Pastor’s Perspective by Fr. Buersmeyer

Posted on Friday, June 8th, 2018 at 11:15 am



Pastor’s Perspective is Fr. Buersmeyer’s weekly column. It appears in the parish bulletin and in this space.


Reading the Bible As Catholics

Fr. Buersmeyer’s Comments on Church and Abuse of Minors

September 16, 2018

* “Step Forward in Faith”

Throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit you will be hearing the phrase “Unleash the Gospel.” We will echo that phrase in much of what we do this year, but we are trying to focus on what that means for us as a parish this year using the theme “Step Forward in Faith.” That will be the theme of our Sunday Offering Drive in October. That will be the focus for school and faith formation through the year. Each month the school and faith formation will be challenging the students and the whole parish to “step forward in virtue,” focusing us on a new virtue each month. This idea to “step forward” will lend itself in all sorts of ways to connect all that we do. “Step Forward in Service” will be a theme for Christian Service. “Step Forward in Holiness” is a theme being explored right now in our adult formation book study on the three paths to holiness. “Step Forward in Faith Sharing” will guide some of what we do during the Lenten season. And so on. Let us make this a great year of growth and support as we step forward in faith.


* New Website (Beta Edition)

There are a number of new initiatives that we will be embarking on this year as we “Step Forward in Faith.” One of them is to redesign our parish website as part of a larger effort to better communicate who we are as a parish to both parish members and the wider world. We are trying to make the website a main vehicle for parish information—church, school, and faith formation—as well better utilize Facebook and other social media. This will be a work in progress throughout the year.

We are hopeful that by the end of this week you will see a new look on our stregis.org parish website. It will be in a “beta” edition, meaning that we are working out the details, kinks, and errors, and we are looking for suggestions to improve the flow of navigation. We know we need to work on a lot of the content and will be doing so in the weeks ahead. So what we are looking for in feedback is more on what we might be missing, links that do not work as planned, difficulty in finding something important on the site. We are trying to make it usable for mobile devices and larger screens, so feedback on any use will be appreciated. Just email suggestions to us, using the form under “Contact.”

You will notice that the homepage top menu will allow you to get to most of the content on the site. Alternatively, there will be six large buttons to link you to the key areas of parish life: Church, School, Faith Formation, Christian Service, along with a quick link to CYO Athletics and to a Donation page. Mass times, the most recent bulletins, and the parish calendar will have a quick link on every page. At the bottom of the homepage will be the “Featured Events” which will keep you up to date on what is happening in the parish. My personal goal is to continue to re-work much of the information on each page in order to reduce it to what is essential and to allow people to get to what they are looking for within two clicks.


* Ministries Connected to Faith Formation

Here is a way to Step Forward in Faith. We need catechists! Plain and simple. Sharing and handing on the faith to the next generation is the most important ministry we have. It is intimately connected to our primary ministry—to come together in worship on Sunday as Christ’s Body. Oftentimes we think of Christian service as the first and most natural outflow from Sunday Eucharist. But in reality it needs to be sharing the faith which in turn leads to countless ways to serve in our daily lives.

With our new Faith Formation Director, Theresa Skwara, we are taking steps to better organize and strengthen all of our faith formation programs, and that takes some of us hearing the call to become a catechist. Maybe you have been one in the past. Maybe you have always wanted to try your hand at sharing faith with children. Maybe you are uncertain but are willing to try. Please call Theresa at the parish office. Her extension number is 5015. We have texts for each grade level, so you will not be starting from scratch. Ideally we would like to have two catechists per classroom, so that no one gets overwhelmed. Older teens are more than welcome to use this as a way to serve.

The programs start up a week from Monday so the need is urgent. Please take a moment to consider being part of this ministry. As mentioned, Monday night is most urgent, but we also need catechists for our Sunday early childhood program, we could use a couple more leaders for our Children’s Liturgy of the Word at the Sunday 10 a.m. Mass, and we need catechists who will help with a once a month family-centered catechetical evening.


* Ministries Connected to Welcome and Evangelization

Here is another way to Step Forward in Faith. With a new pastoral minister who has the ability and energy to focus on the areas of welcome and evangelization, we need people willing to share in these ministry areas. Christopher Gawel is open to any help or input and will find a way to connect you to something that suits your gifts. In particular, we would like to start beefing up our whole ministry of welcome. For that we need people willing to form a leadership group in that area, as well as people willing to become our “Sunday Welcome/Information Desk” volunteers. Please call the office and let Christopher know you are available to help. His extension is 4011.


