Cuomo Scandal: Excommunication Isn’t Only Way To Demand Justice

Like so many of my fellow Catholics, I have been truly sickened by the NY Legislature’s passage of the law allowing abortion up to birth.  Worse, the bloodlust is spreading as other states are either passing or considering similar legislation.

In light of the NY law’s passage, most of the public conversation has focused on whether Governor Cuomo could or should be excommunicated.  I would absolutely  support such a canonical response to Cuomo’s advocacy of what I believe are moral (if not legal) crimes against humanity.

Unfortunately, even conservative canonists (most notably, Ed Peters) argue that there is not clear path by which to accomplish this.  Moreover, both Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Scharfenberger (Cuomo’s Ordinary in Albany) have stated that excommunication is not an appropriate response. On top of this, it has been observed that Cuomo is already voluntarily refraining from communion for his illicit relationship with celebrity cook Sandra Lee. It’s not unreasonable to ask what difference piling excommunication on top of this would make.

Missing the Point.

All that said, while I support canonical sanctions, I wonder if all this talk about canon law isn’t missing a larger opportunity. The goal of any initiative cannot be to merely find some punishment to apply.  We need  a long-term, corrective strategy.

Specifically, I think there are several vigorous pastoral responses that could be even more effective than canonical penalties (which often just look like so much inside baseball to all but the most devout). As a pastoral counselor and professor of pastoral studies, I would like to offer a few examples of actions that I think would be appropriate and impactful.  To be clear, I am not necessarily saying that any/all of the following must be done.  Undoubtedly, some of the following ideas are more doable/practical/impactful/appropriate than others.  But I think all are worth considering. More importantly, I would like these ideas to start a conversation about other pastoral initiatives that could be applied to address this crisis.  Remember, being pastoral doesn’t just mean being “nice.”  It means using the tools at one’s disposal to respectfully call people to conversion and build the kingdom of God.  Sometimes that means being gentle.  Sometimes that means being more assertive.  But at all times it means doing what must be done to glorify God and and work for the common good in the face of grave injustice.

Here are my suggestions for getting this conversation started.

*Call It Like It Is–Let’s face it.  This latest initiative isn’t about abortion.  Being permitted to kill a child up to the day before it is born it not abortion.  It is legal infanticide. Pure and simple. As such, every bishop, pastor and lay Catholic should, in media interviews, pastoral letters, prayers of the faithful, and other public communications, refuse to characterize this law as “an expansion of abortion” and refer it–properly–as either “infanticide” or the “legal murder of infants.”

*Mandated Petitions–Until this grave moral injustice is overturned, the bishop of every diocese containing a legislator who voted for this abhorrent law should require that those legislators be named in a petition at every Mass. The specific petition should ask for God’s mercy for the legislator and should ask that God would call that legislator to experience “either a radical conversion of heart and a firm resolve to correct the moral crimes they have committed or that God would facilitate the legislator’s speedy removal from office for their abuse of power in favor of legalized infanticide.”

For example: “Let us pray that God would pour out his mercy and justice on Governor Cuomo (and other legislators in the district):  That he would either experience a radical conversion of heart and resolve to correct the injustice he has committed against the children of New York, or that God would remove him from office in light of his abuse of power and advocacy of legalized infanticide. Let us pray to the Lord.”

It should be required by the bishop that a petition like this would be said at every Mass until the law is overturned.

There should also be a required petition begging for God’s mercy and a conversion of heart for all clergy and laity who have failed, and continue to fail, to promote the cause of life.

*Public Repentance–It isn’t just Cuomo or the other legislators who made this happen.  These lawmakers were put there by voters–many of whom are Catholic.  The blood of these children is on every person who voted for the monsters who made this possible. The bishops whose dioceses incorporate these districts should institute diocesan calls for days of strict fasting, abstinence and other penances. There should not be exceptions made for things like St Patrick’s Day or St Joseph’s Feast Day, etc.  It should be made clear that any person who is capable of participating in these acts of communal penance, but does not participate in them, should refrain from communion.

