Father George William Rutler Homilies
2019-01-27 - Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-01-27 - Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 27, 2019

27 January 2019

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 + Homily

14 Minutes 15 Seconds

Today's Readings


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

(from the parish bulletin)

   This past Thursday was the feast of Saint Francis de Sales, whose intercession we need because he is the patron of journalists and there are those who say, with some claim to cogency, that journalism is dead because it is biased and predictable. Ironically, since he was a journalist himself, G.K. Chesterton said that writing badly is the definition of journalism.    

   That was a century ago, but in the thirteenth century B.C., long before we had moveable type, Ramesses the Great used hieroglyphics to tout his heroic victory at the Battle of Kadesh, even though he had been defeated. In 1475 A.D., Pope Sixtus IV tried unsuccessfully to expose the “blood libel” fake news of the people of Trent against Jews. Benjamin Franklin misused his printing press to accuse King George III of inciting the “Indian Savages” against the white colonists. Samuel Adams falsely claimed in print that Thomas Hutchinson supported the Stamp Tax, with the result that the beleaguered man’s house was burned to the ground in 1765. George Washington quit public life because of “a disinclination to be longer buffitted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers.”

   The other day, intemperate journalists accused youths from a Catholic high school in Covington, Kentucky, of making racial threats against an elderly Native American during the March for Life. Videos proved that there was no truth to it, but a flurry of “virtue signaling” berated the boys without giving them a chance to testify. One might expect that from secular bigots, but not from their own diocese with its knee-jerk condemnation of the youths. Apologies have been coming in, but probably the last to correct themselves will be the epicene Church bureaucrats. 

   Quickly, The Washington Post published a screed against “the shameful exploitation” of Native Americans by the Catholic Church. No mention was made of the Jesuit Martyrs who endured torture and death to bring the Gospel to the native peoples, or of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha who was exiled by her own Mohawks for her love of Christ, or Saint Junipero Serra who transformed the fortunes of the indigenous California “gatherer” culture, or Saint Katherine Drexel who donated her vast inheritance to establish fifty missions among the native peoples, or heroic Bishop Martin Marty of the Dakota Territory, or Father Pierre De Smet who enabled the Fort Laramie Sioux Treaty of 1868 and so befriended Chief Tatanka Iyotake (“Sitting Bull”) that the chief wore a crucifix to his dying day and encouraged his friend Buffalo Bill Cody to be baptized the day before he died. Defamation by journalists is sinful, but to detract from saints is blasphemous.

   The mental image of Pope Leo XIII applauding the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill and Chief Sitting Bull on tour in Rome would confound The Washington Post. But that is a fact, and Catholics who do not know their history are accountable for letting it be maligned.



A longer version of this column is also available in the Crisis Magazine article "Infamous Scribblers":

2019-01-20 - Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-01-20 - Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 20, 2019

20 January 2019

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 2:1-11 + Homily

20 Minutes 0 Seconds

Link to the Readings


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

(from the parish bulletin)

   The nineteenth-century churchman John Henry Newman has shaped many of my views and how to apply them. With the credit of a second miracle to his intercession, it is likely that he will be canonized in short order.

   Our culture as a whole is conflicted about the course of events and moral failing in dealing with them, and this is glaringly so in the Church, which is made by God to be a beacon and ballast for all people. Newman reminds us in one of his letters (Vol. XXV, p. 204) not to be surprised by this, as it fits the predictable strategy of the Anti-Christ: “Where you have power, you will have the abuse of power—and the more absolute, the stronger, the more sacred the power, the greater and more certain will be its abuse.”

   For Catholics, present problems are weightier than at any time since the sixteenth century, with its political and theological upheavals. Even the assurance of a stable and centrifugal reference in Rome itself is being tested. It is helpful to recall what Newman said in another of his letters (Vol. XXVII, p. 256): “In the times of Arianism the great men of the Church thought things too bad to last. So did Pope Gregory at the end of the 7th century, St. Romuald in the 11th, afterwards St. Vincent Ferrer, and I think Savonarola—and so on to our time.”

   It would be falsely pious to sweep the scandals of our day under the rug. And it is stunningly evident that, in cases of moral abuse, bureaucratic attempts to buy silence have been a very bad investment.

   In the Historical Sketches, Newman refers to “the endemic perennial fidget which possesses us about giving scandal; facts are omitted in great histories, or glosses are put upon memorable acts, because they are thought not edifying, whereas of all scandals such omissions, such glosses, are the greatest.”

   Present experience attests to what Newman wrote in his book Via Media: “The whole course of Christianity from the first . . . is but one series of troubles and disorders. Every century is like every other, and to those who live in it seems worse than all times before it. The Church is ever ailing . . . Religion seems ever expiring, schisms dominant, the light of truth dim, its adherents scattered. The cause of Christ is ever in its last agony.”

   Scandal is “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil” and it “takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2284-2285). Our Lord, who faulted the scribes and Pharisees for giving scandal, is the author and head of the Church, and the good news is that, despite the vicissitudes and dissembling of the Church’s mortal members, His Good News is not “fake news.”


