Father Joe, what is your take on Father Bob Pierson?
I had heard of him but had not followed the recent business about his ten minute statement that went viral attacking the initiative supported by the U.S. bishops in opposition to so-called same-sex marriages.
What the priest fails to appreciate is that conscience must be properly informed. Freedom of conscience is not relative moral license. Otherwise, the cause of conscience could be rallied not only for homosexuality but also for other evils like polygamy, bestiality and pederasty. Rather, true liberty comes with an orientation to that which is true and good. Obedience to divine positive law (as revealed in the Church through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition) and natural law (as ascertained through the right use of reason to the objective order) makes us truly free. The commission of sin and immoral acts brings not freedom but spiritual bondage.
The priest in the video takes statements from the Church and churchmen out of context, much as a fundamentalist minister might from the Bible to support his claims. Cardinal Ratzinger, i.e. the Pope, has certainly always taught about the obligation in following conscience; however, he has likewise insisted that homosexuality is a serious sexual disorientation and that the commission of genital acts associated with it are intrinsically immoral.
Notice that he quotes Cardinal Hume who wrote, “Love between two persons, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected.” His quote came in the context of a larger statement in the UK on the homosexual question. While it is certainly permissible to exhibit fraternal and platonic love, as in most friendships, it would be wrong to equate these words with sexual activity and or anal or oral sex. This is another instance where the priest’s remarks are deliberately deceptive. He is well educated and knows what he is doing. This makes him all the more culpable.
Father Pierson is selective in his quotes from the universal catechism. Note that he does not read from CCC #1601: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
Although he attempts to bracket off sacramental marriage in the Church from civilly recognized marriages, such is only a shallow ploy to avoid personal censure and to elicit support from normally orthodox Catholics. The way that society views marriage informs and spills over into how the faithful understand the sacrament of marriage. Indeed, he, himself, is a staff member in an organization where a Protestant minister and an ex-Catholic bless same-sex unions. Understood in this light, Father Pierson is not only promoting immorality but is taking a heretical position toward one of the seven sacraments of the Church.
The speaker acknowledges that Pope Benedict XVI has declared that homosexuals should not be accepted as candidates for the priesthood. Father Pierson has “come out” that he is a homosexual who opposes Church teaching. We can only hope that he has kept his promise of celibacy. Regardless, he now ridicules the Holy Father and takes a scandalous position against the U.S. bishops and the Marriage Matters campaign. I should add, however, that marriage was threatened long before this issue of so-called same-sex marriage. Marriage was imperiled by growing rates of promiscuity, cohabitation, contraception, adultery, divorce (especially the no-fault variety), and remarriage outside the Church.
Father Pierson had resigned from his post as director of campus ministry after the Vatican officially barred men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from ordination, and because of associated issues in the Church’s faith and moral teaching. “Because I can no longer honestly represent, explain and defend the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, I feel I must resign,” he said. It was also rumored that he was forced out, as he should have been, to avoid further intervention from higher-ups.
His local bishop, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis has strenuously promoted the amendment in opposition to so-called same-sex marriage. He required parishioners in the archdiocese to recite A Prayer for Marriage as part of the General Intercessions at Masses. The U.S. bishops have been very clear in their opposition. Marriage is only genuine if it is between a MAN and a WOMAN.
Back in 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger, writing for the Vatican, made a statement for correction and support of a letter promulgated by the American bishops. Father Pierson selectively quoted him, but strangely and dishonestly, not this statement which speaks to the question at hand.
Follow this link for the statement:
ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS
“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder…. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally.”
“To choose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator’s sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent….”
“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”
“But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.”
Father Bob Pierson, O.S.B. should be disciplined by his Benedictine order. He has caused scandal and given rise to public dissent from the Church. His faculties to function as a priest should be revoked or curtailed. As a man under ecclesial obedience, he should either publicly recant his dissent or face immediate dismissal. A priest who recommends mortal sin is no longer aligned with Christ. Even if he should be demented or ignorant, he is now on the side of the evil one.
Father Joe, I agree with everything you said, albeit except for maybe one small clarification. You write, “Understood in this light, Father Pierson is not only promoting immorality but is taking a heretical position toward one of the seven sacraments of the Church.” Father Bob would disagree as he was careful to differentiate between civil marriages, which are all “outside the Church” and the Church does not recognize anyway and “sacramental” marriages within the Church. Thus, Father Bob would argue that his voting NO on banning same sex “marriage” has nothing to do with Church teaching on sacramental marriage.
I completely agree this priest should be disciplined severely. But will he be? Almost certainly not, and this is the primary reason for our current crisis. Dietrich Von Hildebrand called it the “Lethargy of the Guardians” as far back as the 70’s. We have suffered under the complete unwillingness of ecclesiastical authority since Vatican II to discipline clerics and bishops for egregious sins against doctrine and the faith. What makes it worse is that the same ecclesiastical authority DOES discipline and bring the hammer down for breaking procedural rules/canon laws that have nothing to do with heresy or doctrine. This sets up a practice which lessens the credibility of the bishops who selectively punish lesser offenses while allowing the most egregious publicly scandalous statements from dissenting priests to go unpunished.
I would dare say it is a sin for this man’s bishop or superior not to discipline him in some way, including at minimum, silencing him on this issue to at least minimize further scandal. Will it happen? I’m willing to bet you a shiny nickel it will not. And it is a slap in the face to you and other good priests who would be punished in a second if you did something like deny Holy Communion to a practicing Lesbian Buddhist who introduced you to her “lover” in the sacristy before Mass.
