Father Vander Woude
A True Shepherd for His Flock
At the time of this writing we still do not have a 'president elect'; however we do have some important information on the pattern of the voters. We know that a large portion of Catholics voted for those politicians who favor abortion. Since the Catholic Church is dogmatically opposed to abortion, what is wrong here? Could it be that we have Catholic "leaders" whom, with few exceptions, fail to act as leaders? Could it be that we have Catholic "leaders" who never mention the word 'abortion' from the pulpit? Could it be that we have Catholic "Leaders" who fail to properly chastise their pro-abortion parishioners who serve in elective office? The answer to the last three questions is: 'Yes!' Many of our spiritual shepherds have either succumbed to politically correct ideology or they have been so beaten into submission by their politically correct "leaders" that they are unwilling to preach the Gospel.
However, every so often, some spiritual leader or leaders will step forward and "witness for their faith", just like the members of the Rabbinical Court in New York that excommunicated Senator Joseph Lieberman. When this happens, it is worth publicizing.
Such a case recently occurred in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia just outside of Washington D.C. There a young priest by the name of Vander Woude made it explicitly clear to one of his parishioners that it is not acceptable to be politically active in supporting candidates who are in favor of abortion. Billie Ingrassia, a long-time parishioner of St. Agnes Catholic Church, found a note waiting for her one morning after Mass. The letter, written by Father Vander Woude, stated that he could not help but notice all of the pro-Democratic party bumper stickers on her car. He inquired as to whether or not she was aware that the Democratic Party Platform officially condoned "the killing of the most innocent of our land -- the unborn...." He went on to say that "If you [Ingrassia] support the Democratic Party position of abortion then you have no business receiving Holy Communion."
As is to be expected, Father Vander Woude's note created quite a controversy in the Catholic community of Northern Virginia and it was even reported in the Washington Post. In response, Linda Shovlain, the official spokesperson for Bishop Paul Loverde, head of the Arlington Diocese, said that the Reverend Father's note was "misguided."
A recent letter in response to the Washington Post article says it all pretty well (my emphasis):
This is in reference to an article, which appeared in the Washington Post of Friday, November 12, 2000 "Va. Priest Chides Democrat over Bumper Stickers." Bishop Laverde's spokesperson suggested that Father Vander Woude was misguided in his choice of words in suggesting that if the woman intended to support the Democratic abortion platform, which is against Catholic teaching, she should not be receiving Holy Communion. It was suggested that Father Vander Woude was trying to say "look at the issues".
Father Vander Woude wasn't misguided in his choice of words at all. He was giving excellent spiritual guidance, which is his job. The woman obviously has already looked at the issues and that's why she decided to put a bumper sticker on her car supporting the Democratic Party.
Father Vander Woude gave her the benefit of the doubt and suggested that if she meant to support voting for pro-life democrats then she should remove the current sticker and put on an appropriate one. If she in fact was supporting the Democratic abortion platform then he's telling her to remove the bumper sticker, get herself straightened out with respect to true Catholic teachings then get herself to confession. Very clear spiritual guidance. One can't be both Catholic and pro-abortion at the same time.
Canon Law 1398 states that "a person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic excommunication". The salvation of the souls of those who support, in ANY way, an abortion has to be in serious jeopardy.
If we ever are successful in eliminating legal abortion, an insult to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, via the ballot box, it will be because of priests like Father Vander Woude. Father Vander Woude is not only concerned with the demonic abortion holocaust, which, was the U.S. Catholic bishops number one issue in this election, but is also concerned with the salvation of his own soul as well as those of his parishioners.
Pro-life Catholics, who are devoting so much of their time and energy in the fight against abortion, are tired of getting weak support from some priests and bishops, who don't want to offend their pro-abortion parishioners. This all-important issue claims the butchery and murder of 1.5 million babies a year and over 30 million since Roe vs. Wade in 1973 as well as the death and maiming, both physically and mentally, of countless women. How can any Catholics devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who love God and love their neighbor as they love themselves, look the other way at this terrible inhuman American tragedy.
If the truth about the Catholic Church's position on abortion was made simple and clear, early-on and frequently, to make sure it sinks in, instead of rare and ambiguous statements, the current election would not be so close. Pro-life Catholic support would have made the significant difference. This then is the approach that the U.S. Catholic bishops need to take NOW in order to make sure the true Catholic vote is a key factor in future elections where abortion will again be a major issue. Last minute, Sunday before election, token efforts, have little or no impact.
Sincerely, Richard A. Retta, Rockville, Maryland
One closing note: Recently, The Catholic Standard had a news release identifying the new Archbishop of the Washington D.C. Diocese. Archbishop McCarrick will replace the retiring Cardinal Hickey in January. The Catholic Standard web site had a long resume on this new leader of the diocese. Unfortunately, the publication failed to mention any Pro-Life activity anywhere in this resume. Let us hope this was an oversight on the part of the publisher and not representative of the bishop's true leadership.
Let us pray for our priests and their leaders that they will have the courage required to be good shepherds.
"Father be with the leaders of Your Flock in their needs today. Help your bishops and priests to interpret the Gospel message with clarity and urgency, witnessing in their own lives to the teaching and example of Christ. Fortify and encourage those among them who are fearful and confused. Send Your Holy Spirit in a new outpouring so that these leaders chosen by You will have the courage to speak out and end the killing of the most innocent of our land -- the unborn."
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