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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Can a Catholic Witness at a Gay Marriage

CHARLES:

I’m in a dilemma and need some guidance. I have a friend whom I’ve known practically my whole life. He is more of a brother to me than my actual brothers. He is gay, and I do accept that, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. Anyway, we live in a state where same sex marriage is legal and he and his partner have decided to go to the court house to “make it legal.” He has asked me (as his best friend) to be his witness at the ceremony. If I support my friend, is it a sin? He really does not have anyone else in his life other than his partner and me. I do want to help him. Thank you.

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FATHER JOE:

A sense of brotherhood is a special gift of friendship and this is commendable. But given that the Church does not recognize same-sex unions, it would be difficult for you to take an active part in the ceremony without compromising yourself. The very nature of a witness is to signify that a true marriage did indeed take place. Catholics would struggle with several points of the scenario you mention:

1. While a Catholic could witness to a heterosexual marriage between two non-Catholics (not married before) before a civil magistrate; it would be problematical if there is a prior bond or if one or both are Catholics. (Catholics must be married before a priest or deacon).

2. The Church would not recognize a same-sex marriage as valid. Does it give scandal if a Catholic witnesses something which the Church would judge as invalid and sinful?

I suspect it is point two that brings you to ask the question here. Is there a way to let your friend know that you love him even if you cannot publicly affirm his lifestyle and bond? Would he judge that as a personal renunciation? Could you explain that you have wrestled with the issue and feel that it would call into question certain moral values of your own?

There is probably no good answer.  The best response might be to say, that as much as you would like to do so, you are unable to participate.  Certainly you would not want to be hurtful. But evidently you are a practicing Catholic and this might give public scandal (giving recognition) and/or be interpreted as formal dissent from Church teaching.

A Response to Grace on Faith, Jesus & Salvation

GRACE:

Allow me to make reference to the Old Testament and sin offering. A sinner would go to the Jewish priest with a lamb without blemish. He MUST lay his hand on the lamb. This signified a transferring of sin to the lamb and acquiring the lamb’s innocence. The lamb had to die. Sin must DIE. Under the New Covenant, Jesus is the Lamb of God. The Messiah is our offering. HOWEVER, one cannot physically lay hands on the lamb of God. This is how one lays hands on Jesus and acquires His righteousness: whoever BELIEVES/FAITH that He is the son of God becomes righteous. This is unmistakably the most fundamental building block of Christianity!

When a believer in faith bows down in prayer they have instant access to God, justified by Jesus. When I ask someone else to intercede, I have downplayed the biggest sacrifice; the very reason God became man. It was so that whoever believed should not perish. Otherwise, I have put my FAITH in something other than His dying for my sins. In effect, I have said that even though Christ did die for my sins and I am justified before God. It is still not good enough. So stop going to saint Mary! Worthless are cries of please intercede! JESUS said “I AM THE WAY THE TRUTH AND LIFE NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT BY ME.” That truth was absolute. There is no negotiating it. When He said on the Cross “IT IS FINISHED,” He meant just that.

FATHER JOE:

You call into question the following:

1.  The manner in which Jesus offers a sacrifice of propitiation as the Lamb of God.

2.  The extension of the paschal mystery into the life of the Church and the sacraments.

3.  The participation in the one-time suffering and death of Jesus.

4.  The definition of saving faith as combined with obedience (works) and accessed first through baptism.

5.  The inner unity of Jesus as a divine Person but made fully human.

6.  The significance of the Church, communion of the saints and intercessory prayer.

What you initially discuss is an appreciation of substitution. The blood of the lamb is sacrificed so that the believer might be spared, as with the Jews when the first born of Egypt suffered the angel of death.

