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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Question 5 – Extraordinary Synod on the Family

5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex

a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

Yes, such is the case in many states and the Bishops and the Maryland Catholic Conference lost the fight in Maryland despite an aggressive Marriage Matters campaign.

b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

There is a real culture war and increased tension between conservative and liberal churches. Prince George’s is heavily Democratic and yet the voters just barely opposed the same-sex legislation. However, the high numbers in favour in other areas like Baltimore and Montgomery County carried the day for those proposing same-sex marriages. The Black churches leaned against the proposal while the liberal white churches and reformed synagogues were in favour. The Episcopal churches also largely supported the change.

c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

That is the question right now, is it not? The Pope’s assertion about who is he to judge has fuelled speculation of a shift in attitude in the Catholic Church toward homosexuals. My late cousin (Fr. John Harvey) was the founder of COURAGE, an organization that urged homosexuals to embrace celibate love, service to others and prayer. He took a great deal of ridicule from the renegade DIGNITY group that argued for the acceptance of homosexual acts. We can urge them to go regularly to confession and Mass. But it seems to me that we cannot rubberstamp sin. Complicating the issue, homosexuals identify themselves chiefly by their orientation. Thus they reject the “hate the sin but love the sinner” scenario. They contend that if you judge “how they love” then you judge them and that this is hate speech.

d) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

Boston and Washington, DC shut down their adoption services. What else can we do? I fail to see how we might deliberately place children into homosexual and lesbian households. There may be no pastoral answer that suffices. Having said this, other organizations are going to make this happen. Lesbians are also going to get themselves inseminated (they often abort male children). If they come to us it seems that we should reach out to them with compassion and understanding of human weakness and the need for love. Life is messy and we may have to get our hands dirty. Some situations are going to defy correction or fixing. News stories of parochial schools firing lesbian teachers or expelling children with “two daddies or two mommies” only seems to make matters worse. But how should we proceed?

Question 6 – Extraordinary Synod on the Family

6. The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages

a) What is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents in these cases, as regards children who are born and raised in regularly constituted families?

This is essentially a census question. “Married straight couples with families now make up less than half of U.S. households, marking the first time the group has dropped below 50 percent since census data on families was first collected in 1940.” This is quite a jump. Out of the additional 11 million households since 2000, traditional husband-wife family households now comprise just 48 percent. The majority of homes have a single head, nonrelated persons and solitary residents. While other groupings have gone up, husband-wife homes went down by 5 percent.

Women are increasing leading households and/or living alone. The number of unmarried women heads among black Americans was 30 percent, three times higher than other ethnic groups. “Unmarried straight couples living together increased by 40.2 percent between 2000 and 2010, four times the national average. That’s still no comparison to the rise in the number of same-sex couples living together, which grew 80.4 percent over the same period.”

Today more couples cohabitate than are married and over 40 percent of all births are illegitimate. Many children are also being raised by one parent. The incidence of single African-American mothers is so high it has become a stereotype.

b) How do parents in these situations approach the Church? What do they ask? Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis and the general teaching of religion?

There are many children not receiving the sacraments or catechesis. Priests are not always receptive to such families when they request the sacraments for their children. I know priests who refuse to baptize babies if the parents are not married in the Church. It has angered them that I will do so. I admonish the family to get married and to live a Christian life. I tell them that baptism is not the end of something but the beginning. They are urged to witness and to share the faith. If they promise to try, and only God knows if they lie, then I will baptize the child. However, I will not baptize an illegitimate child at Mass, only in a separate service. Sometimes there is a residual faith that moves them to make the request. There might also be guilt. Grandparents might also be exerting pressure. This can become complicated when parents do not share the Catholic faith. What do you do when a Jewish or Moslem father threatens legal action should the mother get the child baptized or bring him to Mass for first communion? I took some heat a few years ago for baptizing a child who belonged to a lesbian couple. A homosexual neighbour donated the semen for one of the party’s insemination. This little girl was being raised with “two mommies.” The grandparents begged me to help. I talked to the ladies and made it clear that the Church could not and would not recognize their lifestyle. I then asked if they would pledge themselves to regular Sunday Mass attendance (without taking Holy Communion) and to raising their little girl in the Catholic faith? They said YES and the grandparents assisted. I did not want to punish the child for the parents’ sins. I baptized her. She has since attended Catholic schools, although the grandfather has passed away.

There are way too many cases where children attend catechesis simply so that they might get the sacraments. There is even a joke about it. “Confirmation is the sacrament you receive before leaving the Church.” The kids can be blunt about it. They want to get over with it. How do we set parents and youth afire with love for Christ?

c) How do the particular Churches attempt to meet the needs of the parents of these children to provide them with a Christian education?

