and then use that emotional information to guide their own behavior.shutterstock_221859814

When kids say “the darnedest things,” it’s often in response to something they heard or saw. This sponge-like learning starts at birth, as infants begin to decipher the social world surrounding them long before they can speak.

The study found that when toddlers watched an argument between two adults they either became more reluctant to play with their toys or their play became more impulsive and erratic

The researchers also wondered if the children’s temperament played a role. They had parents fill out the Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire, which uses questions like “How long does your child stop and think before making decisions?” to measure impulsivity.

The higher the score for impulsivity, the researchers found, the more likely the toddlers were to perform the forbidden actions when the anger-prone adult was watching them.  READ MORE

If you’re concerned about how the tension in your home is affecting your children, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute (740-266-6461) to learn more about how our Catholic tele-counseling practice can help you create a more peaceful marriage and family life.

Family Synod Update

Two stories grabbed me about the opening of the Synod.

The first is about a discussion that asks if there is a better way to explain Church teaching than by using such negative, loaded language as “intrinsically disordered”  “grave” “intrinsically evil” etc.bishops

The second is a story of how the Church might help families live and pass on the faith.

What do you hope the Synod will address?  What recommendations would YOU make if you were one of the advisor couples?

Extraordinary Synod on the Family Round-up

The Extraordinary Synod on the Family begins this weekend.  Here are some of the posts I’ve written over the last few months on the synod.  To see more great writing on the Synod by my fellow Patheos bishopsbloggers, go here!

The Synod: What is it?  Who Cares?

Pope Francis Calls Extraordinary Synod on the Family

Why Is the Family So Important Anyway?– The Catholic Channel Symposium on the Extraordinary Synod for the Family.

Sesame Street Tells Lies that Hurt Kids (OR, Why “Any Group of People / Living Together And Loving Each Other” ISN’T “Doing the Family Thing”)

Catholic Sexuality

Holy Sex! What Catholics Can Teach the World About Infallible Loving.

The Catholic Difference in Family Life

Yes, There IS a Catholic Way to Parent. Here’s Why.

Are Catholic Families Really Any Different? Should We Be? (Some Points from My Response to the 2014 Extraordinary Synod– Part I)

5 “Marks” of a Catholic Family—(My response to the Extraordinary Synod Survey Part II)

Mission Possible: Rediscovering Catholic Family Identity

Is the Catholic Family Different? 5 Marks of the Catholic Family–A Proposal.

The Annulment Reform Debate

Annulment Q & A: 6 Common Questions About Annulments.–UPDATED

Cardinal Kasper and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea (and A Better Solution–If I Do Say So Myself)

Reforming the Annulment Process–A Continuing Conversation. (Or Why “Alienation of Affection” is a stupid reason to require divorce before annulment).

NC Register says, “Just Married” Is Just the Thing for Couples of All Ages

At the National Catholic Register, Sara Reinhard posted a lovely review of Lisa and my book, Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving & Thriving in the First 5 Years of Marriage.   just married

Sometimes, the wedding bells aren’t even done ringing before you start to wonder just what you’ve gotten yourself into. Greg and Lisa Popcak’s Just Married (Ave Maria Press, 2013) is a frank look at how you can stay on the roller coaster that the first five years of marriage often presents.

Almost every newly married couple we encounter has two things in common. First, they are deeply in love with each other and rightly excited about the lives they are building together. They are passionate about each other, and hopeful about a bright future filled with blessings. But second, underneath that mutual love, joy, and hope, almost every newly married couple is also a little terrified. They wonder if they have what it takes to make it “until death do us part.” Almost every couple we talk to in our years of marriage ministry ask us one basic question; “How can we know if we have what it takes to make it to ‘happily ever after’?”

What makes this book a keeper (even for an old married lady like myself) is the tone the Popcaks take throughout. This isn’t a preachy “here’s the perfect answer” tome that you’ll long to throw across the room. Instead, it’s a good friend sitting on the other end of the couch, holding your drink and passing you the kleenex.

Sara reviews a few other great titles, including fellow Patheosi Tim Muldoon’s Six Sacred Rules for Families.  Check it out!