*Priestly Training and Discipline–The bishops should require each pastor to attend ongoing trainings in pro-life advocacy and teaching the truth about the Catholic vision of love and sexuality. Pro-life initiatives like 40 Days for Life and other programs must be actively encouraged and promoted throughout the diocese.  Each pastor should be required to present the bishop with his plan for directly promoting the pro-life movement in general (as opposed to merely promoting initiatives that might indirectly impact the rights of the unborn), and the overturn of this unjust law (and the conversion/removal of these unjust legislators) in particular. Failure to actively develop and promote such a plan on the parish level should be dealt with as a public act of defiance to one’s bishop.

*Active Promotion of Pro-life Activities And Comprehensive Ethical Education of the Laity–As above.  There should be a doubling-down of efforts to encourage all lay people to become actively involved in advocating for pro-life causes. It should be made clear that–especially in light of this crisis, there is no excuse for anyone to not be actively involved in the fight to overturn abortion and infanticide at every level and for every reason. It must be made clear that this is non-negotiable.  There must also be a comprehensive and serious effort made to educate the laity , not just about  what the church teaches about sexuality but why and to what end.  Quoting catechism verses at people and calling it a day is nonsense, and largely, that’s all the clergy has done. Bishops need to demand that their priests learn and teach there fullness of the truth of Catholic anthropology and morality (again, not just the “what,” but the “why” and to “what end?”)

It is ultimately the failure of the clergy to take this responsibility for the moral education of the laity seriously that has led to this nightmare.

*Symbolic Protests-Every Catholic parish, school, hospital, and institution should be required to fly their flags at half mast in mourning for the legalization of child-murder in the State.  ADDITIONALLY, it should be require the New York State flag to be flown upside down.  Flying a flag upside down is traditionally recognized (in federal law) as  “a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” This practice should continue until the law is overturned and the offending legislators have a conversion of heart or are removed from office for their abuse of power and moral crimes against the common good.

Likewise, I think it would appropriate  for the Bishops Conference to stage a symbolic, public funeral for the “death of the moral conscience of New York.” At this event, then conscience of each legislator who voted for this measure should be symbolically “buried.”

 Talk Amongst Yourselves.

As I said above, some of these ideas may be more or less appropriate, impactful, or workable than others. I don’t mean for this to be an exhaustive list.  My intention is to start a conversation by helping people realize that, in addition to whatever canonical penalties the bishops may or may not ever find the will to apply, there are many other serious, dramatic and effective pastoral initiatives that could be used to respond to this horrific situation.

I would suggest that we, the laity, should not focus our efforts solely on demanding canonical penalties, because we are too easily dismissed as ignorant or reactionary when we do. Plus, they have limited effect even when they are imposed.  Instead, we should demand that the clergy use every canonical and pastoral means at their disposal to address these moral crimes against humanity and fulfill the prophetic mission of their office.  The fact is, the refusal to preach and teach clearly, convincingly, and with conviction on matters of sexual morality is what has led to this horrific state of affairs. We need to demand a comprehensive, pastoral response that calls the legislators and voters in these districts to repentance or removal from office.  We need to make it clear any weaker response from our bishops and pastors will be seen as a radical betrayal of their office and an abdication of their call to teach, govern and sanctify.

Enough is enough.  The blood of the innocents cries out to heaven for justice.  May God have mercy on all of us.



Does Our Parenting Style Influence Our Child’s Empathy?

Parenting styles can come in many different shapes and sizes, but does how much warmth we show towards our children influence their ability to develop empathy and a positive moral compass?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry evaluated the small differences in parenting practices among 227 identical twins. The researchers for this and subsequent studies included questions such as “I often lose my temper with my child” and “My child knows I love him/her” to determine the amount of harshness or warmth the parent directed towards the child. 