Like so many questions in this survey, any answer given must stretch or correct the question. First, many parents are no longer even asking the basic questions of meaning, do not identify with any institutional church and are not concerned about the religious instruction of children. Second, those who are interested frequently want to minimize the impact and time involved with any religious formation. Everything else takes priority. Third, since only a very few Catholic students might be given entry into parochial schools, one would think that the emphasis would be upon parish catechesis. However, the opposite is true. Catholic school children are treated as the elite and the rest are the poor step-children. Millions of dollars go to the schools and scraps are given to parish programs. The Church does not invest proportional time, money or resources to children outside our parochial schools. Sacramental schedules follow the school year regardless of children who must get along with an hour a week of religion. We confirm children in eighth grade because that is when they leave Catholic grammar schools; and yet, the process is mostly mechanical regardless of preparedness. Efforts to raise the age for confirmation to tenth grade are struck down because such would take jurisdiction away from the Catholic school system and place it back in parish programs open to all children. Catholic schools are valuable but are becoming too expensive for many poor and immigrant Catholic families. This is causing an irony where well-to-do non-Catholics are attending parochial schools to bypass a failing public school system while Catholic children are excluded for financial reasons. This compromises the basic mission of our parishes and schools.

d) What is the sacramental practice in these cases: preparation, administration of the sacrament and the accompaniment?

Children from school and parish-based programs are lumped together for sacraments. No reconciliation is made of the fact that some get religion five days a week and the rest only once a week for an hour. As soon as the child reaches a certain age and grade they are given first communion or confirmation. Children get first confession and Holy Communion but then drop from religious education programs until junior high years. Young teens get confirmed and then, along with parents, disappear from the pews. I know this sounds terribly cynical but it is the common experience to which many pastors and catechists can attest.

Efforts that focus upon collaboration with parents suffer from the poor formation of adults who are neither informed nor motivated to assist with religious studies and homework.

Question 7 – Extraordinary Synod on the Family

7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life

a) What knowledge do Christians have today of the teachings of Humanae vitae on responsible parenthood? Are they aware of how morally to evaluate the different methods of family planning? Could any insights be suggested in this regard pastorally?

When was the last time the average Catholic heard a homily on Humanae vitae? We had a Dominican priest speak about it here at Holy Family Parish a few years ago and I got a letter of complaint and another one went to the Archdiocese. The dissenters count on silence and threaten to hold back financial support otherwise. Many priests also dissent (although they are an aging group) and one told me to my face that he assured penitents that taking the pill was responsible parenthood and not a sin. I chastised him in private and when he refused to change his errant ways I reported him to the Archdiocese. What happened? Nothing, he remained in place with a good size parish and school until he died a year ago. All most people know about the teaching is what the news media and biased family and friends tell them. Kids often stop taking catechesis in eighth grade and the more complicated topics like birth control are not age appropriate. Do our marriage preparation efforts bring it up? Humanae vitae requires a basic shared appreciation of Christian anthropology: the nature and purpose of the conjugal act, a respect for the dignity of persons, acknowledgment for the design of the Creator and his providence, and the inseparability of union and an openness to procreation. A general shallowness makes it difficult or impossible for many people to comprehend the Church’s argument. While fidelity was once procured because of a profound sense of duty and obedience; such comes across today as arbitrary and overly complicated. We cannot blindly trust in a deontology toward authority when Church leadership has been compromised and maligned. High school and young adult catechesis has to be broadened and made attractive. There is just no way to communicate a cohesive understanding of human personhood and values to children and disinterested adolescents. A grade-school catechesis does not prepare Catholic adults for responding as people of faith in the modern world.

b) Is this moral teaching accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching?

Do we even have to ask this question? The teaching is broadly rejected. Contraception is the easy way out and now with the HHS Mandate, it is free. Ours society takes pills for everything. We are conditioned to be pill takers. NFP would demand a degree of responsibility and abstinence that some find difficult. Not only are we dealing with sexual addiction, but there is a basic disconnect between the marital act and having babies. Fertility is increasing looked upon as a disease and pregnancy is the expensive curse that results. Contraception permits irresponsibility and the treatment of bodies as toys for recreation. The dignity of the human person is undermined.

c) What natural methods are promoted by the particular Churches to help spouses put into practice the teachings of Humanae vitae?

Various forms of NFP are promoted. Critics often confuse them with the older form of Rhythm which often failed because it wrongly treated all female cycles as the same.

d) What is your experience on this subject in the practice of the Sacrament of Penance and participation at the Eucharist?

