Bishop Aqui­la of Fargo: “I, as a successor of the apostles, cannot remain silent.”

What Does The Prayer Really Say? is quite interested in Bishop Samuel Joseph Aquila.  His name in Latin means "eagle" and is pronounced "áquila", but the bishop apparently says "Aquíla". 

While in the Fargo newspaper today there was no mention of a move in an article on Bishop Aquila asking prayers for the former Bishop of Fargo James Sullivan, whose health is failing, there is an article in the Grand Forks paper about the rumor of Bishop Aquila becoming the coadjutor.  Even if this all turns out to be only a rumor, Bishop Aquila merits some attention.

Bishop Aquila is in addition to being Bishop of Fargo also the Administrator of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D.  A move to St. Paul might mean also that Rome is appointing also a bishop for Sioux Falls.  It strikes me as unlikely that he would continue as Administrator in his new and much larger role in St. Paul, even though it is closer to Sioux Falls and in the same province. 

Like all bishops (and some other clerics), His Excellency has a coat of arms.   Here is the blazon: Arms impaled. Dexter: Azure upon a cross throughout Or, at the center a horseshoe of the field and to chief dexter a garb of the second. Sinister: Azure, an eagle displayed Argent between, issuant from base, three hills and in chief a rose all Or.  Nota bene: his motto is Marian but solidly Christological.  It is one of the few sentences we have of the Blessed Virgin in Scripture where she tells the servants in John 2:5 at the wedding in Cana to listen to and obey her Divine Son.  A good thing for bishop and a priest to think of.  It is also, I am sure, not lost on priests in his diocese when he tells them to do something!

I pieced together some things about His Excellency from some websites.   

After his ordination to the priesthood, Bishop Aquila served in parish ministry for 11 years.  In 1987, he began studies at Sant’Anselmo University in Rome, completing an S.T.L. in Sacramental Theology in 1990. He served as Director for the Office of Liturgy and Master of Ceremonies in the Archdiocese of Denver from 1990 until 1995. He has also served as Co-director for Continuing Education for Priests, as an advisor for the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, and as Assistant Secretary for Catholic Education. Bishop Aquila was Secretary for Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Denver from 1995 until 1999. He then served as Rector of St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver from 1999 until his appointment as Coadjutor Bishop of Fargo.

So, this is a bishop who is interested in the formation of men for priesthood and in their continuing formation after ordination.  He is also interested in and trained in liturgy.  I understand from the lefty NCR that His Excellency is a friend of Very Rev. Cassian Folsom, OSB, now Abbot of Norcia, who had been once the head of the liturgical institute at Sant’Anselmo but was driven out by those who accused him of being to conservative.  Also, His Excellency in 2005 approved celebrations of the so-called "Tridentine Mass" in the Sioux Falls Diocese at the cathedral.  At the same time, the Bishop has no time for the SSPX schism.  He once sent his chancellor to tell a schismatic priest who came into his diocese to take a hike, thus incurring the wrath of the fringe site Traditio

Another fascinating piece here is that Bishop Aquila was consecrated by Archbishop Flynn, who of course is the metropolitan of the province (Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Sullivan were co-consecrators).  During the consecration Mass, Archbishop Flynn said to the new bishop: "The title of bishop is not one of honor but of function." "A bishop is to serve and not to rule."  "The greatest should behave as the least and the leader as the one who serves."

Bishop Aquila pronounced himself during the dustup during the presidential campaign over Catholic politicians receiving Holy Communion.  In a homily for the Third Sunday of Easter on 25 April 2004 at the Cathedral of St. Mary he said (my emphasis):

In the light of the last few days and all of the media coverage regarding John Kerry’s unambiguous support of abortion rights, his personal opposition to abortion, and his insistence on the separation of his Catholic faith from his professional life, I, as a successor of the apostles, cannot remain silent. I, as an apostle, must speak with the apostles and obey God rather than man and present to you the teaching of the Church on the proper relationship between our faith and professional life. Neither the media nor the theologians who support the separation will present the clear teaching of the Church. I have the responsibility and duty before God to teach and to present to you the teaching of the Church on the matter of living one’s faith in the world.

And get this…

Furthermore, Jesus Christ has warned clearly within the Gospel that hell is a reality and that we are free to choose it. Catholics who separate their faith life from theirprofessional and social activities are putting the salvation of their souls in jeopardy. They risk the possibility of hell. Any Catholic who stands for a law of man, most especiallyone which is objectively evil, before a law of God, puts his or her soul in jeopardy of salvation for they cooperate with a real evil. We must think about the seriousness of this. We are called to live the life of Jesus Christ. We are called by Him to be in the world, but not of the world. We are called to live our faith in the world. We cannot put the laws of man above the laws of God and remain faithful to God. When we do this we are more faithful to society than to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And in addition, Bishop Aquila believes the Enemy exists:

The grave error that has come about, the grave error that the Father of Lies has planted in the hearts of many is the lie of thinking that we can have one foot with God and one foot with the world. We are in the world, not of the world. We are in the world to transform the world. The only way that the world will ever have peace, the only way the world will ever live in the truth is if the world embraces Jesus Christ. While we may never impose the Gospel message or force someone to believe in Jesus Christ, we must always propose the truth. We cannot move into negotiation, ever, with evil. As citizens, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, teaches us that we “…are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. ‘We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)’ (CCC 2256).”

Pretty good stuff, huh?

