Saturday, March 06, 2010

Controversy Teaches Us A Few Things

So how big was the story from Pigeon Forge about the anti-Catholic Chick tracts being distributed at Pigeon Forge High School? It has made Fox News:

A Baptist pastor in Tennessee says he now regrets that his church distributed an anti-Catholic leaflet that a local Catholic priest decried as “hate material."

Pastor Jonathan Hatcher, who leads Conner Heights Baptist Church in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., has removed the inflammatory leaflet, “The Death Cookie,” from his congregation. He says he will no longer distribute it.

[Father Jay] Flaherty learned that the material was being circulated when a young parishioner brought it into his church last week, after she said she received it in high school.

‘She was very upset,” he said. “But I don’t understand the [pamphlet’s] reasoning — it has nothing to do with scripture. It’s anti-Catholic; it’s just hate material. It has nothing to do with theological discussion. 'You better get out and get saved' is basically what it says.”

Flaherty said he had considered contacting authorities about the publication and distribution of "The Death Cookie," but he has reconsidered.

“I pray for him,” Flaherty said of Hatcher. “That’s all you can do.”

The story was still among the most e-mailed Fox News website articles as of this morning.

I'm going to take a wild guess that the City of Pigeon Forge is none too happy about getting national attention for any perceived climate of anti-Catholicism that may exist there. Sevier County depends on tourism to keep its economy humming and tourist dollars have helped the county survive the current depression. As other area counties continue shedding jobs, Sevier County is opening new tourist attractions and adding more people to the rolls of the employed. No small number of the visitors who keep that economic engine rolling are Catholics-lots of them are, in fact.

To be fair, I doubt very seriously that Pastor Hatcher knew what was going to occur from the distribution of what to him (and to the student who gave the literature to a classmate) just seemed like another "gospel tract." There are still plenty of folks who reckon that there are just not many Catholics around here, so who cares, right?

The reaction to what has occurred shows us two things: First, that there is enough local disdain for this kind of thinking for the local press and the larger community to react in such a way as to cause the folks at Connor Heights Baptist Church to rethink their strategy. Not only do many in the community not share the views expressed in "The Death Cookie," but feel repulsed enough by them to distance themselves from that kind of thinking. The second thing that this entire affair has made clear is that the positive influence of the Catholic Church in East Tennessee has grown significantly in recent years. The pastor at Connor Heights changed his tune after the Bishop of Knoxville intervened. There was a time not very long ago when the words of the local Catholic bishop (be it of Knoxville or Nashville, since the parishes here were part of the Diocese of Nashville before Knoxville got a bishop of its own) would have had roughly the same impact as issuing a press release to a brick wall. Hence, we've learned that we as Catholics may still have a lot of unwarranted suspicion and false ideas surrounding our faith, but at least we are respected enough that the bishop can speak to the larger community with authority behind his words.

Catholics from other parts of the country who visit East Tennessee also need to know that these kinds of incidents are increasingly rare. I do not expect we will see any crosses burn in front of Holy Cross or St. Mary's in Gatlinburg anytime soon. I'm very proud of how East Tennessee seems to have reacted to all of this-it says a lot about just how far we have actually come.

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Bishop Has His Say

On Thursday I gave my missive regarding the controversy that has erupted in the wake of an anti-Catholic pamphlet being given out at Pigeon Forge High School which asserted that the Holy Eucharist of Our Lord is from the devil. Father Jay Flaherty, the pastor of the offended student, has had his say as well.

Yesterday Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika had a few select words about the uproar and the Baptist pastor who didn't quite understand the tempest that his church has inadvertently stirred:

As bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, I wish first to state my deep respect and love for my Protestant brothers and sisters, with whom we acknowledge and worship but one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I also wish to acknowledge the many Christian denominations, including the many Baptist churches in East Tennessee, with whom we pray and work in solidarity, according to the truths of the Gospel, in order to promote a culture of life. This culture of life is based on a Christian anthropology that recognizes man and woman as images of God, an essential truth for the formation of a correct vision of society. I am thinking also of our shared efforts in promoting and protecting the sanctity and dignity of every person in the womb and of the holy institution of marriage and the family as our Heavenly Creator designed them to be. At this moment, however, I am greatly saddened by the reprehensible acts of prejudice and hatred of a few souls who, out of ignorance of Catholic teachings, have promoted the distribution of anti-Catholic tracts.

These tracts contain outright lies and blatant exaggerations.

The rationale one Baptist pastor gave in support of distributing these reprehensible, discriminatory, and bigoted tracts was that he was trying to point out the primary difference his church has with Catholics: the belief that a person does not and cannot work his or her way to salvation. Unfortunately, this pastor does not have a correct understanding of what the Catholic faith teaches in this regard.

Bishop Stika then takes a moment to give a short theology lesson:

In Catholic theology, the term justification means the cleansing of a person's sin and the communication- by grace-of "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" (Romans 3:22) through baptism. Additionally, Catholics take very seriously the Sacred Scripture, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24).

