Sunday, August 19, 2018


I concelebrated the Cathedral Saturday night Mass last night with Archbishop Kurtz and Father Wimsatt  

In light of the tragic news out of Pennsylvania last week - a summary of 70 years of clergy sexual abuse stories in six dioceses combined - I am posting something I wrote sixteen years ago on my front porch in about twenty minutes time. It just poured out of me. I sent it in to AMERICA magazine. To my surprise, they published it. 

Made aware of more details last week, I probably would have written it differently today, but some of it still holds. 

Even though the report admitted that  "much has changed in the last 15 years" it is still shocking to hear the collected awful details.  Don't just be angry, pray and work  for an end to this scourge, one that runs through all parts of our society and through many of our families. As tough as it is to hear, we all need to understand that things will not get better until we get to the bottom of it. For that reason, we need to thank the brave people who are helping us do just that - face the facts! 

I am so sad about all of this that I could not write a homily this weekend anyway. 

Here is my 2002 article again!


Collateral Damage: How One Priest Feels These Days
Rev. J. Ronald Knott
July 29, 2002

In my 32 years as a priest, I have been threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, have been thrown out of a ministerial association because I am a Catholic, have had fundamentalist preachers run me down by name on the radio and have had a knife pulled on me in church for a homily I gave. I have also seen one of my rectory mates carted off for alcohol addiction and another leave the priesthood. I have been stalked by a schizophrenic and singled out in a hateful crusade by right-wing Catholics because I welcomed marginal Catholics. While I was serving as its pastor, the cathedral walls cracked down the back and along one side and almost fell to the ground two-thirds of the way into a renovation. Finally, I have had my house broken into three times. 
Nothing, however, has affected me like this damnable sex scandal the church in the United States is going through right now. I am at the lowest point I have reached in 32 years. In response, I have done predictable things, like “isolating” myself. A few weeks ago, however, I did something that I have never done before. I was driving somewhere wearing my Roman collar. When I pulled up to a light, I put my hand over the collar so that the people on each side would not see it. In the latest of three nightmares, I dreamed I was back in the seminary when the police came and took everything I owned: my books, my homily collection, my spiritual journals, my clothes, my family photos, my money, everything! My heart is obviously bleeding from many holes.

In the first place, my heart bleeds for the victims and their families. As a person who was psychologically abused throughout childhood, I know a little about that particular brand of abuse and how it can destroy one’s self-image, how one can blame oneself, how toxic anger can be stifled and how powerless one can feel. It took me 21 years even to begin coming to grips with the sort of abuse I experienced and even longer to forgive the one who inflicted it. That took years of intense inner work. I can only imagine how devastating sexual abuse must be.

Yet my heart also bleeds for the abusing priests. Yes, I have compassion, even for them. I cannot imagine the humiliation they must feel, many of them now in their old age. While in no way would I minimize the damage they have caused, I struggle with an effort to reconcile the large spark of goodness in these men with the evil they have done. I suppose I could hate them, if I knew what their victims know, but I did not know that side of them. I knew another man, and that man was kind, generous, hard working and dedicated. I suppose the key to reconciling those opposites is indicated in the old adage, “Love the sinner and hate the sin.”

In the third place, my heart bleeds for all those faithful Catholics who have been scandalized and have had their faith shaken, a faith that is hard to hold on to these days in any case. My heart bleeds for all those angry and alienated Catholics who see in these events even more reason to be angry and alienated. As one who has specialized in trying to clear a path for the return of alienated people, I know that such a trip home has now become even more difficult, if not more unlikely.

And then my heart bleeds for those faithful priests who have to bear the shame brought on a profession they love, a profession to which they have given their all. As a vocation director, I find that a hard job suddenly seems impossible. My aim is to present the priesthood to young people as a chance to “do something beautiful for the Lord,” something that I have enjoyed doing even when the pickings were slim. Now I feel as though I came home one day to find that my priceless Renoir had been clawed to shreds by cats. This has left me with a sick feeling in my guts. It reminds me that thousands of great nuns, the majority of whom were even heroic, have experienced similar unfairness. They have been stereotyped by endless jokes in movies, plays and stand-up comedy about a few cruel and heartless nuns in the classrooms of the past. Indeed, a few bad apples can spoil the barrel.