It is often argued that genes are the main determinate of such personality traits in children, however the results of this study showed that parents who demonstrated more warmth towards their child instill traits such as empathy and a moral compass, whereas children who experience harsher parenting are more likely to develop what is called “callous-unemotional” traits which include a lack of empathy, lack of guilt, a shallow affect, and antisocial behaviors. 

So how do we express this type of warmth to our child in order to develop these positive emotional traits?

Warmth can be expressed in both big and small ways such as giving your child a hug when you greet them or say goodbye, especially when you say good morning or goodnight. Setting aside time at the end of each day to reconnect and catch up from the day, sharing the positives and the negatives of every day—showing interest in every aspect of your child’s life, without nagging them or getting into an argument. Think about the times that you feel closest to your child, whether that is baking, taking a walk, reading, or watching your favorite show together, then implement these activities into your daily or weekly schedule.

Not only does sharing this warmth with our child develop positive emotional traits in them, they actually make us as parents feel better and more connected to our child as well!

If you have difficult parenting questions, call in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130—or schedule an appointment with our tele-counseling services by visiting us online at

Historic Gathering Seeks Renewal of Catholic Family Life

Image via Shutterstock

The Catholic Family Life Symposium Helps Families Find Time for Christ

Major conference with 30 experts at the University of Notre Dame July 19-21  will discuss the renewal of Catholic family life,

Families are under more pressure than ever today. School, work, social media, drugs, materialism and other issues all challenge each member of the family and make it more difficult to find a spiritual connection. The constraints on time alone make it tough for families to even have dinner together! Catholic families are no different; however, they are called to live differently.

These concerns and more will be addressed by leading experts at the Family Symposium July 19-21 at the University of Notre Dame. This major event is organized by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak of the Pastoral Solutions Institute and sponsored by Our Sunday Visitor, Holy Cross Family Ministries, and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.

More than 30 authorities in the fields of theology, social science and pastoral ministry to families will come together to discuss and answer these questions about Catholic family life July 19-21 at the University of Notre Dame. They will explore how families can encounter Christ in everyday relationships and how to express that experience with each other and in their community.

“As we work to help families live a truly Catholic life, particularly as family, the domestic church, we need to identify what it is that makes a Catholic family different and provide resources to simply and practically live a Catholic family life,” said Dr. Greg Popcak, Director – Pastoral Solutions Institute. “This symposium will address many of these issues and provide tools to help families strengthen their relationships and improve their spiritual well-being.”

Some of the experts scheduled to speak at the Family Symposium include several well-known Catholic family authorities Dr. Greg & Lisa Popcak, Andrew and Terri Lyke, Tim and Sue Muldoon, Julie Rubio, Justin Bartkus, Pat Fagan, Darcia Narvaez, Mark Gray, Joe Atkinson, Julia Dezelski and many others.

Organizers of The Catholic Family Life Symposium will focus on ways families can experience faith in the home with each other and spread that faith into their communities.  The conferences focus will center on:

  • Helping parents and children to understand how to live as a Catholic family.
    Provide best practices that are flexible for all families to live a life of faith.
  • Identify day-to-day life practices so family members can better relate to each other and experience God together.
  • Provide materials that outline spiritual practices that fit with the messiness of family life.
  • Show how the family can change the world working together as family to make a difference.


To gather input from families about what it takes to be a Catholic family in today’s world, a survey had been developed.  Families and professionals are invited to complete the survey.

For more information on the symposium go to:

Our Kids Might Know More Than We Think They Do

As parents, we often want to protect our children from negative encounters or situations that we experience in our adult lives. But is this the best approach? New research reveals that kids may know more about how we feel than we might think. 

A study conducted at Washington State University Vancouver evaluated mother’s and father’s interactions with their children after experiencing an anxiety inducing event (such as public speaking with negative feedback from the audience). The participants were separated into two groups, one group was told to suppress their emotions in front of their child while the second group was instructed to act naturally. 

After the negative event, the parent’s were given a task to complete with his or her child that required the parent and child to work together as a team. 

The researchers found that the parents who suppressed their emotions had less positive and less efficient encounters with their child than those who acted normally and shared their negative feelings with the child. 