Some would throw in my face that Father So-&-So said it was okay. At one time there was some debate. However, now it is almost never mentioned. They have been told that it is all up to their consciences. Of course, the clergy who told them this neglected to mention the need for a properly formed conscience. I doubt that many would even understand the meaning of a dynamic Christian conscience. It needs to be formed in such a way that any judgment made conforms to the truth and respects the Church. The same can be said about the Eucharist. Almost everyone receives, even those in bad marriages and in serious sin.

e) What differences are seen in this regard between the Church’s teaching and civic education?

The Church still generally teaches the orthodox position, but not everywhere. I know one girls’ high school where the religious sister said that she could not formally teach them about contraception but she could pass around a picture book (for educational purposes) with all the available forms of birth control imaged. Civic education is at least more honest, even if more hostile to the faith. Not only is artificial contraception taught, but condoms and similar services are rendered to students. Indeed, my public high school (Suitland, MD) regularly had the school nurse walking kids down to the local abortion clinic during our one hour lunch break. There is also disagreement on other topics like homosexuality and what constitutes tolerance.

f) How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?

Such can only be promoted if Catholics themselves are willing to be a real sign of contradiction. I know one couple with five or six children who are even harassed by parents and siblings for having “too many children.” They argue the economic issue and a lifestyle they are sacrificing. They speak about the environment and accuse them of being selfish for placing such an increased burden upon an already crowded world. Instead of converting the world, Catholics are increasingly trying to live traditional values within a self-imposed ghetto of like-minded “home-schooling” friends. Meanwhile, pressure is building to force them and others to conform to the contemporary hedonism. Benefits are being stripped from those who refuse to attend traditional schools. This has often landed families and home-schooling organizations in the courts. Some jurisdictions have attempted to outlaw home-schooling or to interfere with the curriculum. Is there a way to encourage larger and more faithful families without resorting to an isolation that might later make us more vulnerable to a hostile society? It seems to me that proper formation must come along with an aggressive evangelization. The Catholic/Christian message must be given its place in the public forum. That would also include the usage of all the modern technological ways that people communicate, today.

Question 8 – Extraordinary Synod on the Family

8. The Relationship between the Family and the Person

a) Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person. How can the family be a privileged place for this to happen?

While Catholic teachings are often reduced to negativity or what couples cannot do, the Church actually speaks to the dignity of persons and our calling as disciples:

“Finally, let the spouses themselves, made to the image of the living God and enjoying the authentic dignity of persons, be joined to one another in equal affection, harmony of mind and the work of mutual sanctification. Thus, following Christ who is the principle of life, by the sacrifices and joys of their vocation and through their faithful love, married people can become witnesses of the mystery of love which the Lord revealed to the world by His dying and His rising up to life again” (GS 52).

While the institution of marriage and family life has weathered many social changes; there are still wonderful and moving examples of living out our discipleship in the modern world. Our people do not deal well with disconnected dogmatism and lack the jargon for theological discourse. What they need are inspiring stories where people of faith witness the Gospel. At the same time we must be wary that there are social and political forces around us that are neither sympathetic to either divine-positive or natural law nor desirous of real dialogue or collaboration with the Church. They would force our hands and redefine for us both faith and family. The task before us is how we might effectively (and not in a belligerent manner) promote the sanctity of life, exclusive heterosexual marriage and the importance of permanence in regard to promises. Again, I would recommend testimonies where we see exemplified mutual respect and unconditional love.

b) What critical situations in the family today can obstruct a person’s encounter with Christ?

The situations are numerous but would include: lack of prayer or knowing how to pray; absence from the Sunday observance; extended 6 to 7 day work weeks, even Sunday; poor formation and general religious ignorance; negative influences which overwhelm Church formation; the substitution of technology for immediate human and family contact; a hostile media; lacklustre sermons and unhappy or disinterested priests, etc.

c) To what extent do the many crisis of faith which people can experience affect family life?

The critical situations are epidemic. Father Peyton, “the Rosary priest,” always insisted that “the family that prays together stays together.” Families need to be the “little Church” where people learn about Jesus, say their prayers and participate weekly at Mass together. Most families today are lapsed from the Sunday Mass. Parents are not reading bible stories or the tales of the saints to their children. The television becomes the new tabernacle where minds and hearts are directed away from the Lord. Preaching is never heard but thousands upon thousands of secular messages flood the senses in programing and commercials. Computers and the internet is another challenge. Hours are spent with the new media but only a few seconds or no time at all is given to prayer or in quality family life. Adding to the challenge is a general religious ignorance. The new evangelization has already focused on this concern but too many of our people have yet to be reached. Do our people really have a personal and corporate relationship with Jesus Christ? Do husbands see themselves as intimately connected to Christ as the priests of their homes? Do wives view themselves in light of the mystery of Mary and the Church? Do they see the child as a great gift and as a reflection of the Christ Child? We have our work cut out for us.