In the fifth place, my heart bleeds for the bishops, even for those who should have known better. After having lived with one bishop for 14 years, I know how impossible a bishop’s job can often be. Thirty or 40 years ago, most bishops did not know enough about the problem of sexual abuse of children to know what to do. They did what most families did with unwed pregnancies. They kept it quiet. Fifteen years ago, many bishops were given bad advice by “professionals” who told them that therapy and counseling worked and their clients could safely return to ministry. Bishops have also had to make their way across the alligator swamp of insurance companies and lawyers and the media. What was considered good advice yesterday is indicted as a coverup today.

Last of all, my heart bleeds for priests like myself who have been thrown into a whirlpool of self-doubt, especially when the pope recently told a group of the newly ordained that they “must be perfect.” It has taken me 35 years to quit beating myself up for not being perfect and to accept the consolation that my best is good enough for God. Now we priests are sitting around rectories, homes and apartments combing through our lives for every thought, word or deed, for every youthful indiscretion, every joke, every hug, every touch, that could come home to haunt us. Not one of us has failed to have the chilling thought of being falsely accused as the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago once was and as Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has recently been. We know that if we are falsely charged we might as well be guilty, because once accused, we would never fully recover our reputations. I am sad to say that I don’t know any priest who is now completely at ease around children.

Yes, I have been tempted in the last few weeks to hide my collar and quit my job as a vocation director, but I have also felt a surge of hope. Like Jonah (2:8), “when my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord.” Like Jeremiah (20:9), I have been tempted “not to think about him, not to speak his name any more. Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me; I could not bear it.”

My source of hope comes from the pews, when I “share the Scriptures” and “break the bread” with faithful Catholics who have taught me once again that their faith is solidly rooted. That faith is not, nor has it ever been, in God’s weak messengers, but in the sacred message they proclaim. St. Paul says that we are all “earthenware jars that hold a great treasure.” Everywhere around the country, faithful Catholics seem to know the difference between the treasure and the crock. They have reminded me once again that the validity of the Gospel does not depend on the personal goodness of the messenger. They know that most of us are doing the best we can, often trying to lead two and three parishes or fulfill multiple ministries while holding ourselves together at the same time. They know we need their support and encouragement, especially during these trying times, and they give it freely. I am one very thankful recipient of that support and encouragement.

My fellow Catholics wish for me what Paul wished for Timothy when the latter was discouraged enough to quit: sophronismos. That is a nearly untranslatable word that means “knowing how to act in the face of panic” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Friday, August 17, 2018



One of the needs of the Diocese of Kingstown down the the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a person trained in grant writing. Last year we identified Mr. Yohance Gibson as the person who could be trained for such a job. 

One of the programs I helped implement as Director of the Saint Meinrad Institute for Priests and Presbyterates was the program outlined below. The people at Saint Meinrad were generous enough to give Mr. Yohance Gibson a full scholarship to attend this program.  We are excited about the fact that Mr. Gibson has completed the onsite part of the program and the good this could mean for the whole island country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 


lake_institute_logo_4c_500_dpi_wide.jpgIndiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy's Lake Institute on Faith & Giving is conducting its Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising (ECRF). The certificate program will be hosted by Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology from August 13-16, 2018.
The ECRF - a four-day intensive program with a practical application project - provides the research, tools and customized training to meet the growing needs of leaders in religious communities and fundraisers of faith-based organizations. The focus is on the cultural, organizational and philanthropic practices unique to religious institutions that, in turn, enable donors to experience the joy of generous giving.
Attendees include religious leaders in faith-based organizations and institutions who wish to learn more about the spirituality of fundraising and gain a core foundation in fundraising principles. Enrollment in the program is open and specifically tailored to all faith traditions. Typical attendees include clergy, laity, judicatory executives, and development leaders and professionals at faith-based organizations.