Perhaps some Christians misinterpret both Paul and James, thus concluding that their statements about faith and works contradict each other. This is simply not true. There are differences in emphasis but no contradictions in teaching if one understands both properly. Paul and James agree that both "faith" and "works" are essential to Christian life.

Jesus himself makes this crystal clear in his description of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). From his judgment seat, the Lord will welcome into his eternal kingdom those who fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned-in other words, those who saw Christ in the suffering and acted in response, inspired by the love of God. Those who did not perform these "works" of love will "go off to eternal punishment" (25:46).

His Excellency then vigorously defends the Eucharist:

Regarding the reprehensible leaflet titled "The Death Cookie": The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is literally and wholly present-body and blood, soul and divinity-under the appearances of bread and wine. Some Christians attack this doctrine as "unbiblical," but Catholics believe that the Bible is forthright in declaring it (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 11:23-29 and, most forcefully, John 6:32-71).

For the Bishop of Knoxville to feel compelled to issue a press release to defend against a Chick Tract means that the person who was given the tract was deeply hurt and disturbed by it, and that is probably an understatement. The sad part is that hundreds if not thousands of these bigoted leaflets are circulating all over East Tennessee. I have developed quite a collection of them in order to keep them from falling into the hands of others and promoting falsehood, bigotry, hatred, heresy, and yes, even apostasy among the general population. Such a lengthy press release over something like this is bound at some point in the future to raise the eye of somebody in Rome.

Oh, and Pastor Jonathan Hatcher at Connor Heights Baptist Church says he won't be distributing "The Death Cookie" anymore-but other Chick tracts are okay.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Tim vs. Tim In Knox County

Tennessee State Senator Tim Burchett and former Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchinson square off:

Those who have been reading my work for years before I joined The Examiner will recall that I covered the Knox County Commission meeting where the "moonshine appointments" were made. I said then (with vigor) and will say now that the entire process stunk to the highest reaches of heaven and shook my faith, as a former Knox Countian, in county government in Knoxville. However, Tim Burchett does have to remember that Tim Hutchison was and remains one of the most successful and popular Sheriffs in Knox County history, and that the man who was Hutchison's hand-picked man to succeed him was subsequently elected Sheriff in his own right over a formidable opponent (former Knoxville Mayor Randy Tyree)-and J.J. Jones is very much proving that he is his own man, not merely a clone of his highly-publicized predecessor, as many believed he would be at the time.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Orange Lodge Baptist Church in Pigeon Forge Openly Spreads Anti-Catholic Bigotry

Lent is a time of testing one's faith for many believers, but for one youth at Holy Cross Church in Pigeon Forge, it is a time to defend Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist after a fellow student at school gave her a Chick tract asserting that the Eucharist came from the devil:

The pamphlet suggests the Roman Catholic church isn't Christian and the pope is an anti-Christ.

While some people say the pamphlet expresses religious freedom, others say it's a hate crime.

Father Jay Flaherty, of Holy Cross Catholic Church, said he first learned about the pamphlets when one of his youth brought one to him.

"There's two of them that really upset me because I knew it would upset the children," Father Flaherty said. "One's called the 'Death Cookie,' which claims that our communion is from the devil."

The other pamphlet, titled "Last Rites," shows cartoon drawings of a Roman Catholic man who isn't saved because he didn't accept Christ.
The pamphlets have been passed out before, but Father Flaherty says this is the first time a church's name has been printed on them.

I know Holy Cross and I know Father Jay quite well. Before Nicole and I were married, Holy Cross was her parish and Father Jay Flaherty was her pastor. We were married at Holy Cross and Father Jay said our Nuptial Mass. I feel sorry for that poor pastor at Connor Heights Baptist Church. Father Jay is a rarity in the Catholic Church in America in that he is both a humble and holy parish priest and a gifted and fiery preacher. So unafraid of controversy is Father Jay that people (mostly tourists visiting from up North, but sometimes locals as well) have been known to walk out of his Masses because they do not want to be confronted with the truth-Father Jay, he doesn't care. Thank you, Connor Heights for providing Father Jay with what will undoubtedly be weeks worth of hellfire and brimstone homiletics with which he will reinforce the Catholic faith to his parish and a whole lot of other people as well.

Jack Chick is the infamous author of the smut that was being distributed at the high school in Pigeon Forge. From Chick's so-called tracts, we learn such enlightening things about our faith:

"Jesuits worked closely with Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin" to create Communism, and it was "believed that soon . . . Communism would rise up as the new strong daughter of the Vatican." It was Rome that instigated the Bolshevik Revolution and the murder of the czar’s family. The Communist "liberation theology" movement also is a Vatican plot. [I suppose Communist persecution of the Catholic Church in Poland and Latin America was also part of a secret Vatican plot.]
The Nazi Holocaust of the 1940s was a Vatican-controlled attempt to exterminate Jews and heretics. Further, "Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were backed by the Vatican for the purpose of setting up a one-world government to usher in the ‘Millennial Kingdom’ under Pope Pius XII."
The Vatican conspiracy is so extensive that, through the Jesuits, Rome controls the Illuminati, the Council on Foreign Relations, international bankers, the Mafia, the Club of Rome, the Masons, and the New Age movement.