Question 1 – Extraordinary Synod on the Family

The following series of questions allows the particular Churches to participate actively in the preparation of the Extraordinary Synod, whose purpose is to proclaim the Gospel in the context of the pastoral challenges facing the family today.

1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium

a) Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et spes, Familiaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?

There is not much in the way of workshops or seminars on family life or values. People are sometimes challenged by preaching but there is also a deafening silence from certain quarters. The popular media used to reinforce the Christian view of family but this is no longer the case. People are more formed by the secular culture than by the Church. Its interpretation of the family is increasingly open-ended and non-traditional. Those who attempt to restrict any definition of marriage and family are regarded as hateful and bigoted.

Priests and other professional “religious” people might know something of Vatican II documents and papal teachings, but many or most of the laity would not even be able to identify the titles. Except for Marriage Preparation, youth catechesis and preaching, there are probably few opportunities to form people in the Church’s understanding of family life. As for the Bible, there is widespread dissent upon issues like homosexuality and premarital sex. People either ignore the teachings or only view them in the negative sense, i.e. what is forbidden, not what is worthwhile. Indeed, given the clerical pederast scandals, the bishops and priests are not given much credibility as teachers on human sexuality. Even the more respectful are quick to object that celibate priests should tell husbands and wives what they can and cannot do in the bedroom. Many feel that we have lost the fight over artificial contraception and need to move on. Of course, the problem that arises is that of the proverbial slippery slope. Disconnect marriage from procreation and one immediately finds an increase in fornication, cohabitation, homosexual liaisons, and the plight of abortion. Indeed, our people fail to see how a contraceptive mentality is the handmaid to abortion.

A difficulty that many have with biblical teachings is that our Holy Book cannot be used as a clear manual of the moral life. Catholics do not know how to read Scripture in a contextual way. That is one of the reasons why anti-Catholic apologists are often effective with the use of so-called “isolated” proof texts. Our Lord had to deal with this problem over the matter of divorce. He argues that such was not the way it was supposed to be. He explains that Moses allowed divorce because of the “hardness of their hearts.” Thus, the polygamy, use of handmaidens as mistresses and the writ of divorce that we find among Old Testament patriarchs has no binding force upon the consciences of Christians. Everything is interpreted in light of the mystery that is Christ. Turning to the New Testament, many misconstrue the headship of the husband and father as culturally conditioned and not having any permanent value. Others might claim it as support for a dictatorial male role in the family. The Church would rightly speak of the value of both the head (husband/father) and the heart (wife/mother). A body cannot live without either a head or a heart.

Gaudium et spes, may be Vatican II teaching, but we all know how the nebulous “spirit” of the Council has been allowed over the past half-century to supplant genuine and timeless truths taught by the Council fathers. While most in the pews would be ignorant of the document itself; that is not to say that there has been no influence (one way or another) by preaching in light of it. The Council certainly appreciated the problems facing families, many of which are far worse today:

“Yet the excellence of this institution is not everywhere reflected with equal brilliance, since polygamy, the plague of divorce, so-called free love and other disfigurements have an obscuring effect. In addition, married love is too often profaned by excessive self-love, the worship of pleasure and illicit practices against human generation. Moreover, serious disturbances are caused in families by modern economic conditions, by influences at once social and psychological, and by the demands of civil society. Finally, in certain parts of the world problems resulting from population growth are generating concern” (GS #47). Redefinitions of marriage would not respect the teaching that “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children” (GS #50).

While the institution of marriage and family life has weathered many social changes; those changes today direct target the family for mutation into an analogous but different type of reality.

Many were enamoured by Pope John Paul II’s personal charm and his role in the collapse of Soviet communism; nevertheless, there remains a disconnect with Familiaris consortio and his depiction of Christian womanhood in another encyclical. He nails on the head the problem we face; however, only a piece-meal treatment is given to his writings and speeches by the media. The media, and even many religious teachers, feel that people are unable or unwilling to comprehend the middle-term or argumentation for the Church’s stances. Many favour contraception but few have ever read or could explain even one contention made in Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. Instead, they parrot the so-called experts (really dissenters) who have explored the matters for them. The people then move in the direction of least resistance. They also tend to favour the prejudices of parents and peers who are also more formed by the world than by the Gospel. Pope John Paul II writes: “On the one hand, in fact, there is a more lively awareness of personal freedom and greater attention to the quality of interpersonal relationships in marriage, to promoting the dignity of women, to responsible procreation, to the education of children. There is also an awareness of the need for the development of interfamily relationships, for reciprocal spiritual and material assistance, the rediscovery of the ecclesial mission proper to the family and its responsibility for the building of a more just society. On the other hand, however, signs are not lacking of a disturbing degradation of some fundamental values: a mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality” (FC #6). This is still where matters stand. Freedom or choice is apparently made the supreme value and yet the license for some can become the bondage for others. We see this with the government intrusion into the business of churches and the question of religious liberty. The primacy instead should be upon human dignity and objective moral values.