Course Description

Four one-day core courses, selected readings, online peer-group conversations, an integration paper outlining a year-long fundraising program and a final paper assessing the effectiveness of the fundraising program frame the requirements for the Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising.
  1. Nurturing Generous Congregations and Organizations -This foundational course will survey the changing landscape of religious giving with a focus on its implications for faith-based fundraising. The concept of generosity will be explored as both a religious virtue and a practice, with attention given to the social and interpersonal dynamics of nurturing generosity.
    Learning Objectives• Become aware of tools for assessing the level of generosity in participant's organization or congregation• Explore the socio-religious dynamics of generosity• Discover the keys to building an organizational structure nurturing generous giving• Learn how to institutionalize generosity: the role of values, beliefs, vision, mission and storytelling
    Learning Tools Utilized• The Generosity Checklist• The Adaptive Leadership Model• The Hedgehog Concept 
  2. Nurturing Generous Donors - An experiential and autobiographical course focusing on the giving history and philosophy of each participant. Attention will be paid to donor profiles and donor motivations for giving. This course will also provide the fundraiser with conversational tools to use in nurturing a prospective donor through a process of discernment.Learning Objectives Awaken development professionals and religious leaders to a spiritual way of looking at fundraising as an opportunity to nurture diverse donors and facilitate their application of generosity principles in a parish setting• Examine the metrics used to measure philanthropy while exploring the role of relationships and faith-building opportunities for donors in parish settings• Learn how to solicit gifts unapologetically and act on your personal assurance of God's abundance• Incorporate your theological tradition in a personalized approach to fundraising; integrating key stakeholders in planning; and promote discernment and adaptive leadership in discipleship developmentLearning Tools UtilizedThis seminar will be an interactive learning experience that includes a mix of instructional methods such as mini-lectures, interactive discussions, individual work and case study application.• The Giving Pyramid• The Constituency Model• Case Preparation
  3. Fundraising as Ministry  -  A practical course with an emphasis on fundraising principles, practices, tools and techniques.
    Learning Objectives• Understand the difference between transactional and transformational giving• Assess your personal giving and money autobiography• Explore the relationship between religious values and generous giving• Connect the role of donor care as an extension of pastoral care• Understand the world of the donor
    Learning Tools Utilized• The Philanthropic Autobiography• The Cycle of Discernment• The New Giving Paradigm 
  4. Shaping a Theology of Money  - A presentation on the theology of money and giving from a Roman Catholic perspective.Learning Objectives• Have participants distinguish concepts of stewardship, philanthropy, development/advancement and fundraising while also recognizing what these have in common • Identify scriptural references that address "the meaning of money"• Explore theological principles important to "shaping a theology of money"• Expand participants' understanding of stewardship beyond "time, talent and treasure"• Help participants shape their own theology of moneyLearning Tools Utilized• Definitions exercise: stewardship, philanthropy, development/advancement and fundraising• Scripture search: Contradictory messages and muddled meaning• Shaping your own theology of money: 1) Scriptural references that speak to me
    2) Theological principles that frame my work 3) Spirituality for daily living (and giving)
  5. Integration Paper - Upon completion of the four courses, the candidate will produce an integration paper outlining a year-round stewardship or annual giving program designed for the particular institution he or she serves. The paper is to reflect the insights of each of the four courses and outline how these practices and ideas will be integrated into the fundraising program and mission of the particular organization or congregation. 
  6. Reflection Paper - Each participant will produce a final reflection paper in which he or she assesses: (a) his or her role and personal effectiveness in the year-long fundraising program, (b) the role of the institution in the program, (c) the way in which constituents responded to this program, (d) the promise this program holds for the ongoing financial health of the institution or congregation. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole
country isn't in flames, that there are people in the country besides
politicians, entertainers and criminals.

Charles Kuralt

"After the Communist invasion of South Korea, [Father Kapaun] was among the first American troops that hit the beaches and pushed their way north through hard mountains and bitter cold. In his understated Midwestern way, he wrote home, saying, “this outdoor life is quite the thing” and “I prefer to live in a house once in a while.” But he had hope, saying, “It looks like the war will end soon.”