One researcher stated, ““The act of trying to suppress their stress made parents less positive partners during the…task. They offered less guidance, but it wasn’t just the parents who responded. Those kids were less responsive and positive to their parents. It’s almost like the parents were transmitting those emotions.”

Moreover, this study showed that when parents suppress emotions the children became more sensitive to the parents, particularly to their mothers. 

Researcher, Dr. Sara Waters, continued by saying, “Kids are good at picking up subtle cues from emotions. If they feel something negative has happened, and the parents are acting normal and not addressing it, that’s confusing for them. Those are two conflicting messages being sent.”

The results of this study show that it is more beneficial for parents to share their experiences with their children. Allowing children to see the full trajectory—from beginning to resolution—of a conflict teaches children how to regulate their own emotions and learn that problems can get resolved. Waters says, “It’s best to let the kids know you feel angry, and tell them what you’re going to do about it to make the situation better.”

This statement by Dr. Waters demonstrates the parenting technique of Modeling that we discuss in our book Parenting with Grace—The Catholic Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids! 

For more parenting tips and information, check out Parenting with Grace and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM channel 130!

The Spirit of Giving…Can Make Me Happy Too?

The Christmas Season is over, but that doesn’t mean our spirit of giving should be. 

New research conducted at Northwestern University reveals that giving to others provides us with an ongoing source of happiness—no matter how frequently we do it. 

In these studies, individuals were given a small monetary allowance each day for about a week. One group of individuals was instructed to keep the daily allowance for themselves, while another group donated the money each day to a charity or cause of their choice. Each group kept a log of their overall happiness at the end of every day. 

Upon completing the experiment, the participants who gave to others reported greater overall happiness each day, while those who kept the money showed a decline in happiness each day over the course of the week. 

So what does this mean for us in our every day lives?

While the currently popular topic of self-care is very important, the results of these and similar research studies show that it would be beneficial to our overall happiness to add giving to others to our regular schedule. 

Giving can come in many forms, from donating to a charity on a regular basis, volunteering at or donating to a food bank, giving money, water, food, etc. to homeless individuals we see, or giving clothes, socks, or other necessities to homeless shelters. While these are just a few examples, these are all great ways of giving to others within the immediate or greater community. 

However, we can also bring this spirit of giving to those within our family. In addition to our regular family life, one way of increasing our practice of giving within our family is to choose at least one family member each day and ask ourselves, “What is one thing I can do today to give to my [spouse, son, daughter, etc.] and show him/her that I love them and care about their happiness?” This can be done through getting/making your spouse’s favorite meal for dinner, giving your chid his/her favorite snack when you pick them up from school or extra-curricular activities, letting that family member choose what game you play as a family, or letting them pick which show you watch together. Writing a small note of love and appreciation for that family member and placing it in their packed lunch or somewhere else for them to find during the day is another great practice.

Whatever it may be, these small acts of kindness can have a big impact on another person by showing them you care. Moreover, practicing giving in these and other ways will actually increase our personal happiness as well! 

For more resources on increasing your happiness, check out The Life God Wants You to Have and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM channel 130. 

It Gets Better With Age

“My spouse and I bicker all the time! What do we do?” Of course it depends on the severity of the bickering between a couple to determine the answer to this question, but a new study from UC Berckley says, maybe just give it time.

Researchers evaluated conversations and exchanges between 87 middle to older aged couples who had been married for 15 to 37 years and tracked these couples over the course of 13 years. 

The results of this study showed that couples experienced an increase of positive behaviors such as affection and humor while the presence of defensiveness, criticism, and other negative behaviors decreased. The researchers also found a decrease in anxiety and depression stating, “Marriage has been good for their mental health.”

Overall, this study revealed that middle-aged and older couples experience increases in positive emotional behaviors, regardless of their satisfaction with their relationship. 

One researcher stated, “These results provide behavioral evidence that is consistent with research suggesting that, as we age, we become more focused on the positives in our lives.”

