Pastor’s Message May 28th, 2017

Please remember in your prayers the soul of our founding Bishop of the Palm Beach Diocese, the Most Rev. Thomas Vose Daily, lately, the retired Bishop of Brooklyn, who died on May 15th. He was appointed bishop of this newly created diocese in 1984, and served here until 1990, when he was transferred to Brooklyn.

We live in a time of amazing ironies. Here’s a big one. For the ancient Greeks, one of the worst “sins” possible, and a constant theme in their plays and dramas, was hubris – the sin of overweening pride. They understood that pride creates a peculiar form of mental illness. People who denied the gods, or ignored the gods, or imagined themselves equal to the gods, cut themselves off from reality. In the process, no matter how great their intellect or strength, they made themselves blind to the world as it really is — the real world of underlying natural laws and moral truths.

The results of hubris were always ugly – which is why the Greek playwright, Euripides, wrote that when the gods wish to destroy a man, they first make him “mad” with the unique madness that comes from pride. William Shakespeare’s plays are filled with this same wisdom: “Pride makes fools of the brilliant and powerful; humility is the beginning of sanity.”

Anyone searching for examples today of what the Greeks found so fatal about hubris needn’t look far. In an article in the May 9th edition of the Wall Street Journal (which an observant parishioner handed me), titled, “A Philosopher Gets Pilloried,” Prof. Rebecca Tuvel, raised (seemingly unwise) in a feminist philosophy journal, an obvious question. As the WSJ article recounts, she asked “why society is increasingly willing to embrace people who identify as ‘transgender’, even as it rejects those who identify as ‘transracial’. In Tuvel’s own words, “Considerations that support transgenderism seem to apply equally to transracialism.” Therefore, logically, society “should also accept transracial individuals’ decisions to change races.” She went on to touch briefly on the same apparent anomalies in how we talk about “otherkins” – persons who feel their true self is really a non-human animal – and “transabled” people – who have no physical abnormality, but feel that one of their limbs violates their identity.

What was her reward for raising these issues? Fierce criticism- in a letter from 500 of her academic peers for writing a paper that “painfully reflects a lack of engagement beyond white and cisgender* privilege.” It turns out that the “culturally enlightened” have their own unpleasant methods of enforcing orthodoxy.

The lesson here is that it’s bad form and bad news for one’s academic career to notice the incoherence of a prevailing intellectual vanity. If we reject the grounding in nature of what it means to be male, female and even human, then why not self-identify as an otherkin? The trouble is that this kind of arrogant rejection of nature and real life is a sign of the peculiar kind of mental illness that comes with hubris. People struggling with confusion about their identity need genuine help, not some type of intellectual quackery.

Exactly 100 years ago this past May 13, three young children in Fatima, Portugal, had the first of six apparitions of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. But the Church is very wary of claimed apparitions for good reason: many turn out to be natural phenomena, or innocent imaginings, or even outright frauds. So, the Church investigates and reflects carefully on claimed apparitions for years before acknowledging the authenticity of events like Lourdes or Fatima or Medjugore (although Pope Francis is skeptical of this last site of alleged apparitions). But, there’s no doubt today that Mary’s presence at Fatima, and her predictions about the crises and sufferings of the 20th century, were real. St. John Paul II, who had a lifelong devotion to Mary, survived a brutal assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, and he attributed his recovery to the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima. What links Lourdes and Fatima is this: In both places, Mary appeared not to Church leaders, or intellectuals, or celebrities, or the wealthy, or the socially connected, or the politically skilled, but to the lowly; — children who were poor and humble.  Their simplicity made them sane enough to see and believe the miracle before them and hear the messages that Mary brought – messages ultimately about our need for conversion and trust in God, even in the face of crushing trials.

If we now live in an era of towering ironies, this is the greatest and most beautiful irony of them all: the love that the Creator of all things, God himself, bears for the very least among us.

Earlier this month, in honor of the Fatima centenary, we consecrated our parish to the protection of the Blessed Mother. On the 13th of each of the next five months ahead, we will continue to renew our pledge and turn our prayers to Mary, asking her intercession for the protection of the worldwide Catholic Church, the Holy Father, and all our members of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish. As the mother of all of us, I assure you that she will never refuse the requests of a faithful heart.

* “cisgender – used to describe someone who feels that they are the same gender as the physical body they were born with (basically, the opposite of transgender).