That’s when Chinese forces entered the war with a massive surprise attack -- perhaps 20,000 soldiers pouring down on a few thousand Americans. In the chaos, dodging bullets and explosions, Father Kapaun raced between foxholes, out past the front lines and into no-man’s land -- dragging the wounded to safety.

When his commanders ordered an evacuation, he chose to stay -- gathering the injured, tending to their wounds. When the enemy broke through and the combat was hand-to-hand, he carried on -- comforting the injured and the dying, offering some measure of peace as they left this Earth.

When enemy forces bore down, it seemed like the end -- that these wounded Americans, more than a dozen of them, would be gunned down. But Father Kapaun spotted a wounded Chinese officer. He pleaded with this Chinese officer and convinced him to call out to his fellow Chinese. The shooting stopped and they negotiated a safe surrender, saving those American lives. 

Then, as Father Kapaun was being led away, he saw another American -- wounded, unable to walk, laying in a ditch, defenseless. An enemy soldier was standing over him, rifle aimed at his head, ready to shoot. And Father Kapaun marched over and pushed the enemy soldier aside. And then as the soldier watched, stunned, Father Kapaun carried that wounded American away. 

This is the valor we honor today -- an American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who wielded the mightiest weapon of all, a love for his brothers so pure that he was willing to die so that they might live. And yet, the incredible story of Father Kapaun does not end there. 

He carried that injured American, for miles, as their captors forced them on a death march. When Father Kapaun grew tired, he’d help the wounded soldier hop on one leg. When other prisoners stumbled, he picked them up. When they wanted to quit -- knowing that stragglers would be shot -- he begged them to keep walking.

In the camps that winter, deep in a valley, men could freeze to death in their sleep. Father Kapaun offered them his own clothes. They starved on tiny rations of millet and corn and birdseed. He somehow snuck past the guards, foraged in nearby fields, and returned with rice and potatoes. In desperation, some men hoarded food. He convinced them to share. Their bodies were ravaged by dysentery. He grabbed some rocks, pounded metal into pots and boiled clean water. They lived in filth. He washed their clothes and he cleansed their wounds.

The guards ridiculed his devotion to his Savior and the Almighty. They took his clothes and made him stand in the freezing cold for hours. Yet, he never lost his faith. If anything, it only grew stronger. At night, he slipped into huts to lead prisoners in prayer, saying the Rosary, administering the sacraments, offering three simple words: “God bless you.” One of them later said that with his very presence he could just for a moment turn a mud hut into a cathedral."


That spring, he went further -- he held an Easter service. As the sun rose that Easter Sunday, he put on [his] purple stole and led dozens of prisoners to the ruins of an old church in the camp. And he read from a prayer missal that they had kept hidden. He held up a small crucifix that he had made from sticks. And as the guards watched, Father Kapaun and all those prisoners -- men of different faith, perhaps some men of no faith -- sang the Lord’s Prayer and “America the Beautiful.” They sang so loud that other prisoners across the camp not only heard them, they joined in, too -- filling that valley with song and with prayer.

That faith -- that they might be delivered from evil, that they could make it home -- was perhaps the greatest gift to those men; that even amidst such hardship and despair, there could be hope; amid their misery in the temporal they could see those truths that are eternal; that even in such hell, there could be a touch of the divine. Looking back, one of them said that that is what “kept a lot of us alive.”

Yet, for Father Kapaun, the horrific conditions took their toll. Thin, frail, he began to limp, with a blood clot in his leg. And then came dysentery, then pneumonia. That’s when the guards saw their chance to finally rid themselves of this priest and the hope he inspired. They came for him. And over the protests and tears of the men who loved him, the guards sent him to a death house -- a hellhole with no food or water -- to be left to die.

And yet, even then, his faith held firm. “I’m going to where I’ve always wanted to go,” he told his brothers. “And when I get up there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you.” And then, as he was taken away, he did something remarkable -- he blessed the guards. “Forgive them,” he said, “for they know not what they do.” Two days later, in that house of death, Father Kapaun breathed his last breath. His body was taken away, his grave unmarked, his remains unrecovered to this day.