You assert that with Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” no one could physically lay hands upon him. This is false and calls into question the graphic truth of the incarnation. It is a variation upon the heresy of the Nestorians.  The Second Person of the Trinity takes to himself human flesh, he becomes Man. Thus he is able to lay down his life, enduring the indignity of the scourging and crucifixion. Jesus really did die on the Cross. The Mass is an unbloody but real re-presentation of this saving mystery. We are born again by water and the spirit. As God’s people, we come back again and again to the Lord so that our sins might be washed away and that we might be filled with grace. There is a spiritual operation here connected to Calvary, the last Supper and the sacraments.

Faith and baptism allows us to be engaged by the Paschal Mystery of Christ, his suffering, dying, rising and ascension. Our belief or faith is equivalent to obedience. God’s response is the gift of salvation for the redeemed. Christ is obedient to the Father even unto the Cross. He calls us to imitate his fidelity by taking up our crosses and following him.

Intercession to saints or to the Church is an acknowledgement that ours is both a personal and a corporate Lord and Savior. We gather to pray as the Church and our Lord tells us that he is present. There is no competition or downplaying the oblation of the Cross. Far from it, our unity with each other is expressive of the reality of the Church that Jesus instituted. You deny this truth from God’s Word and embrace a Baptist tradition that denies the ongoing nature of faith, obedience and the need for communion with the Church. You short-change revelation and deprive yourself of the full benefits of Christ oblation. You say you are justified before the Lord and yet this too may be a sinful presumption. You cannot save yourself. Only God can save you. Many will cry, “Lord, Lord,” and Jesus will respond, “I tell you, I do not know you.” The Church is the Body of Christ. If you attack the Church, you assault Jesus.

Mary intercedes, but by always beseeching us to follow her Son. She beckons that we might know and love him. All prayer, even intercessory, finds God as its proper object. The saints pray with and for us. We are not alone.

The saving work of Jesus is accomplished in that Jesus will never suffer and die again. But the saving power and effects of his work are still being realized in the lives of believers. It is in this sense that it will not be finished or over until the consummation of the world to Christ. The story of salvation is still being told in our lives.

Knights of Columbus Cookout

Held after our Social Meeting 7-21-14

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No More Lay Preachers in Rochester

The march toward great orthodoxy and unity in the Church continues. After some 40 years of violating Church law, the diocese of Rochester will no longer allow the laity to usurp priests and deacons in preaching homilies at Mass. The thanks goes out to Bishop Salvatore Matano for insisting that canon and liturgical law be followed. He stated, “It is not a policy shift as regards to the universal law of the church. I am trying to help the faithful understand what is the universal law of the Church and how important it is that in the celebration of Mass, we do what the Church asks of us.”

I well remember Bishop Matthew Clark who started the deviation. He was regularly invited to give talks by the progressive or liberal staff at CUA when I was a student many years ago. He even gave us a retreat where he speculated about women priests and about how a priestly calling might be a temporary vocation and that God might later call some men to other things. I was young but shocked by the statement.

In any case, it looks like the compass in Rochester is returning to the proper settings of the universal Church. Now comes the hard work, not just of correcting abuses, but reforming hearts and minds. People will be hurt and disappointed, especially the women who made up the majority of the lay homilists. But where one door closes, others are opened. Hopefully these women will not feel discarded or alienated. Inclusion and empowerment was never dependent upon the clericalization of the laity. I have confidence that the bishop will find a way to involve these women, with their theology degrees and gifts, in the building up of the Church. God forbid that they should walk away from the Church that has always been their home.

The Church’s Stance to the LGBT Community

thBUDHL29UContinuing this discussion as to how we approach homosexuals in the Church, I would agree that we must acknowledge the whole person. We should resist the temptation, even if they encourage it, of defining them by their disorientation. People can hide behind labels. It is also easier to ridicule and cast aside people who are labeled. We see this in racial slurs and in the language for the enemy in wars. The Church would stand against anything that dehumanizes people or compromises upon the uniqueness of personhood. Everyone is loved. Signs or billboards that say God hates this or that people constitute a false propaganda against the kingdom of Christ. Everyone is someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister. They might suffer from a genetic disorientation, or from trauma or from the manipulation of others— but right or wrong or just confused, they possess an immeasurable value in the eyes of God. If they should return our love with venom in language and deeds, we must maintain the heart and mind of God on their behalf. We cannot accept or excuse sin. If we did we might become an accomplice and a collaborator in the sin of others. But we can love them, even as our views are attacked as prejudice and our words as “hate-speech.”

