Monthly Archives: October 2012


I received word last January from some friends in Milwaukee, who also happen to be friends of Cardinal Dolan, the former Archbishop of Milwaukee (and my former boss), concerning the Al Smith Dinner and inviting me to attend as their guest. Time, of course, passed swiftly and before I knew it they needed an answer to their invitation.

The Al Smith Dinner is an annual gathering of “glitterati” who raise an enormous amount of money for children’s charities in the Archdiocese of New York. Hosted by the Cardinal Archbishop, it is an evening of lighthearted, self-deprecating humor, poked at some folks of means who have the resources to raise millions of dollars, and who are of such stature in the community that their self-inflicted humorous anecdotes are found particularly funny.

The dinner was established by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman, in honor of Al Smith, a former governor of New York State, who was the first Catholic to run for President of the United States. The dinner, therefore, has always had a distinctive social-political curve to it while it brings together some great citizens (mostly from NYC) who have the wherewithal to raise the kind of money needed for these charities.

So, last Thursday, yours truly joined a group of Wisconsinites from all over the State – and beyond – to witness history.

You see, every presidential election, the sitting president and the candidate from the opposing party are invited to share the dais, put aside politics, and embrace the civility and honor that makes this a truly noble and exceptional republic.

This year, however, there was great controversy concerning Cardinal Dolan’s invitation to President Obama. The president is not necessarily favorable to us Catholics and we are currently in litigation against his forced HHS mandate involving Health and Human Services and Catholic institutions – schools, hospitals, and charities. The president is pro-abortion and against the Defense of Marriage Act. So, there was plenty of “push-back” by the Catholic community against the Cardinal’s invitation. In all fairness, I must add, people were not necessarily jumping up and down in joy to invite Governor Romney, either. I think many folks would have just considered passing over the tradition of having the candidates for dinner and go with a less provocative guest(s).

It is sometimes necessary, however, to have your bravest, strongest soldier go forth against a formidable adversary. I believe that the Cardinal is now in a position of leadership for the Church in the United States to meet the challenge. His invitation was meted out according to the practical and spiritual attributes of the Gospel – in a profound spirit of charity. I paraphrase his own words: if he only ate with saints, he’d eat alone an awful lot of times.

I’d like to think we all want to be heralds of hope and instruments of peace in difficult situations, especially in some of the troubling times that are now set before us. I believe our best efforts must be to fight the fight that must be fought – and this we are doing in our lawsuits and with our expectations of justice in favor of the First Amendment. We must always remember, however, that charity still carries the day for us as Christians. Even in persecution it should be said: “See how they love one another.”

In this Year of Faith, I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!


Like many other Americans, I am trying to stay current on the issues and the topics being put forth by the candidates – of both parties – for major public office these days. I do, however, have to also listen with an ear for those times when particular issues pertaining to the Church’s teachings or positions may be compromised or, in some cases, falsified.

Your bishops still want you to keep in mind some key areas of importance for Catholics as you deliberate and discern the candidate of your choice. The HHS mandate, for instance, is still an issue of major social concern for Americans and of particular import for us Catholics.

Last night, for example, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution – Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital – none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

The Bishops’ Conference continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, to actually eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

For more details, please see the USCCB’s regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed “accommodation”:

Keep your hearts and eyes open – and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.


I was recently reminded by one of the priests of the diocese that I really have been away from home a great deal in the past few weeks. Well, out of the mouths of babes and priests one can always expect to hear the blunt truth!

So, let me tell you a little about some of the things that have occupied my time in the far away places of Bolivia and Rome.

The trip to Bolivia was most of all an opportunity to celebrate the dedication and consecration of the new parish church in the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz. The parish, which was founded by our beloved Father Joe Walijewski, has been most capably under the ministration of priests of the Diocese of La Crosse over the 50 years of its existence. Currently, Monsignor Robert Flock and Father Edward Penchi are tending to the needs of the faithful in that enormous parish and most beautiful new church.

As you know, I am quite interested in the apostolic activity of Father Joe Walijewski and I am currently working to gather the resources and information that will lead to the formal petitioning and opening of the Cause for his eventual beatification and canonization. This is recognition of what many people already maintain in their minds and hearts. We will petition the Church in Her wisdom to make a proclamation about the Cause according to God’s will. Your prayers would be most welcome in this regard.

Secondly, the visit to Rome centered around another La Crosse “event”; the diaconate ordination of Reverend Mr. Alan Michael Guanella at the hands of Archbishop John Joseph Myers, Archbishop of Newark, at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Along with Deacon Alan were 32 other young men from around the United States who have been studying at the North American College.

It was a good opportunity to visit with our other four seminarians there, along with Father Justin Kizewski, who is currently on academic leave in Rome, and Monsignor Jeff Burrill, who serves on the faculty at the College.

While in Rome, I had a chance to see Cardinal Burke and discuss with him the plans for advancing the Cause of “Padre Jose.” I also visited with the Roman Postulator who will represent Father Joe’s Cause in Rome as well as other members of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints – the ecclesiastical Congregation who will review and study our petition and consider the miracles allowed by God through Father Joe’s intercession.

Much has been accomplished and you will share in the joy as it unfolds. Be assured of my prayers – no matter where I am. Right now, however, it is good to be home sharing the Year of Faith with you … and looking forward to seeing you at Sunday Mass!