The Jesuits created the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Unity, Christian Science, and other religious groups.
"Pope John Paul II has been a good Communist for many years" and engineered a phony assassination attempt against himself in 1981 to shame Islam into warming relations with the Vatican, since the would-be killer was a Muslim.

Jack Chick doesn't just have it out for Catholics, either. He thinks Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, the late C.S. Lewis, Pat Boone, the Assemblies of God, and the Southern Baptist Convention are all a part of the elaborate "papist conspiracy" to rule the world.

Of course, if you are Catholic and you live in East Tennessee, you know we have a history of being persecuted for our faith here. There was a time when Irish Catholics who lived in what was then the frontier (and who built the first railroads into Tennessee) were reviled for their religious beliefs. The notorious Know-Nothing William "Parson" Brownlow was once said to be part of a riot which nearly caused Immaculate Conception Church on Knoxville's Summit Hill to be destroyed. Even as Catholics increased in numbers and became an integral part of life in Knoxville and East Tennessee, the reality that less than 2% of the population was Catholic made the Church and Catholics an easy target for ridicule.

We do not live on the frontier any longer, however. There are now enough Catholics in East Tennessee that we no longer have to take this kind of thing lying down, and the press and public reaction shows that we don't.

I would challenge my fellow Catholics not to be afraid to take a stand for what we know to be right and true...but do remember that not every Baptist, indeed the vast majority of Protestants, is out to "get" you. The best way to fight ignorance is with true and just reality-and a few of Father Jay's homilies certainly don't hurt.

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McCord McQuits

State Rep. Joe McCord (R-Maryville) announced last night that he will not seek re-election:

Such a move by someone considered the poster-boy for political flexibility by some will inevitably give rise to speculation that Joe McCord may have been about to face stiff primary opposition in a year when there may be stiff political consequences for many of those members of the General Assembly who are seen to have been friendly to the previous regime-and it is terribly hard to make the case that Joe McCord was not a part of Jimmy Naifeh's gang of merry men. However, it is equally difficult to say that Joe McCord has spent his entire career in State politics engaging in the business of self-interest. The evidence strongly suggests that McCord's chief concern was the business of Blount and Sevier Counties, but that he somehow managed to operate under the strong delusion that Jimmy Naifeh actually cared for his heavily-Republican district and not merely about maintaining his power base.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Fighting Ten

If you thought the Tea Party Movement wasn't going anywhere, you're right:

Despite the claims by some that the Tea Party is "going nowhere" is not borne out by this poll. One in ten people joining in a mass political movement Statewide is no small number, nor is 26 per cent movement identification. While those numbers seem low, it should be remembered that if there is as many people who consider themselves "members," that is more than enough to build an activist base. Ten percent is a good core to build activists from who man phone banks, put up signs, go on door-to-door campaign runs, write letters to the editor-and give money to political campaigns.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Why we need frequent legislative elections:

It is very true that legislators are likely waiting for the April 1st primary filing deadline before doing the dirty work of legislating, but the reality that so many in the General Assembly seem to be in a hurry to be over with the legislative session actually highlights what a good thing frequent elections actually are. There is a strain of opinion among some so-called "good government" advocates that our elections occur to often and hamper what they deem to be the progress of certain initiatives. This opinion is rooted in the idea that we need bodies of government to be constantly in session, and what we instead discover with frequent trips to the ballot box is that our elected officials suddenly become amazingly responsive and quick to dismiss themselves from legislating merely for the sake of trying to prove to us that they are actually doing something.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

A Thomas More Of Sorts

Some of our Leftist friends may have to answer to God Almighty for some of His servants they call hypocrites. I'd hate to be at the Judgment for those who drag State Representative Bill Dunn through the mud:

Because of his sheer lack of hypocrisy, Bill Dunn possesses a certain moral authority that most other legislators can't even touch, and he is humble of heart enough to deny that anything I have said above about him is true. Dunn is a conservative in the classical sense of the term.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Transfiguration

Luke 9:28-36:

And it came to pass about eight days after these words, that he took Peter, and James, and John, and went up into a mountain to pray. And whilst he prayed, the shape of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and glittering. And behold two men were talking with him. And they were Moses and Elias,

Appearing in majesty. And they spoke of his decease that he should accomplish in Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep. And waking, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, that as they were departing from him, Peter saith to Jesus: Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias; not knowing what he said. And as he spoke these things, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them; and they were afraid, when they entered into the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son; hear him.

And whilst the voice was uttered, Jesus was found alone. And they held their peace, and told no man in those days any of these things which they had seen.

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