2019-01-013 - Baptism of the Lord

2019-01-013 - Baptism of the Lord

January 13, 2019

13 January 2019

The Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22 + Homily

18 Minutes 6 Seconds

Link to the Readings


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

(from the parish bulletin)

   The foundational documents of our nation were influenced by Catholic political philosophers such as Aquinas, Suárez, Báñez, Gregory of Valencia and Saint Robert Bellarmine, who wrote before theorists like Hobbes and Rousseau. This contradicts a popular impression that democracy was the invention of the Protestant Reformation. Luther and Calvin considered popular assemblies highly suspect. The concept of the Divine Right of Kings, which was a prelude to what we call “statism” and “big government,” was systematized by the Protestant counselor to King James I of England, Robert Filmer.

   For all his vague Deism, Thomas Jefferson might have acknowledged those Catholic sources, if obliquely, in his eloquent phrases. The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion and Article VI’s prohibition of religious tests for public office were developments rooted in the Thomistic outlines of human rights and dignity declared in the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Arbraoth.

   This was lost on some senators who have violated Constitutional guarantees by subjecting judicial nominees to religious tests. One senator complained to a Catholic nominee for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Two other senators said that the President’s nominee for a federal district court in Nebraska was unsuitable because his membership in the Knights of Columbus committed him to “a number of extreme positions.” Members of their political party consider opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion “extreme.” This would characterize the Pope as an extremist, but at least he is not a judicial nominee.

   In the Statuary Hall of our nation’s Capitol are sculptures portraying heroes who represent the best of the history and culture of each state. They include Saint Junípero Serra of California, Saint Damien de Veuster of Hawaii, Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll of Maryland, Father Eusebio Kino of Arizona, General James Shields of Illinois, Chief Justice Edward Douglass White of Louisiana, Father Jacques Marquette of Wisconsin, Patrick McCarran of Nevada, Dennis Chavez of New Mexico, John Burke of North Dakota, John McLoughlin of Oregon, Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart Pariseau of Washington, and John Edward Kenna of West Virginia, all of whom were Catholic. These canonized saints, statesmen, soldiers, jurists and pioneers would be extremists unworthy of public office in the estimation of some current senators for whom subscription to natural law and obedience to the Ten Commandments are violations of what they fantasize as the norm of moral being.

   The coruscating illiteracy of such senators burlesques reason. At every performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, audiences wait for the fifth scene of the second act, when the haunting statue of the Commendatore comes alive and knocks on the door to the sound of trombones. Would that all those statues of some of our nation’s greatest figures might come down from their pedestals and challenge the vacant minds of those inquisitorial senators to explain what constitutes extremism.

2019-01-06 - The Epiphany

2019-01-06 - The Epiphany

January 6, 2019

6 January 2019

The Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2:1-12 + Homily

16 Minutes 24 Seconds

Link to today's Readings


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   Researching the Birth Narrative of our Lord on the computer can be a source of unintentionally mordant humor. On one of the prominent encyclopedia sites, we are told in the entry for King Herod that “most scholars agree” that he was entirely capable of massacring the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem. But the same source, under the entry for Holy Innocents, says “most scholars agree” that the account was a myth, since no one would do such a thing.

   The emperor Augustus, who was content to have Herod as a client ruler, punned in Greek that he would rather be Herod’s pig (“hys”) than be his son (“huios”). Herod had murdered three of his sons along with one of his wives and a brother-in-law, not to mention three hundred military officers who were abrasive to his paranoia, even though he had 2,000 bodyguards from as far away as what now are France and Germany. Augustus was appalled by the crassness of Herod, rather as the Nazis, for all their malevolence, were taken aback by the sadism of the Soviets in the Katyn Forest and the insouciant viciousness of the Vichy leaders.

   To this day, remnant stones and bulwarks testify to the large-scale engineering wonders with which Herod impressed and intimidated the populace: the extension of the Second Temple, the Herodium and Masada fortresses, the port town of Caesarea Maritima, which was enabled by his development of hydraulic cement, and his shipbuilding industry made possible by the asphalt he dredged from the Dead Sea.

   The Wise Men from the East, whatever else they were (and we do not know precisely from where they came or how many they were) were good psychologists. They quickly seized upon the paranoia of Herod and outwitted him, provoking the massacre of male infants two years old and under. The historians Josephus and Nicholas of Damascus do not record that slaughter because the victims were babies, and for Roman chroniclers, babies were not as important as adults. Contrary to the inspired Jewish religion, the dominant protocols of the Western world permitted the killing of infants by the paterfamilias for any reason, including inconvenience, deformity and birth control. In Sparta, only a child strong enough for development into soldiery had a right to life.

   By an indult of Providence, and in contradiction to many “virtue-signaling” cynics, our current Executive branch of government has become the most pro-life since Roe v. Wade, but that is a fragile assurance and one with no promise of permanence. There are vastly more infanticides now than in Herodian Bethlehem. If our civilization lasts two thousand years more, there may be a “majority of scholars” who will say that in 2019 there were people capable of such iniquity, and another “majority of scholars” who will insist that people back in 2019 could never have been so cruel.

2019-01-01 - Mary, Mother of God

2019-01-01 - Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2019

1 January 2019

The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Luke 2:16-21 + Homily

6 Minutes 33 Seconds

Link to the Readings


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)


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