Father Tony: Let me make this analogy since I was an
eighth teacher for so long. When I went through school, and I dont know what it was
like before I went through, there was more of a emphasis on taking education very
seriously. And I was brought up thinking high school was to prepare for college. You know
its going to be fun but the idea is to get from the high school to the college. Now
there were other friends who grew up with the idea "well okay, high school can
prepare me for a job". Now you see today that a lot of kids prepare for high school
thinking high school is a time when you have fun. You learn a little bit along the way but
the emphasis is "have fun". Now naturally some of those people weve been
seeing the last fifteen years or so who grew up with that mentality are becoming teachers.
And so, the mentality "this is the time to have fun" influences the way they
teach. And this is got to be part of the reason for lower test scores. There are multiple
reasons. I dont want to blame it all on teachers because the whole culture feeds
into it. But I know thats a reality; just a different mindset. The same thing
happens in the priesthood in the sense that a lot of guys who are ordained now grew up in
a different mindset than guys who were ordained many years ago and you are influenced by
the values of the culture and you have that clash.
What the culture promotes and what the Church says
is not so clear anymore on exactly what the good is. For example, birth control. It is
clear what the Church is teaching and it is clear that natural family planning is a far
preferable way to plan a family. But at the same time, you know, we go ahead and put a
moral obligation on people to not use any type of artificial birth control but we
dont give them natural family planning. They have to go so far out of their way to
try to find any class where they can learn it and then all married couples want to take
that class. There is no way that there are enough classes; there arent enough
teachers. So here in one sense we are placing a small burden on couples but then we are
not giving them the tools to live the morality of it. And so, how do we hold up to it? The
line is starting to get blurred. I am thinking of all kinds of things. Just look at the
way we dress to go to church. I grew up thinking you have to be dressed up, but now you
know, for me its jeans and a shirt. I still just cant wear a tee shirt. But
you know, we see kids wearing tank tops and shorts. What would have been defined as awful,
awful, a few years ago, maybe more than a few years ago is just kind of normal. There was
a time when women wore veils on the head, or a piece of tissue, anything at all but
CatholicView: Is the Church aiding
Catholic Christians to reject consumerism and commercialism in order to become closer to
Father Tony: Here we are again, and
in theory we all know consumerism is bad in practice. But we are all subject to it. We are
all affected by it. Let me just speak of priests, the guys who have to have the most
expensive priest clothes and all the finest. There is no way we can undo the socialization
process that we grew up in. So then, you have to continue to be in perceptive and check
your values and see if we are living the Christian values and measure "is this what I
believe in? Is my life reflecting what I believe"? We get messed up all the time and
try to continue to struggle with it.
CatholicView: Todays society
has given our youth a whole new set of rules concerning sexual preferences as well as
sexual freedom. What impact has the Church had on the sexual freedom issue our society
seems to condone today?
Father Tony: There is a huge amount
of freedom and acceptance too. You know, I dont know that we can undo it all.
Especially just by saying no, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong. But we can give
kids an experience that there is something better. There is something higher to reach for,
there is a dignity that they can hold themselves to and be proud of. And we have to get
away from a rule that says you cant do this, and start teaching the goodness of
living a different way. And of beginning to see each other as persons not as objects to be
used for "my own pleasure", to re-objectify yourself and work toward the greater
good, the sense of self worth, the relationship with God and all the benefits that you get
from that. The inner peace and so forth. Sometimes that is forgotten, and you see kids who
really do want a relationship with God, not just kids but society as a whole. You do see
spiritual hunger there, yes a huge spiritual hunger and we have to communicate that there
is a way to fill it but you dont have to go to Western Buddhism or New age religions
or all these other things that they are trying to do to fill the spiritual hunger. This
hunger can only be filled by God.
CatholicView: One of the ten
commandments is keeping the Sabbath holy. How is the Church bringing this to the forefront
of its members consciousness in these busy times?
Father Tony: Thats what we
were talking about at the beginning. We depend on people coming to us instead of us being
clear that we need to go out and encourage people to come to Mass. If liturgy is better,
people will come naturally; the word will spread. It will really spread. A question, how
do we make liturgy alive? For so long the liturgy belonged to the priests and everybody
else just sat there and watched it. And even now, you know, even with liturgical changes,
thats the experience that most people have. You just sit there, as much as we talk
about full and active participation. It is not going to be full active participation
unless it goes beyond being able to give a three or four word response occasionally. Now
one of the things that is big for me and I know people dont like it but I believe in
doing away with all altar rails because they reflect the old theology which implies you
cant dare to approach the altar; you just stay down there where you belong. Well no,
I would be more comfortable if the altar were right down in the middle of everybody. Where
everybody is around it.
CatholicView: Do you feel that the
Church is now teaching people to be more knowledgeable about their Christianity?
Father Tony: We are asking people
to reach a greater depth of understanding. That is what we really want. We want people to
understand how important the relationship with God is and even that yes "this is God
residing in me". He is the loving God and merciful God who dwells within us. He
doesnt want to make His home outside but makes His home within us. And is always
there. In the confessional Ill ask people what is your image of God and so often a
lot of stuff comes from this image of God Who is ready to punish you as soon as you make a
mistake. Our God is a loving and merciful God.
CatholicView: One of the
differences that I have noticed is that the Church has made important steps toward
unifying with other Christian faiths. How does this affect Catholics today and do you feel
that this is a good step toward unifying all Christians into one body?
Father Tony: I absolutely think it
is practically the most important thing. The Pope should be working on reunifying
Christianity because we are meant to be one Church, one people, one group of believers in
Jesus and in fact, I wish the one thing that John Paul could do before he dies is to
reunify us with the Eastern Orthodox Churches because we recognize the validity of their
sacraments, their ordination, their everything and they recognize ours. And there is no
reason for us to be apart now for the almost a thousand years that we have been apart.
There is no reason and I would wish that he would make that a number one priority. It is
anti-Christian for Christians to be fighting each other. It goes against everything Jesus
CatholicView: Where does the Church
stand today about scientific breakthroughs such as the cloning of animals and possibly
Father Tony: My conscience tells me
cloning of human beings is absolutely wrong. Absolutely wrong. Now is it the same with
animals? They dont have souls. But it is a small step from animals to human beings.
The manipulation of human life. In cloning the dignity is removed from human life, you
know; dignity is removed from the person. I have huge problems with a lot of the medical
CatholicView: We are losing some of
our Catholic members to Protestants denominations. Why do you think this is happening and
what can we do to offset this trend?