Do couples today even wonder about God’s plan for them in Christian marriage?

Do they see the marriage analogy of Christ and his Church as reflecting any value in their relationships?

Are children seen as the fruit of love and the gift of God, or rather as an accident of passion and a disease to be either medicated away or surgically extracted?

Given that sexual expression outside marriage is now regarded as a rite of becoming, how do we safeguard fidelity in marriage and the value of virginity?.

b) In those cases where the Church’s teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?

Is Church teaching really known anywhere or just caricatures of it? As with the commandments, there are a lot of perceived “thou shalt not’s” but not so many affirmative values about the intrinsic goodness and objective qualities of marriage and family. Easy divorce and remarriage, a predominate cohabitation and the mainstreaming of fornication has polluted the waters of popular opinion. The Church is viewed as backward. Traditional families are increasing squeezed into a social ghetto.

c) How widespread is the Church’s teaching in pastoral programs at the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis is done on the family?

Catechesis is reserved to certain stages of life: catechesis for children, RCIA for adults, pre-Cana for engaged couples and maybe baptismal preparation classes for parents with babies. Bible studies rarely focus upon the subject, at least not at length. What other catechesis is there?

d) To what extent — and what aspects in particular — is this teaching actually known, accepted, rejected and/or criticized in areas outside the Church? What are the cultural factors which hinder the full reception of the Church’s teaching on the family?

What do people actually know? It is simple: a man and woman come together and have a baby. They may or may not be married. The man might not even stick around. Of course, with same sex-unions, there is also the increase of adoption and artificial insemination for lesbians. Grandparents also often raise grandchildren when the parents are too busy or do not care to embrace their responsibilities. Two-thirds of our people no longer go to church, so faith is a minimal factor. People look to the liberal media which is largely uninformed about religious questions. Instead of positive witnessing, self-conceited celebrities from television, movies, music and sports are worshipped by fans. The Church’s message often gets lost.

Phil Robertson & St. Paul Banned from A&E Network

A&E says it is a supporter of the LGBT community and will not tolerate a negative view about homosexuality.  Because of this, Phil Robertson is no longer welcome on the show “Duck Dynasty” and has been cast out from his television family.  But what the network is really saying is that upon this issue there can be no freedom of speech and that while gays are welcome, traditional Christians are NOT.

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We should not go out of our way to be mean-spirited or hateful; but the issue here is with inspired Scripture and Christianity.  The faith and God’s Word might challenge us on many subjects.  We might personally have hoped that Scripture or Church teaching were different on this or that subject.  But the creature cannot dictate to the Creator what should or should not be.

What the article should have been labeled is this:  “St. Paul Banned from A&E for His Homophobic Remarks!” Or, to take it one step forward,

MSN News – ‘Duck Dynasty’ star suspended over anti-gay comments

The Raw Story –  Conservatives rally around suspended ‘Duck Dynasty’ star

FOX News – A&E suspends ‘Duck Dynasty’s’ Phil Robertson

NBC – Catholic Governor Defends Robertson

“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson has been suspended from the A&E reality series, following anti-gay remarks he made in an interview with GQ magazine.

Robertson caused controversy with his comments, in which he grouped gays with “drunks” and “terrorists,” and said that they won’t “inherit the kingdom of God.”

Asked what he considered sinful, Robertson told the magazine, “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine,” he said in the interview. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

New American Bible (Catholic Translation):

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Romans 1:26-27

“Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.”

1 Timothy 1:8-11

“We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law, with the understanding that law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly, the godless and sinful, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”

Abuse & the Fourth Commandment

Lynne asked questions about the fourth commandment, honoring your father and mother.  I offered a brief response.

1.  Father, can you kindly explain the fourth commandment in regards to parents who are abusive, not necessarily physically, but mentally or spiritually? 

2. How does one actually honor such parents?

If parents are honored then they must be honorable. No one can be obliged to suffer abuse or to be party to sin. While the commandment urges obedience to parents, it also demands that parents should be moral and nurturing in their relations with offspring.

Originally the commandment was addressed more to adults than to parents. God let his people know that we have obligations to parents as they grow older. Just as they cared for us, we should look to their needs when time and sickness should reduce their resources and abilities.

Mental and spiritual abuse should be regarded seriously, just as we would visible physical abuse. However, parents are within their rights to demand upright moral behavior and proper religious formation of the young. As long as offspring live under the roof of their parents, there is a certain level of subservience to them. That is why adults move out and start their own lives. Similarly, elderly parents who live with their children may have to tolerate how things are done differently in their homes.