Father Kapaun, of the Diocese of Wichita (Kansas), was a U.S. Chaplain who died on May 23, 1951, in a prisoner of war camp in Pyoktong, North Korea. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in Unsan, where he was captured. In 1993, the Holy See named Father Kapaun “Servant of God.” Ten years later, on April 11, 2013, Father Kapaun was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously by President Barack Obama. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018



Strengthened by that food, Elijah walked
 forty days and forty nights.
First Book of Kings

One of the most satisfying things about being a priest is "being there" during the "big moment's" of your lives (a) when you are carried into the church as babies for your baptisms, (b) when you walk into the church for your weddings and (c) when you are rolled into the church for your funerals.

Sometimes, we are even privileged to "be there" as you leave this world. I don't know how many times I have “been there” with your families - in hospitals after failed surgeries, in nursing homes at the end of very long lives, in their own homes under the guidance of Hospice or even in morgues after suicides or tragic motorcycle or car wrecks- as you say goodbye to your loved ones, amid great weeping and wailing. It's something we never get used to and something that is always emotional. Even if we don't know you all that well, it is still a privilege to be "allowed into" that sacred space and those solemn moments.

In those situations, death sometimes comes quickly and sometimes very slowly. If it comes slowly, you have time to pray with the family and help them get used to the idea of letting go – as well as helping the dying get ready to leave this world and enter the next - by hearing their last confession, anointing them and giving them holy communion. When you give a dying person their last "holy communion," that holy communion is called viaticum. The word viaticum comes from three Latin words, via (the way), te (you) and cum (with), meaning "that which you take with you” as you go on your way. In this case, that which you take with you on your way is "the bread of life," "the body of Christ." It is given to the dying to strengthen them on their final journey to heaven. It is sort of like a "packed lunch" for the "big trip."  It is a beautiful thought because the last bit of food they will ever eat in this life is the flesh of Christ himself. Who better to take with you to meet your creator? 

One of the most moving experiences I have ever had in this regard, happened at University Hospital a few years ago. A farmer from my hometown, whom I knew well, had been in a terrible tractor accident. His tractor had flipped over on him and crushed him. After several days on a respirator, and having been declared "brain dead," by the time I got there the family had already decided to turn off all the machines and let him go, but they wanted to wait till I got there. He was unconscious, his head crushed and swollen. I knew he could not swallow, so an idea came to me at that moment. As they were turning off the machines, I placed the gold container with the "viaticum," which I had brought, on his chest, over his heart. With "heavenly bread," "the body of Christ," over his heart, we prayed for his safe journey into eternal life as his life here on earth gradually faded away before our very eyes.

Several years ago, I went down to Meade County to have Mass for my niece and her husband in their living room. He was about ten days away from death from Lukemia and it was their 30th wedding anniversary. I had married them as well. I anointed him for the last time, renewed their vows for the last time and gave him communion, “bread for his final journey home.” I left there knowing that I would never see him again here on earth, knowing that that was their last anniversary, knowing that the next time I would be with them was at his funeral Mass. I left there knowing that I had given him “bread for his journey home.”   

Friends! We don't just give viaticum to people when they die, we give it out every Sunday when we gather in here to celebrate the Eucharist. We receive "heavenly bread" from this altar to strengthen us for the week ahead - something we have done ever since Christ's "last supper."  Like the bread that the angel gave Elijah, in our first reading tonight, bread to strengthen him for his forty day walk to the mountain of God, the bread that we eat here is meant to strengthen us, as disciples of the Lord Jesus, us in the next seven-day journey ahead of us.

We do two things, really, when we come here. We come, first of all, to thank God for last week - for all the blessings bestowed on us and all the lessons we learned - even the hard ones.