Pope Francis purportedly told the reporter for La Civiltá Cattolica this about gays: “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.” Many would take this to mean that a blind eye can be turned to the homosexual lifestyle. However, I think not. It is neither meritorious nor neutral. It is objectively disordered. Homosexual acts are morally wrong. I have spoken before about the distinction between evil acts and the conditions for sin. Only God can know our standing before him.

My priest friend has really surprised me with his vocal dissent on behalf of those living a homosexual lifestyle. Is he inviting intervention from diocesan authorities. He says that all are welcome at his parish and that includes lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered persons. He announced that they make no distinctions in their activities (for them or for their children).

He is right that we have no window into people’s bedrooms. But we are confessors and we have eyes and ears for what people promote in public. If same-sex partners kiss each other in church, wear the symbolic rainbow colors, sport tee-shirts and hats that promote an agenda… then I would say we know what is going on. It is disingenuous to say otherwise. It is true that we are all sinners. But the Gospel proclamation comes with an admonishment TO REPENT. We need to live our lives in accordance with the moral law. Jesus says that if we love him then we will obey God. The commandments and the moral law are not optional.

He questioned the MARRIAGE MATTERS campaign that was promoted by the Maryland Catholic Conference. I would not go as far, but also suggested that marriage has been in trouble for a long time, given no-fault divorce and rampant cohabitation.  He insists that heterosexual marriage is not threatened by same-sex civil marriages. Would he quietly bless these unions? I do not know. Part of me does not want to know.

There has been a push, first coming from associates of Bai Macfarlane, that the Church should disassociate herself entirely from civil marriages.  They claim it demeans true marriage as a lasting covenant in Christ.  The argument here is that what a secular society understands by marriage is radically different from the Church; thus, we should not confuse them by allowing priests and deacons to officiate or witness marriages as magistrates for the state.  Various countries require two ceremonies, one at the courthouse and another at the church.  Is this the direction in which we want to go?  It is true that same-sex unions and no fault divorce have seriously compromised the matrimonial institution.  I have another priest friend who suggests that we get out of the marrying business entirely.  Since couples marry themselves, he suggests that we let them get to it without involvement or duplication from the Church.  I disagreed.  It seemed to me that something of the understanding of marriage as a sacrament was at stake.

While we have some control over parish facilities, legal challenges have made matters extremely complicated for our Knights of Columbus halls.  Legally, they may be obliged to host receptions for gay marriages.  External symbols associating these buildings with the Knights of Columbus are being removed.  So-called gay marriages cannot be performed in Catholic churches.  We continue to teach in religious education and from the pulpit that marriage is a bond between a man and a woman.

My priest friend blesses homes as I do.  When I do so, I bring a plaque or picture of the Sacred Heart and we consecrate the home to the Lord.  I bless each room, carrying holy water and a crucifix.  I pray that the devil will have no place to hide, either in their lives or in their house.  My associate blesses homes where the residents may be cohabitating or in same-sex relationships.  Here again I have a grievance.  Priests should do nothing to condone sin.  It would do no good to bless such homes because the lifestyles are not conducive to the graces invoked.  This comes very close to blessing the couples themselves.  A house where the matter of mortal sin is regularly practiced stands more under a curse than a blessing.  Every house blessing is a type of minor exorcism.  The home will really be blessed by the faith and good works of the inhabitants.

Some of us wonder if the whole gay marriage movement might be a sham.  I read recently that a number of the first couples who took advantage of law changes in certain states have already filed for divorce.  Homosexuality is renowned for its transitive nature and multiple partners.  Will the Church and bishops change in how we regard it?  I cannot foresee how.