* Ministries Connected to Worship and Prayer

And, on this Ministry Sign-Up Sunday, we can also Step Forward in Faith by connecting to one of the many liturgical ministries. We need lectors who are willing to prepare well to read, communion ministers who are willing to reverently give the Eucharist, sacristans who can set things up ahead of time, ushers and greeters who can both welcome people and pay attention to whatever needs to be done. Most especially, where are all of you singers and instrumentalists? I know for a fact that many people have the gift to sing, to play an instrument, to help in that way. Contact our Director of Liturgical Music, Andrew Neer, and work with him to use your gifts at some weekend Masses. Thank you


*Capital Punishment and the Development of Catholic Teaching

Last week I compared the wording about capital punishment in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it first appeared in 1992, then with the revisions made by John Paul II, and now the current wording approved by Pope Francis: (#2267) Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” [Address of Pope Francis, October 13, 2017], and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

Notice the very careful wording of that last paragraph. The death penalty has become “inadmissible” “in light of the Gospel.” Why is it so in light of the Gospel? Because it violates the core principle of the dignity of the human person. Jesus’ proclamation of the reign of God is intimately linked to the defense of the dignity of every human life. The clearest exposition of tying this fundamental moral principle of human dignity to the core message of the Gospel is Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life, 1995). It is well worth reading and is easily available online. Reminding us that it is “in light of the Gospel” that we have come to this conclusion does two things. First, it challenges every Christian to ask themselves whether they have embraced the Gospel in all its dimensions or only in those that suit our outlook on life. This is a challenging statement. Yet, who fundamentally created it? Jesus. Who went beyond the principle of “eye for eye” and made the Christian gospel about not doing violence, even to those who are our enemy? Jesus. Now, we have to interpret those passages carefully, but it is much more of a stretch to justify violence, including state-sanctioned killing, given those teachings of Jesus, than it is to suggest that such killing is is compatible with the Gospel.

Secondly, because it is “in light of the Gospel” it means that we need to work to change minds and hearts. We come to this conclusion not just through logical, rational, philosophical means, but through our identity with the Gospel of Jesus. We need to search for rational arguments that can persuade people to see the deeper truth of not using capital punishment, but we also understand that many will have a different point of view. But for Catholic Christians, specifically, it is no longer simply a “make your own choice” issue.

Pope Francis adopts a very Thomistic approach on this issue (using the philosophical principles highlighted by St. Thomas Aquinas), by taking larger principles of natural law (the dignity of every person; the right of the state to protect the life and welfare of its citizens, the duty of the state to provide justice, and so on) and applying these to a concrete situation. Thomas makes it very clear that it is very difficult to make blanket absolute judgments about all times, places, and circumstances on complex moral issues. That is why the Pope’s use of “inadmissible” is precisely the perfect word for what he is calling the Church to embrace. In effect, he is saying that the use of capital punishment by the state might have had a place in other times and circumstances. Though elsewhere, not in the Catechism, Pope Francis reminds us that it was often tragically used without proper cause by states, including even the Papal States at one time. But even if it were once acceptable, given three developments that are now current and will be in the foreseeable future, recourse to capital punishment is to be condemned, and the Christian Church is to work tirelessly to help states embrace other options.

One thing that has changed is our embrace of the inviolability of human dignity. It is never lost. It is intrinsic to every human person. And even heinous crimes do not make a person lose that dignity. Secondly, we now better recognize that sanctions by the state are not necessarily justly applied. In particular, the ultimate penalty of death has been shown to be applied in a very discriminatory, non-even way. Thirdly, we do have the material means available to incarcerate people in humane ways, even for life, and so do not need to resort to the death penalty in order to protect citizens.

Allowing a person who has committed heinous crimes to live keeps the state from becoming complicit in killing someone who does not have to be killed. Moreover, though it might not happen, it allows for the possibility of a person coming to a conversion of life and to seek redemption for and to actively do reparation for those crimes.

But what if I cannot accept this teaching? Am I a bad Catholic? Is it optional teaching? More next time.

Fr. Buersmeyer