And his style wasn’t temporary, either.  He is still at it in the same way.  Here is another piece (hated PDF format) from last 9 March 2006 for the 1st Sunday of Lent (my emphasis):

The great problem of today is that there is much confusion between what is good and what is evil. There are those who want to make evil good, and good evil. There is confusion around the person of Jesus Christ, and the demands that He makes upon us. His call is total. We must, before God, make ourselves a total gift to the Father. In order to be faithful to the Commandments, our behavior must change. Look at what Jesus said to His disciples, and what He says to us today. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Lk 9:23-24).

We are to follow Jesus no matter what the cost. In 2003, before he was our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, "The Jesus of the Gospels is quite different, demanding, bold. The Jesus who makes everything okay for everyone is a phantom, a dream, not a real figure. The Jesus of the Gospels is certainly not convenient for us. But it is precisely in this way that He answers the deepest question of our existence, which—whether we want to or not—keeps us on the lookout for God, for a gratification that is limitless, for the infinite. We must again set out on the way to this real Jesus."

It is the real Jesus that we must set after. Not a Jesus who will say, “You may do whatever you want to do.” Not a Jesus who will say, “It is fine for you to use meth.” Not a Jesus who will say, “It is fine for you to use contraception or to be sterilized.” Not a Jesus who will say, “It is okay for you to have an abortion.” Not a Jesus who will say, “You may sleep with whomever you want or engage in homosexual acts or unions.” That is not the way of the Gospel. It is not the way of Jesus. He calls us to conversion. He calls us to repentance. He calls us to the ways of God, and we as a people must live that call. He does not call us to what we want, but to what God wants. Our God is an all-consuming God. He is a God of love. He teaches us the true meaning of love, the total gift of self, to love as He has loved us.

You can check out some of his homilies and pastoral letters on the diocesan website.  I really like this bit from a pastoral on the roots of dissent among Catholics dated 30 November 2004 (my emphasis):

21. Catholics sometimes say they are following their conscience when they choose to do something—for example, tell a lie, use contraception, have or recommend abortion, defraud someone, conceive a child through in vitro fertilization—that the Church teaches to be intrinsically evil. Some members of the clergy confuse the faithful by telling them, “Just follow your conscience.” Without proper explanation such guidance is misleading because it suggests that people are responsibly following their conscience when they knowingly replace Christ’s teaching with the world’s opinions.

22. Our conscience—our last and best judgment about what morality concretely requires—can be mistaken: “conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them” (CCC 1786). We must nevertheless follow our conscience because we cannot know, here and now, that this last and best judgment is mistaken. The alternative to following our conscience would be to refuse to do what we sincerely believe morality requires. This dilemma makes it clear that having an erroneous conscience is a serious problem whether or not a person is responsible for the error.

Okay, that’s a lot of reading, but you get the idea.  Check out his talks on the Sacrament of Penance.  For example, at the Chrism Mass in 2004 he said to the priests of the diocese of Fargo (my emphasis):

We are called to be ministers of the mercy of God. Sin in the world is all too evident today. We see it in the culture of death that exists within our world as it vies with the culture of life. Good versus evil, the laws of man versus the laws of God. We see it especially in the cultural discussions of our times on all of the life issues, be it abortion, euthanasia, cloning, same sex unions – all are counter to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All are promoted by the Father of Lies. There can be no doubt in our minds that sin and evil are real and have captured the hearts and minds of many of our people, including some of our faithful. The spiritual warfare that we are involved in is clear and we must embrace our ministry of reconciliation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I think I am going to have to work my way through his talks.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. animadversor says:

    Yes, yes, lots of good stuff—any diocese would be lucky to have him—but is that a surplice I see instead of the correct rochet?

  2. Andrew says:

    This comes to mind, I am not sure why:

    Ego dedi eis sermonem tuum, et mundus eos odio habuit, quia non sunt de mundo, sicut et ego non sum de mundo. (Joannes 17:14)

  3. clayton says:

    I’ve posted a 2002 interview with Aquila on my blog.

    This week’s meeting of the US bishops here in LA would be particularly interesting if Aquila was named coadjutor before it begins. Trautman and Aquila had a memorable exchange about Liturgiam Authenticam at last November’s meeting.

  4. clayton says:

    Aquila’s money quote from last November’s meeting of the USCCB:

    “In looking at the survey and surveying the bishops, I am really uncomfortable with this process. Because I really see it as the panel rejecting Liturgiam authenticam. Liturgiam authenticam is clear on what the changes need to be.

    While I understand some of the pastoral reasoning, even with some of the faithful and some of the priests in my diocese, when I’ve spoken with them about the changes that will be coming and I showed them the difference between what is in the Latin translation and what we have in the 1970 Missal, they are very understanding of why it needs to change. Now granted, they’re reasonable people and they don’t have their agendas, but I think we owe it to our people to give them good liturgical translations, and faithful to the Latin, to what we have received. And I see this kind of action as saying: Well, we’ll pick and choose what we want. If we take that approach, then our priests can do it, the laity can do it and anyone else can do it.” (source: Adoremus

  5. Janice says:

    Thanks Clayton. I remember the exchange between Bishops AAquial and Aquila Aquila and Trautman and my gratitude to Bishop Aquila for his clear opposition to Trautman’s meddling with Liturgiam Authenticam.

  6. Pio says:

    I’m in Bishop Aquila’s Diocese. We are very fortunate to have him. I was present at his ordination to the Bishopric, and I have even golfed with him. His Excellency is extremely well spoken, clear, and uncompromising on the Truth.

    Since I met him (serving one of his masses) I have been telling people that Bishop Aquila is on the Fast Track…looks like I’m right.

    Also, I know Bishop Sullivan. I would appreciate if you prayed for him.

  7. David Deavel says:

    I seem to remember that Bp Aquila has rearranged the sacraments of initiation such that the arenow in line with the ancient Church–Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. Is this true?

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