I am not an ogre.  We have homosexuals who struggle with their weaknesses and who display sacrificial love.  They attend Mass and regularly ask for God’s mercy.  I have seen them care for a beloved friend and for their parents in times of sickness and approaching death.  How do we remain resolute to our teachings and not hurt them?  How do we balance orthodoxy with ministerial compassion?  We have our work cut out for us.

The Price of Compromising on Homosexuality

thKID0AXT3A priest friend recently announced that he saw the Church’s way of speaking of those with same-sex attractions as wildly exaggerated, harsh and inaccurate. His assertion deeply bothered me. I am well aware that people have taken offense and even left the Church over the assessment that homosexuals and lesbians are sexually “disordered.” Often the response to this issue or individual revelations, even from pulpits, is a deafening silence. Homosexuality is joining contraception as one of those issues rarely raised from the pulpit. Privately, people increasing accept and love their friends, regardless. Young people not only accept it but see those who do not as bigoted. Older people are generally more judgmental, but often suspend this judgment when the gay person is someone close to them. Silence is no real answer and a fire-and-brimstone sermon will arouse anger and hurt. But the truth is the truth, is it not? My priest friend argues in a way that makes my head hurt. Often I think he is more like the Episcopalians, suggesting compromise on contraception, divorce and remarriage, and now homosexuality. As for myself, I have no desire to cause pain for others; however, I was ordained to speak for Christ and his Church, not for myself. The Bible and the traditions of the Church give a negative verdict to same-sex attraction and activity. While the orientation is problematical, sin only enters the picture with wrongful fantasies and immoral actions.

My priest colleague insists that I am very wrong. There is the unspoken insinuation that he thinks I am slow or a bit dull-witted. He wonders why I cannot see things his way. He argues that we all want to be faithful to Jesus and Jesus was all about bringing the outcast home. He indicts me as doing the opposite, behaving more like a Pharisee. He raises his voice, “Show me even one place in the Gospels where Jesus teaches anything about homosexuality! If it is so important, then why is Jesus absolutely silent about it?” He laments that our Lord spoke forcibly against divorce, but points out that there is nothing on this issue. My mind works differently from his. The Bible is more than the Gospels.  The writings of St. Paul are also part of the New Testament. The whole book is the inspired Word of God. The apostle mentions homosexuality as one of a whole grocery list of sins that would forfeit the kingdom. This is serious language. If this is a sin that can land a person in hell; then how can we truly love them and either permit it or exhibit silence? He spoke as the kids do— “But they love each other! How can love ever be wrong?” Love can be plenty wrong. This was not just love, but physical and sexual behavior. This can be added to love, or express love, but love can be very wrong. You have no right to love another man’s wife. A priest has no right to love and keep a mistress. A man has no right to take another man to bed. The same goes for women with women. They can love as parent and child, as siblings, and as dear platonic friends— but erotic and genital love takes it where has no right to go. My priest friend came right out and said it, throwing aside recent papal teaching and the universal catechism, “As long as the gay couple is living in a loving and committed relationship, there is no sin, nothing is disordered.” This was not a new opinion. I heard it from one of my old professors some thirty years ago, Fr. Charles Curran. This was one of the dissenting views that cost him his license and position at the Catholic University of America.

My position is very different. I would side with my late cousin, Fr. John Harvey, the founder of an organization called COURAGE. These faithful sons and daughters deal with their disorder not by acting out but by embracing a life of celibate love, prayerful meditation and service to the community. We should not pretend that vice is virtue. Rather, we should call our brothers to repentance, conversion and heroic discipleship.

