The Mass of Reparation for sins against the culture of life, and specifically for the Notre Dame invite to Barack Obama, took place Sunday evening at the Cathedral of St. James in Orlando. [NB: I had the date wrong in earlier version here–thanks to CWNews for reminder, and commenter Jerry below.]

When the news broke, the theology behind the Mass (whose sins are we atoning for exactly?) drew quizzical stares across the Catholic spectrum, except of course from the hardliners against Obama and UND prez Father Jenkins.

So what was up? At the Mass, Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski minced no words:

“We Catholics have become too complacent about the legal killing of unborn children in America and elsewhere,” Wenski said in his Reparation Mass remarks at St. James Cathedral in Orlando. “This complacency contributed to the climate that led Notre Dame’s president to think it would be no big deal to defy the bishops in granting this honorary degree to President Obama.”

Before the Mass, Wenski called the Notre Dame administrators “clueless,” according to the Orlando Sentinel report, and added in reference to them: “It might be too late to change their minds,” Wenski said, “but it might not be too late to change their hearts.”

I’m not sure the bishops will change either with this approach. 

Late last week, speaking to the AP’s national religion writer, Eric Gorski, Wenski who Gorski accurately describes as usually a lightning-rod type–said the idea for the Mass was in response to the organized campaign by conservative Catholics:

As for Wenski, he issued a statement and then came up with the Mass idea after angry Notre Dame graduates from central Florida asked for guidance about how to respond, he said in an interview.

“I figured, ‘I’m a bishop–I’m not going to tell them to attack Notre Dame with a pitchfork,'” said Wenski. “I’m going to tell them to go pray.”

Wenski said he will not “preach a tirade against Notre Dame” during the Monday night Mass at Orlando’s Cathedral of St. James. What must be atoned for, Wenski said, is complacency among U.S. Catholics about the legal killing of unborn children, which contributed to the climate that allowed Notre Dame to think it was all right to honor Obama.

Gorski includes the voices of several supporters and some critics, more like analysts–like Father Mark Mass, SJ, who was as perceptive as ever:

“I think the bishops who believe abortion is the ultimate litmus test look at the polls and realize Catholics are not listening to them,” said the Rev. Mark Massa, co-director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University. “They’re playing a very dangerous game because they do not have the moral authority they had before the sex abuse crisis, and they’re trying to find a toehold and get heard.”

Anyone here in Orlando? Or attended?


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