Father J. Patrick Serna, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Tex., is furious thatSt. Patrick School, also located in the diocese, decided to show President Obama's speech to students despite complaints from parents and a lengthy e-letter from Father Serna himself.
The following is the (slightly edited) e-letter he sent to St. Patrick School officials on Sept. 7 (printed with Father Serna's permission):
- Dr. Stegall, Mr. René Gonzalez, and Msgr. Roger Smith,
Greetings. I write to you with the hope and prayer that you will reverse your decision to play Barack Hussein Obama's 'message' tomorrow. I write this to you as one who is an American citizen, as one who was born and raised in Corpus Christi proper, as a man who was ordained to the priesthood in this diocese, as the priest who helps pay 50 percent of the tuition for two of your students, and as a priest who pays $30,000 per year so that 13 youth from my parish can attend Catholic schools in this diocese. I am shocked and in disbelief, as several parents from St. Patrick's and as other laity and priests are in shock and disbelief, that you plan on showing Obama's speech tomorrow.
I send this letter approximately 24 hours before the huge scandal might happen, with the hope that you will reverse your decision. Several parents have called and written to you asking you not to do this. You saw the great scandal that Notre Dame brought down upon itself, the Catholic Church in that diocese and the Catholic Church in America when it brought Obama to its school. Will you not learn from history? Will you bring the very same scandal to our own diocese, tomorrow, by bringing this pro-abortion president into an elementary school which claims to be 'Catholic'? Please do not do this; it is not too late.
I read the apologia of the pastor, which defends the decision to show this video to the children tomorrow. Part of the rationalization for this bad decision is that Pope Benedict XVI met with Obama. This is a non sequitur and red herring, since it was a meeting between two heads of sovereign states; His Holiness was doing his political duty as head of Vatican City State. Furthermore, it was the Pope who gave Obama a message, and not the other way around. His Holiness spoke to Obama about integrity of life issues, and gave Obama a document which promotes Catholic teaching on respect of human life, especially unborn life in the womb.
This argument of the pastor of St. Patrick School, therefore, carries no weight. The pastor also makes reference to 'health care for all,' which is supposedly an issue which the Church shares in common with Obama. It must be remembered that the Church believes in protecting all life, whereas Obama's 'health care for all' plan would include the paying for abortions with tax dollars, and it would mean that certain 'non-productive' lives are less important than other lives (i.e., the rationing of health care, and denial of health care for 'older' citizens if the government deems it so).
The pastor's apologia also looks to Cardinal Sean O'Malley's welcoming of Obama at Senator Kennedy's funeral, as if this is a good justification to bring Obama into the classrooms of elementary children at a school which calls itself 'Catholic.' Again, let's look to history and not commit the same scandalous mistakes that others have made. The St. Patrick School leadership and superintendent of Catholic schools need to be aware of the public uproar and disgust with the Kennedy funeral fiasco. A Catholic funeral is supposed to be about praying for the salvation of the soul of the deceased, yet this is not what transpired at the scandalous 'funeral' of Ted Kennedy.
- 'From the first greeting to the final commendation, the ceremony was a celebration of Kennedy's life and his public career. There was never a hint that Ted Kennedy might need prayers; that his eternal salvation could be in question; that he, like the rest of us sinners, can rely only on the compassion of an all-merciful God. On the contrary, at several points during the service, priests and eulogists stated flatly that Ted Kennedy was already in heaven, enjoying the rewards of a virtuous life.' (Philip Lawler, September 3, 2009)
It would be great if the leadership at St. Patrick's School would listen to the logic of C.J. Doyle of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, here below, since the principles of this observation apply to all institutions which call themselves 'Catholic':
- 'No rational person can reasonably be expected to take seriously Catholic opposition to abortion when a champion of the Culture of Death, who repeatedly betrayed the faith of his baptism, is lauded and extolled by priests and prelates in a Marian basilica.'
Obama is a friend of Chavista ex-terrorist William Ayers, of PLO apologist Rashid Khalidi, of racialist inciter Jeremiah Wright, and Obama is the one who appointed Van Jones to the Green Jobs position (the pro-Communist hater who recently stepped down, praise God!). Obama appointed John Holdren to 'Science Czar' position. Holdren is in favor of compulsory abortion if criteria are met; he believes that the government should decide on whether a mom should abort her baby. Holdren would like our government to sterilize the 'undesirable people' of society by putting sterilization medicine in food and water; he believes that governments should take babies away from single moms and teen moms, and so on. What does this say about Obama, the man who appointed Holdren? This is the man who is to give a 'message' to our youth at a 'Catholic' school tomorrow?
The man is smart enough not to say something political or 'wrong'; the problem here is with the messenger, that is, Obama! CCISD, Banquete ISD and many other public school districts have made a choice that is more Christian than our Christian school on Alameda. This is inverted, and the leadership at St. Patrick's School should do the right thing and reverse the decision!
In his first week after being installed as president, Obama overturned the Mexico City Policy, and now, thanks to this man who will be giving a 'message' to our youth during school hours tomorrow, we are sending 70 million dollars overseas, per year, to help pay for abortions. How can the Catholic leadership at St. Patrick School and in our Superintendent for Catholic School's Office let a man who represents what is contrary to Church teaching and contrary to Christ's Gospel speak to our youth during class hours tomorrow? Obama has been a strong promoter of partial-birth abortion, and has even voted twice against the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. In short, Obama believes and promotes the 'value' that a baby should be killed on the table or thrown into a trash can, in the event that a baby were to be born alive after a failed abortion attempt. This is the man whose message will be shown at St. Patrick's School, tomorrow? Scandal of scandals!
Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, said this about Obama's presence at Notre Dame: 'If we as individuals are not willing to accept the burdens' of the Catholic witness to life, 'we are not worthy of the name Catholic.' The archbishop went on to say: 'What it should do is have Notre Dame come clean. Is it Catholic or isn't it? A Catholic institution, a Catholic university, cannot give honors to someone who is a promoter of things that are opposed to the most fundamental beliefs of Catholics, and so that's what needs to happen." St. Patrick's School on Alameda in Corpus Christi will give honors to Obama if his message is played, especially after such a tremendous amount of controversy about this thing in the news, and especially after so many tuition-paying parents have expressed their shock and horror. Why are tuition paying parents and concerned Catholics in our diocese being ignored and disrespected?
A few days ago, the Polish Episcopal Conference made it clear that, if a Catholic politician violates basic moral directives on life or family rights issues in the public sphere, excommunication is the Church's answer. Would/Could St. Patrick's leadership and leadership in the Superintendent of Catholic School's office look to these courageous leaders, who are concerned about protecting the Church and Catholic identity? I and others are not asking for any kind of excommunication, we are just asking, simply, that you be concerned with Catholic identity and principles, therefore, please do not show Obama's message tomorrow, please!
Dr. Stegall made it clear to me last Friday that children who did not wish to see the Obama 'message' would have another activity planned. Again, what real message are we sending to these children whose parents have to sacrifice in order to pay for this private 'Catholic' tuition? The real message which will be sent if Obama's video is played at St. Patrick's School tomorrow will be this: 'Some of our kids will be in the cafeteria and some of the kids will be in this other room, during the display of Obama's message. This is what it means to be cafeteria Catholics, little children: It is your right, no, your duty, to be a cafeteria Catholic and pick/choose what you want or don't want to believe in!' Please, do not send this message to our kids and to the world tomorrow.
Just as Obama has beendeaf to the dissatisfaction and displeasure of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the leadership at St. Patrick School and the Superintendent of Catholic School's Office are being deaf to the complaints of hard working tuition paying parents and other concerned Catholics in the diocese. The Gospel of yesterday told us of the man who was deaf and dumb, and yesterday's Gospel told us how '...immediately, his ears were opened...' (Mark 7:35).
Dr. Stegall, Msgr. Roger, Mr. Gonzalez, please do not do this thing! Please open your ears and listen to what parents and other Catholics are telling you, before it is too late. Requiring a child to have a written consent in order to view the 'message' from our pro- death president will not make the showing at your school any less scandalous. The Church I am pastor of sends almost half of its annual income towards tuition for 13 students so they can attend Catholic school in this diocese.
I cry out with the other parents who make sacrifices and pay tuition to your school: 'Do not do this thing!' What is the point of sending children to Catholic schools, if many public schools are more in keeping with Christian identity than our school which calls itself 'Catholic'? This is the question which many parents are asking, along with many other laity and priests in this diocese. If you do this, the same question will be asked by hundreds of thousands of people in our country, for no doubt, this will be historic and there will be national media coverage about it. This is not the kind of historic attention we want for or about our diocese.
In 2002, Cardinal Ratzinger (now our pope) wrote: 'Saint Thomas More taught by his life and death that man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality.' (On Participation of Catholics in the Political Life). Superintendents and principals whose wages are paid for with government tax dollars are making the proper choice; it would seem that a superintendent and principal whose wages are paid for with hard-earned tuition dollars that require much self-denial would be quicker to make the right choice. This letter is not meant to bring offense or shame or disrespect, but this is but a small foretaste of what will take place on the national level if you go forward with this scandalous thing tomorrow.
Learn from the Notre Dame scandal; there is no difference between what happened with them and what will happen with us — if you play this message from a messenger who represents, publicly, an anti-life philosophy. I must correct myself: There is one big difference. Notre Dame brought Obama to young adults, but St. Patrick's on Alameda plans on bringing Obama to our little children! Forget what the national media will say about our 'Catholic school,' worry about what God will think: 'But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believeth in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea' (Matthew 18:6). Worry about what the Catholic newspapers, EWTN, ZENIT and Fox News will say, but most importantly, worry about what God will say.
I have heard again and again the rationalization of St. Patrick's School: 'We wish to make this historic event possible; Obama is a huge historical figure.' It was historic when Stalin or Hitler made their beautiful speeches; did that make it okay? 'Obama will not say anything which goes against Catholic teaching!' Did not Lucifer quote scripture quite accurately when he was tempting our Lord Jesus in the desert? These are not good excuses. Obama's message is secondary; who the messenger is is primary!
If you show this tomorrow at your school, you will bring disgrace and scandal onto your school and our diocese, just as the leaders at Notre Dame did when they brought Obama to their school. Please do not do this to the diocese I was born, raised, and ordained in. Please do not do this to our children, to our Catholics in this diocese, and to the Catholic Church which has already received such damage and abuse. I am praying for you and I am praying for you to reverse your decision. The embarrassment you might have upon reversing your decision will be nothing compared to the embarrassment you will have when it becomes national news that a Catholic private school played the messenger's message, even though many public schools did not. Do not bring the Notre Dame scandal to our diocese tomorrow — we all beg you.