The priest has a track record beyond the video. (I have not directly linked the video, only a strong critique. Those who want to see it can Google the liberal propaganda.)
He recognizes same-sex marriages as valid, both civilly and in the eyes of God. What confuses the issue is that he denies that there has to be concurrence or approbation from the “institutional” Church. I do not have proof, but like some of his Episcopalian liberals, he would love to bless (and maybe has) these unions. He is a regular speaker at gay-lesbian conventions. Remember, too, that priests are only allowed to witness marriages in the U.S. that are also civilly recognized. We function as both civil magistrates and as ministers of the Church. This is not the case in many countries where Catholic couples are required to endure two ceremonies. Such only happens in the U.S. when there is a convalidation.
I should add, that the Church generally recognizes civil marriages between spouses who are not Catholic. If they are legitimately baptized, then there may be a sacramental character as well. Indeed, if there is a divorce and a desire to marry a Catholic, they would have to pursue a formal case annulment with no guarantees of success. Now we will further have to clarify that we do not recognize adulterous marriages or feigned same-sex marriages. I suspect, given the pressure from the Obama administration, that clergy will eventually have to forfeit their civil authority over marriages in order to distinguish the sacramental covenant from the civil legal contract. Once the definition of marriage diverges, we cannot be party to something in which we do not believe. This may already be happening in light of no fault divorce. I would also not be surprised if the government should seek to compel clergy to witness same-sex marriages. The rights of the Church are very much threatened. I pray that our bishops and priests will have the courage to face fines and imprisonment. The latter is quite possible, if the Church’s stand against homosexuality should be judged as a violation of civil rights laws and as hate-speech.
Further, the priest has been involved in the Catholic gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual community. He knows full well the canonical restraints upon Catholics and does not care. All this is to say that the video is deceptive propaganda. He is a liar. Even when he throws out crumbs of feigned respect to Church discipline, they are lies. If you are familiar with his work in Collegeville, then you would know that he also rejects the “proles” (open to human generation) element that is essential to the covenant of marriage. He literally believes that anal intercourse consummates the bond. It is in light of all this that I said that he is a heretic regarding the sacrament of marriage.
In regards to disciplinary measures, they may actually be in the works. Had he been a secular or diocesan priest matters might have been easier. The Benedictines tend to protect their own and have a rather progressive track record in his particular community. One of them (Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB) recently attacked the corrected translation of the Mass at the national Call to Action convention. They also honored the Lesbian Buddhist-Catholic you mentioned and the pro-abortion Catholic Maryland governor was also in attendance. There are a lot of trouble-makers to go around these days.
Orthodox and traditional churchmen have a higher capacity for suffering in that they love the Church and seek to be obedient while the other side really does not care; liberal breakaway groups, as with Archbishop Milingo and Washington’s own Father George Stallings, were also censured and even faced excommunication. In this sense, there is some parallel. I suspect that many in the Church find the contemporary situation almost overwhelming given the pervasive dissent. During this silent and not so silent schism, there is also the worry that the wrong action might lead the ignorant or weak of faith out of the Church. You are right, not all shepherds are to be trusted. But we must also be careful NOT to spread calumny and to hurt good men who are doing their best.
Pope Benedict XVI seems to be hoping that attrition and orthodox replacements among the clergy might hold the answer. My worry is that he, himself, is not a young man. I have found an almost uncharitable delight in how Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the new Ordinary for San Francisco is making the gay establishment squirm and fret. They were pouting the other day because he outlawed drag queens at fundraisers! Really?
Again, do not be fooled. He might say that “…for committed, same-sex couples is not the Sacrament of Matrimony,” but he really does see it as analogous. Remember, sexual activity outside of marriage is a mortal sin. There is nothing equivalent to it. As a priest he knows this. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth. The Bishops are right on this one. So-called same-sex marriages are indeed a threat to the genuine covenant of marriage, natural or sacramental. There is no loop-hole or escape clause that would allow Catholics to support institutional sodomy.
Thanks for the background. In this video he seems to take the stance of…”who cares what the state of MN deems as ‘marriage’ since the Church only recognizes sacramental marriages anyway?” He argues the flip side of religious freedom by stating that the Church should not dictate to the state how it defines “marriage” as civil and Church marriages are separate entities and (in his mind) serve different purposes.
The secular sphere in the public forum would not appreciate marriage as a sacrament. Rather, the point of intersection between the Church and state is the traditional view of marriage as a “natural bond.” The growing division between the Church’s view of marriage, as well as that of natural law, is the reason why someone like Bai Macfarlane has campaigned heavily for traditional marriage and against no fault divorce. Some of her supporters would claim that the conflict or opposition between the civil and ecclesial view of marriage has reached a breaking point, in both the heterosexual orientation and its permanence. They argue that clergy should opt out entirely from working within the system. They suggest that the priest who witnesses any marriage for the state has corrupted (by association) the Catholic understanding. This argument becomes even more defensible if society should formally equate same-sex unions with heterosexual marriages. While priests will not officiate at the feigned marriages of homosexuals and lesbians; will the truth be compromised by our continuing partnership with government in witnessing marriages and signing civil licenses? But what is the alternative? Priests in Europe and Asia often find that in the dual ceremony-system, couples tend to cohabitate if there is any extended duration between the vows before a judge and those before a priest.
The priest errs seriously, by his own admission, for failing to fault the homosexual lifestyle as sinful. Indeed, he seems to praise and to encourage the commission of evil. People of the same gender can be friends but they cannot be spouses. A legal fiction will not make it so.
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