Conference: "The Church,
Recovering from Adversity"
Speaker - Fr. John Duffell
Fr. John is Pastor of Ascension Parish in New York City.
Outline of Talk
- Introductory Comments
- How do we recover from the Sept. 11 attack? What does it mean to
be a believer?
- No adversity should separate us from God. But God expects
something from us: We must love God and others.
- On Sept. 11, everyone cared for one another as brother and sister.
- Trust in God
- The main thing that Jesus did for us was to suffer and die; but we
don't always know what that means.
- Three illustrations:
- Brian Moore's novel about Judith Hearne who approaches menopause
without a husband or children. After rejection by a man, she
goes berserk. Upon recovery, the man returns, contrite,
proposing marriage. She declines by telling a story: the young
person's anticipated perfect life often is not realized. After
discouragement, one is saved by receiving the spirit of who he or
- John Shay's story of a young man attending his dying Father.
The son ends up urging his Father, in constant pain, to let go and
die. It's a constant truth: We must learn to trust God.
- In the Bible, the death of King David's illegitimate son, despite
David's importuning God in sackcloth and ashes. When his son
died, he went to his wife, who conceived another son, Solomon.
When asked, David said there was nothing he could do about the death
and that he must go on living. We can retain life even in
- Jesus's comment that, if we don't forgive our enemies, we shall be
judged and suffer. The parable of the master and the debtor slave.
- Simon Wiesenthal's experience in the Holocaust: He was taken to a
hospital in the concentration camp, where he heard a young SS officer's
dying confession. He wanted to have a Jew hear his request for
forgiveness for his actions against the Jews. Wiesenthal did not
forgive him but simply left the room. Wiesenthal had lost 89
members of his own family in the Holocaust.
- Some families have members who have not forgiven other members for
years. They cannot bring themselves to do so.
- But remember, when we do not forgive, Jesus will.
- Need and Desire for God
- Matthew: "He who would save his life will lose it; he who would
lose his life for my sake will save it."
"Take up your cross daily and follow me."
- Thomas Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities". He was
asked, if the '70's were the decade of the "me generation",
what were the '80's and '90's? Wolfe said "the money
- Myself: After 20 years of counseling, I'm convinced that everyone has
a desire for God. But other things of life get in the
way. We need someone or something to turn on that switch in us.
- The Imperfect Church
- Take up your cross daily. We need forgiveness.
- We, as a community of believers, are the body of Christ.
- The crucifixion scene is the best ecclesiastical image. Jesus
died between two thieves; there was no way to tell the innocent from the
- All families are dysfunctional; it's just a matter of degree and
- It's true in the Church, which is plagued by scandal. We could
not build another church without defects, and anyway, it would be our
church, not Jesus's church.
- Song: " ... the Lord watches over me". The question
is, do you really believe it?
- Questions & Answers
- When we sin, we disrupt our relationships with the Church, with the
community of believers.
- The prodigal son: Forgiveness is already there (the father rushed out
to meet his son), but the sinner has to recognize his own place
in being forgiven.
- The possibility of war in Iraq: Should we instead forgive?
- How could the Church leaders allow priests to abuse kids and then walk
away? Answer: They shouldn't have. Note that child abuse is
a common problem in America; it's not just among priests. And it's
not just paedophilia; it's also epiphelia. Also, the Boston
Diocese was given a model policy for dealing with abusers; but the
diocese decided not to adopt it.
- Good and evil have always existed in the Church; and, like the
crucifixion, it's hard to discern the evil sometimes.
- Breakout Session (Sal Pizzurro, substitute leader)
- Fr. Duffell's remarks were stimulating.
- His later remarks drifted from the main topic.
- God's forgiveness is unilateral; we have to decide to accept it, and
in the right spirit.
- The Boston bishop violated secular law as well as spiritual/canonical
- Re Iraq: Should you do wrong to prevent another wrong?
- The Iraq situation has to do with the control of oil, not with
(The notes of this outline were taken by David
G. Price. They were wordprocessed by Patrick Lyons.
These notes may not be reproduced without the written permission of the
This page was last edited on August 09, 2003 by Patrick Lyons.)