Second, we come for nourishment - and we get that nourishment in two ways. We get nourishment from hearing the Word of God read to us and explained to us. We get nourishment from "feeding on" the body and blood of Jesus under the forms of bread and wine. Just before we come up here to receive that nourishment, we pray together that our loving God will "give us each day our daily bread" and so he does!

Fellow Catholics, just as we would not accept an invitation to someone's house for a special dinner and then pay no attention to them when we got there, we cannot come here every Sunday and pay no attention to the one who invited us to feast at his table - Jesus Christ himself. We must teach ourselves to focus our attention completely on what we hear, what we say, what we do and what we eat and drink. Full, active and conscious participation during our weekend Masses is bsolutely necessary if we hope to “get anything out of” this experience.

After almost 49 years of priesthood, I have come to believe that those people who say they "get nothing out of mass" are mainly those who “put very little into it.” They do not pay attention to what they are doing when they come here. As Henry Miller once said, "The moment one gives close attention to anything, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."

For years, I celebrated Sunday Night Masses at Bellarmine University with Melanie Prejean Sullivan my fellow campus minister. Melanie's e-mails always said at the bottom, quoting Thomas Merton, "One must attend carefully to everything. If you apply yourself carefully to what you do, great springs of strength and truth are realized in you."  

Those who do not pay attention to what we are doing here are like those Jeremiah described. "They have eyes but see not. They have ears but hear not."  Let's train our eyes, ears, voices and bodies to "pay attention" to our prayer so that we can "get something out of it" and leave here “nourished” so that we can be all that God has called us to be!  All athletes know that they need to be nourished well if they hope to win their upcoming game! Just so, all of us need to be nourished on the Bread of Life if we hope to handle all that will come our way in the week ahead!         

Thursday, August 9, 2018



We didn't get quite this many, but I would say we did get close to two thousand so far. (That's about 2 pens for each student and teacher.) The island school kids and teachers will certainly welcome these pens and put them to good use! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! 

Since the need is continuous, I will keep collecting pens and sending them down in future shipments of donated supplies. 


So far, I have 25 boxes of new and used pens and new school supplies. 
Thanks to all who got involved even as far away as Elizabethtown and Brandenburg Kentucky, Indiana, Florida and North Carolina. Some were anonymous. 

A very special thanks to Michelle Owings and Deacon Chris McDonnell, Cathedral parishioners, who gathered the lion's share with me. 

Letter from Sister Carmen

Hello Father Ron, 
It was indeed  a pleasant surprise for us  when you visited  St. Mary's R.C. School on your last visit to St. Vincent, especially the Grade 2 class. The children were really happy to meet you.
The people of St. Benedict's Parish were also glad that you were able to celebrate Holy Mass with them.  Thanks so very much for your kindness and generosity.
The Principal, teachers and students of St. Mary's R.C. School are grateful too for your assistance. We appreciate your kind support. Thank you.
May God continue to bestow His Choicest Blessings upon you.
Sr. Carmen

Sister Carmen will be in charge of distribution to assure that the distribution is fair and that nothing is wasted or hoarded. This shipment of pens and school supplies will be distributed among the 663 students and 35 teachers of Saint Mary's Grade School and several kids at Saint Benedict and Bread of Life Homes for Children. 


Dressed for Church in their Sunday best.

The boxes are taped and almost ready to ship. I was waiting for a few more to come in. I hope to ship them on August 10 so they will get them before school starts on September 3.  Of course, there is no such thing as "too late" since the needs are year round. 

Thanks to Tim Tomes of SUPPLIES OVER SEAS who oversaw the final boxing and taping for shipment. Thanks, too, to the two young women volunteers at SUPPLIES OVERSEAS who helped with the heavy lifting. 
Tim used his truck to get all the boxes to S.O.S. for the final prep for shipping and from S.O.S. to  FORWARD AIR on Outer Loop. From there they will go to AMERIJET in Miami to be flown on to Saint Vincent on their weekly Tuesday morning flight. They should land in Saint Vincent on August 14. I never realized that crayons and notebooks weighed so much! 
The boxes in this shipment weighed a total of 528 pounds. 


Next semester we will focus on the boys and girls high schools.