 

The Marriage Crisis

I regularly follow the wisdom on Msgr. Charlie Pope’s blog for the Archdiocese of Washington.  Recently, he posted on the following question:  “In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions of this week, are we coming to a point where we should consider dropping our use of the word “marriage?”  A number of Catholic voices are arguing that we should disengage ourselves both with the word “marriage” and from allowing clergy to function as civil magistrates in witnessing them for the state.  Certainly I am sympathetic with what they hope to accomplish.  However, I am already on the record, from past discussions, as opposed to such a retreat.  Both sides can play word-games.  Towards the end, he poses a second question, “Should the Catholic Bishops disassociate Catholic clergy from civil ‘marriage’ licenses?”  Again, I appreciate the underlying reasoning; we want to avoid guilt by association and giving apparent approbation.  My fear is that any such move would be contrary to a well-ordered or structured society (which is a good in itself).  It would also constitute a retreat that opponents in the public forum would exploit.  It seems to me that our laity would bear the blunt of the suffering and challenge that would come from such a move.

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I am not blind to the dire crisis we face.  It is true that marriage as an institution has been largely redefined by our society.  The movement on behalf of same-sex unions is a case in point; of course, if left unchecked it will not stop there.  Next we will see the return of polygamy.  Despite the many scandals faced by the Church, there are even depraved people pushing for pedophilia and pederasty.  There is already a bizarre effort in Australia for a man to marry his pet goat, the degradation of bestiality.  The U.S. bishops reminded us in their failed initiative that marriage is in trouble.  While I am hesitant to criticize our holy shepherds; the fact is that marriage has been in trouble for some time now and we were largely silent.  Contraception nullifies the consummation of the marital act.  Millions of abortions seek to erase through murder the fruit of marital love.  No-fault divorce allows for quick separations and remarriages.  Prenuptial Agreements insert doubt against the vows and a lack of trust from the very beginning, thus making those marriages null-and–void.  Couples fornicate and cohabitate, essentially saying that you do not have to be married to have sex.  Well, when you separate sex and marriage, you also set the stage for infidelity and adultery.  Once sex is disconnected from marriage it is very hard to reattach it with any kind of necessity.  Our society is saturated by an erotic and pornographic media that destroys courtship and sexualizes relationships.  This dilemma is so pervasive that the inner person has lost any sense of propriety or decency.  Viagra gives the old stamina to neglect their coming judgment and condoms give the young license under the illusion of protection.  Wedding dresses that once expressed modesty and femininity are increasing replaced with skimpy gowns akin to those on television dance contests.  Ours is the generation where all rights, even the right to life, are supplanted by the emerging and absolute right to have sex with anyone regardless of promises and unions.  The children are caught up in the middle of this whirlwind.  This is so much so that we even dress our little girls like the prostitutes that walk the street.

Much Ado about a Word

Msgr. Pope makes the accurate observation that the Church and society-at-large mean very different things by the word, “marriage.”  Of course, this is also the situation with many other terms as well.  While language is fluid and hard to control; it can certainly be manipulated.  Look at the word GAY.  This expression for joy or happiness has become the source for giggling when used in old songs.  It has now been exclusively usurped by the homosexual community.  Another word in peril is RELATIONSHIP.  When we hear teens or young adults use it these days, they generally mean a sexual friendship with a certain degree of exclusivity.    The word that most troubles and saddens me today is LOVE.  What precisely does it mean anymore?  We do not want to cast it off and so the dictionary definition gets longer and longer.  Look at how we use it.  “I love my car.  I love my dog.  I love my job.  I love my house.  I love donuts.  I love strippers.  I love my wife.  I love my children.  I love God.”  Then we have expressions like, “Let’s make love,” a euphemism for sex.  We give it so many meanings that the word begins to mean nothing.