It is true that a person should not be judged by one element of his life. However, the activists themselves are the ones who raise their orientation as the singular marker for their identity. An orientation and lifestyle is redrafted as a basic expression of who they are and as something protected by civil rights laws. When you say “hate the sin” but “love the sinner,” they get mad and take it personally. They make no demarcation between their sexuality and how they are accepted as persons. They are wrong to do this but it has become an effective tool for manipulating people and institutions in our society. When it comes to the Catholic Church, though, they bust their heads against a stone wall. Everyone else is giving in, but the Church still says that “what they do” is wrong. What they hear from the Church is “who you are” is wrong. I suspect my brother priest left his guard down to this sort of control tactic. They seek to turn the guilt back on us so that the Church will give in. While we can show special compassion to individuals, I see no way for Catholicism to backtrack on this.

Women Bishops – The Lights Go Out for Anglicanism

5f0c3e5657ed3b8229685eac8a081987The General Synod of the Church of England voted on Monday to consecrate priestesses as women bishops. Well, there’s the nail to the coffin for the home of Anglicanism. Ecumenism with them will be restricted to soup kitchens, sharing contributions from C.S, Lewis, and appreciation for perfecting the English language. The bridges have been burned to most else. Since women cannot be ordained in truth, this makes arguments about their Masses and the Eucharist mute. Fake priests can only give you a counterfeit Holy Communion. When it came to morality, our ships passed in the night a long time ago. They disregard both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, wrongly approving homosexuality and dismissing the indissolubility of marriage. Abortion is reduced to a personal choice, far from the Catholic stance that sees it as an assault upon the heart of the Gospel of Life. Their last convention in the States could only agree about how terrible landmines were, as if that is a big issue in suburbia. This is what happens when morality collapses and an “everything goes” mentality takes over. Public opinion and modernity is given preference over divine revelation. Instead of obedience to God, the human becomes the measure of all things— and people are fickle and frequently wrong. The Orthodox churches are lamenting that years of work toward a common faith and even levels of recognition have been thrown upon the garbage heap. Anglicanism, except as a small group received by the Holy See, is destined not to be counted as a branch of the apostolic and “catholic” family of churches. The “reapproachment” with them since Vatican II is now a dismal failure because the Anglicanism of even half a century ago no longer exists. It has been replaced by a mutated structure that will continue to devolve and crumble. Australian Anglicans are arguing that priests might be optional and that the laity can offer the Mass. Fragmented, one segment fights with another, and there is no contemporary pretense of a world Anglican order. Certain traditionalists among them refused the offer of Pope Benedict XVI, hoping to rebuild with a union of conservative African bishops. But how long will it be until modernity will invade that new structure? Ironically, some of them attack the Anglicans who accepted the special offer from the Pope in becoming Catholics. They still buy the prejudices against Rome which were initially an element of their split. Catholicism has its dissenters; but they will have no official weight in the practice of our sacraments and doctrines. The accidentals may change, as with language, but the deposit of faith is safe and sound. As for the Anglicans, could they even agree as to what this deposit consists?

The Anglicans feel that immutable doctrine can be changed by ballot. Here is the vote approving women bishops:

  • House of Bishops: 37 to 2 with 1 abstention
  • House of Clergy: 162 to 25 with 4 abstentions
  • House of Laity: 52 to 45 with 5 abstentions

This move goes against the teachings and pattern passed down from Jesus. There was no woman among the twelve apostles. Jesus did not worry about stereotypes. But this one, he did not break. It was God’s will. Anglicans no longer care. I guess they would say that Jesus was wrong. Of course, this change was anticipated. A long time in the mix, the first ingredient was added back in 1994 when they began ordaining women as priestesses (women priests). Error breeds error. The United States made a woman its chief Episcopalian bishop some years ago, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Before her they elected their first gay bishop. Australian, New Zealand, and Canada also have women bishops. The show continues but it no longer matters. They can wear their pointy hats and play-act all they want— these women are neither true priests nor bishops. Both Orthodoxy and Catholicism are in agreement here. There is no third tier to the Church. Without a valid hierarchy, there can be no true priests. If there is no priesthood, then there can be no Eucharist (sacrifice of propitiation and real presence). If there is no Eucharist, the ecclesial community is not really a CHURCH.  End of Story

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