This study suggests that just because the honeymoon is over, doesn’t mean that there aren’t good times ahead. 

This is not to say that all difficulties can be solved with time. If you and your spouse are having difficulties and would like to discover practical and faith-filled answers, the Catholic Counselors at Pastoral Solutions Institute are here to help. For more information or to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 740-266-6461 or visit us online at

How to Make New Years Resolutions That Actually Last All Year

Happy New Year! Aaah January… the time of year that we are inspired and excited for new beginnings, big changes, aaaannd the time of year where we hear and talk about New Year’s resolutions. 

New Year’s resolutions can be a great concept, and usually extremely well intentioned. However, fast forward a few months and no one is talking about them anymore. If we see or hear anything about New Years resolutions anymore, it’s typically because people are talking about how they forgot about their resolutions, how there’s always next year, or how they don’t have time for the resolutions they had made in the midst of busy schedules. In fact, only 40% of people who make New Years Resolutions actually keep them. 

So how do we make resolutions that we can actually keep all year?

First it is important to recognize that there are different levels or stages of change. Identifying which stage of change we are in determines what we need to do to effectively integrate the desired change and outcome we want. 

Stage 1: We don’t think about the desired change on a regular basis. This can mean anything from losing weight, praying more, being more productive, etc. The change that would be beneficial for us to make is not on our mind in a pressing way.

What to do: First, it is helpful to learn more about it. What are the benefits of getting in shape, developing a stronger prayer life, or making the most out of every day (at work, at home, within the family). Second, make a list of about three reasons why making a change would be helpful and then make a list of approximately three reasons why the change is not yet being made. 

Stage 2: We are thinking about making a change but have not developed a plan for how to do it. 

What to do: Acknowledge the negative effects and ask, “Does my behavior align with my view of my self? Does my behavior fit with my idea of who I want to be?” In this stage is it helpful to seek support such as social supports, counseling, or support groups. Seeking supports is helpful for us to acknowledge hope for the future and for creating a successful change, but allows recognition of potential barriers that may arise. Supports and resources help us to overcome potential barriers while maintaining hope and continuing progress towards our desired outcomes. 

Stage 3: We prepare to make a change within thirty days by utilizing a realistic plan and timeline. 

What to do: Create a realistic schedule and timeline for how and when to achieve the goal. Utilize the resources and supports identified in stage 2 to stay on track. 

Stage 4: We have taken action and made efforts to work towards our goal within the last six months, but we may have encountered a few barriers or set backs. 

What to do: Commit to the change. This can be done by telling a friend or family member about our plans, writing down a statement of commitment, keeping reminders around our house, our office, or on our phone, or whatever strategy we feel will help us stay accountable to making a change. It is also helpful in this stage to change our environment in ways that will help us overcome potential barriers. Replace candy or junk food with healthy snacks, identify a quiet place in our homes where we can focus on prayer without distractions, create a daily schedule to maximize productivity. Finally, create small rewards for achieving the desired behaviors on a daily or weekly basis. 

Stage 5: We have practiced our new habit or behavior in place of old habits consistently over the past six months. 

What to do: Celebrate success! To maintain this change in our lives, the same strategies discussed in stage 4 are applicable. 

Once we have identified which stage of change we are in and what to do from there, it is important to create small, attainable goals that will help us to achieve our desired change. Simply working towards the desired change by focusing on the larger, main goal is not an effective approach to successfully establishing new behaviors. If this is our approach we are, as the phrase goes, “biting off more than we can chew.” 

In any endeavor it is best to create small, attainable, and measurable goals such as, “Within two weeks I will replace the junk food in my house with healthy snacks,” or “I will pray for five minutes every morning before I start my day.” These goals act as stepping stones that lead us on the path towards our desired change and allow us to hold on to inspiration and hope through the celebration of small successes. 

If you are looking to increase your resources and support network through counseling or spiritual direction, we’re here to help. Visit us at or give us a call at 740-266-6461.