What does the word MARRIAGE mean?  Is it just a civil contract to make having sex easier or more convenient?  If that is all it is, it is no wonder that couples are cohabitating without it.  Some states have argued for different types of marriage contracts, one more easily dissolved than the other.  There was even an effort to impose marriage licenses with term limits.  If after five years, if the spouses were unhappy, they could opt not to renew.  The marriages would then automatically expire.  The divorce epidemic, something which Protestant churches pamper by their failure to enforce Christ’s command in Matthew against divorce, has given us what is essentially serial or progressive polygamy, one spouse after another.  Proponents of “open” marriages suggest that couples should still be able to have sex with others outside their bond.  I know one instance where a man lives with both his wife and his mistress in the same house.  The girls share him.  Largely gone is the Catholic-Christian equation that marriage is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman who are called to be faithful to each other until the death of one of the spouses.  Marriages are rightly directed toward the good of the spouses and the generation of new human beings, children.  Stripping marriage of its propagative element is to make marriage wholly something else.  Even infertile couples must express their union in that act which by nature is directed to the generation of new human life.  That is why something like condomistic intercourse is intrinsically evil, even in marriage, yes, even among older infertile couples.  Too many couples feign the marital act and live in relationships that are not true marriages.  The large cases of annulments are cases in point.  People can share their bodies like cats and dogs but they are ignorant of the true parameters of marital love and union.  Although a natural right, they have made themselves ill-disposed to the sacrament.  Required six-month waiting periods and marriage preparation are attempts to remedy the dark situation.  However, couples frequently go through the motions and tell the moderators and clergy what they want to hear.  I recall one priest praising a couple he was working with for doing all the right things before marriage.  On the way out one evening, I overheard the prospective groom tell his girl, “What a jerk!”  Later I found out from parishioners that they had been cohabitating the whole time and only went to the priest’s Masses once-in-a-while to fool him about their religiosity.  They spent a fortune on the wedding and we never saw them again.  I heard a few years later they divorced because “they grew apart.”  When Catholics marry outside the Church, in the eyes of God they do not get married at all.  However, Catholics who marry in the Church might also start their unions with deception.  Planting lies today often leads to weeds tomorrow.

I will echo Msgr. Pope in giving the definition of MARRIAGE from the universal catechism:

[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.

What are we to do when the definition given to marriage in no way parallel’s the understanding of the Church?

Msgr. Pope proposes that we stop using the word “marriage” and substitute instead, “holy matrimony.”  He explains:

“The word ‘matrimony’ also emphasizes two aspects of marriage: procreation and heterosexual complementarity. The word comes from Latin and old French roots. Matri = ‘mother’ and ‘mony,’ a suffix indicating ‘action, state, or condition.’ Hence Holy Matrimony refers to that that holy Sacrament wherein a woman enters the state that inaugurates an openness to motherhood. Hence the Biblical and Ecclesial definition of Holy Matrimony as heterosexual and procreative is reaffirmed by the term itself. Calling it HOLY Matrimony distinguishes it from secular muddle that has ‘marriage’ for its nomen.”

He readily admits that there are problems with trying to regulate language in such ways.  If I recall correctly, I was among those unconvinced and “perturbed that we were handing over our vocabulary to the libertines.”

We can play word games but our opponents are not fools.  They were not happy with the notion of “civil unions” and wanted “marriage.”  Don’t be surprised that they will also be speaking of their bonds in terms of “holy matrimony.”

Marriage is a natural right.  Opting to use another word is not going to change this fact.  Homosexuals and lesbians can feign marriage and the state might recognize it; but, in truth such unions are a violation of the natural law.  The debate or argument is best sustained by retention of the vocabulary.  We must insist that same-sex marriage is a fiction.  Surrendering the word would only grant them the false sense that they had succeeded in making their argument.

If we cannot even defend a word like “marriage,” then how can we defend all the ideas behind it?  This conflict is not just about marriage; it is a fight over the hearts and minds of people.  So-called same sex-marriage is just one weapon in the enemy’s arsenal.  The goal of our critics is to redefine the Church out of existence.  The government administration wants to become the sole arbiter of marriage; but more than this— it views Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, and Catholic hospitals as standing in its way.  Threats to close would only make them nationalize these institutions and they would argue that such is a “necessity” for “the public good.”  This is the goal of our antagonists.  If American society is to be remade then the Church must either change to insignificance or be destroyed.  This is the fight we face.

Ministers of the State or of the Church

My initial sentiments emerged as an aside to the courageous crusade of Bai Macfarlane against No-Fault Divorce.  The question arose as to whether clergy compromised themselves by acting as witnesses for the state, signing the marriage licenses and returning them to the courts.  Msgr. Pope continues to sign them, he says, out of holy obedience to the Archbishop.  Speaking for myself, I think we would forfeit too much by surrendering this privilege to the state.  I suspect that problems might escalate instead of get better.  Further, if the Church should opt out, would not our couples still have to get their civil licenses before Church weddings? He seems to think not, arguing that they should “in no way consider themselves as wed, due to a (meaningless) piece of paper from a secular state that reflects only confusion and darkness rather than clarity and Christian light.”  I recall arguing with a hippie years ago who regarded the marriage license as just a piece of paper.  In response, I cited that it came along with the Church sacrament and that it also respected the state’s right to regulate marriages as an integral building block to society.  The state is taking a wrong turn with these same sex unions but we should still take advantage of our rights as citizens.  That piece of paper says that as a member of society, I still have a voice and that marriage is an institution that must be acknowledged, regardless as to whether others are given such acknowledgment wrongly (in the past because of divorce and today also because of same-sex unions).  Opting out will undermine a structured society, its institutions, and the protections and rights we take for granted.

I have immigrants in my parish from Asia and Africa.  Their home nations do not give the privilege that our clergy enjoy in being able to witness marriages.  Some of them have only known tribal weddings.  Others have licenses from a judge or notary public.  While they should have immediately had their marriages solemnized by a priest, they put the process off.  Children were conceived.  Time went by, maybe years, and now they all need Church convalidations.  Would we reduce all marriages in the Church to convalidations?

If we attempt to marry people in Church who are not legally married; we will be facing all sorts of headaches.  We would be opening the door to rampant bigamy where people would be civilly married to one person and married in the Church to another— without the recourse to the legal fiction of divorce.  At present the state recognizes all Church unions even though the Church does not acknowledge every civil union.  The last thing we should want is to segregate the Church into her own private ghetto where there are “us” and “them.”  We have every right to a place in the public forum and should fight for it.  Our married couples have every right to the protections insured by law (tax incentives, inheriting property, healthcare and insurance, custodial issues with offspring, hospital visitation and the right to make medical decisions for a sick spouse, and sharing a name).  Marrying couples without civil licenses would once have opened our couples to prosecution for cohabitation.  Even if this is a bygone concern, there is still the prospect of scandal.  Some will view “married in the Church” but “not in the state” as NOT being married at all.  The children from such unions could be labeled as “bastards” by our critics.

The Church has a responsibility to be fully integrated into civil society as a constitutive part.  There will be conflicts but accommodations will have to be made that will not compromise our message and mission.  Maybe there is a need for different types of licenses from the state for religious weddings, distinguishing them from civil ones?  Indeed, there are different theologies between the churches.  Some view the clergy person as the one who performs the marriage.  Catholics view the spouses as the ministers of the sacrament to which the priest witnesses.  Episcopalians and others will probably even allow and celebrate same-sex unions.  We may become a minority voice in this society but we should not allow that voice to be silenced.  Taking our toys and going home angry will not fix the situation.  The retreat of the Church would be precisely what our enemies want.  I fear that it would further erode the foundations of our civilization.  Caesar’s empire might be pagan, but the Christian and the Church still have obligations to maintain a society that would protect our rights and freedoms.

I would maintain the status-quo with priests witnessing marriages for the state.  However, there may come a day when that is taken away from us.  We can cope with that when it comes.  Civil disobedience might then take many forms, some of which could be extremely bizarre.  One priest suggested that all our religious houses claim same-sex unions so as to get the marriage benefits and healthcare.  I know one case already where a married couple got divorced but still live together so as to have better retirement benefits.  I suspect that laws will be passed to force couples and the Church to behave.  How far do we want to press it?  Speaking for myself, I really hate retreating.

The Larger Challenge

It is my hope that we will have courageous shepherds and a supportive flock.  I foresee priests facing fines and jail time for hate-speech in regard to teaching and preaching against homosexuality.  After all, the Church’s language about marriage in the recent Supreme Court case was appraised as bigotry.  Hum, we might have to take priests entirely out of the marriage scenario if all our clergy are locked up.  Already, while the Church is currently protected, and we cannot be forced to marry homosexuals, organizations like the Knights of Columbus are not safeguarded.  At this writing the free-standing Knights of Columbus halls in Maryland have been notified that due to their state charters they must rent for the wedding receptions of homosexuals and lesbians.  The pressure is already on.

Our public schools are teaching that any reservation about homosexuality is discrimination.  What will our children then think of their churches?  Must we extract all our children from the public schools?  Who will pay to place them into Catholic institutions?  Homeschooling is an option for some but not for all.  Where are we going from here?  If the government and the media are more successful than the Church in forming consciences and teaching values; then what avenues are left?  The issue is far more complex than any nomenclature of marriage or whether priests are authorized as civil magistrates.  The question is how does the Church function and survive in a non-Christian society?

Catholics did not unanimously support the U.S. bishops in the Marriage Matters campaign.  Indeed, large numbers were vocal in opposition.  We hesitate to name names and are always fearful of our tax-exemption status.  But if we are going to be shunned in a matter similar to racists over the issue of homosexual acceptance; then we will no doubt forfeit such benefits in the days ahead.  I know I sound pessimistic and cynical.  But that is what I see coming.  The Church waited too long to find her teeth.  She is an old dog grown weak from inactivity and abandoned by her pups.  There are wolves coming.  They want the Church out of the way.  Look at the various initiatives of the current administration.  Starting with appointments in religious churches and schools, then forcing churches to violate their basic principles and next pressing upon us what was once an unthinkable depravity— all these are attempts to redefine the Church out of existence.  The president’s view of religion is seen through the prism of secular humanism.  Anything else is judged as extraneous and must go.

There are some who are pawns to those who hate the Church.  Others actually think that they are catalysts for positive change in the Church and society.  Look at all the Catholic politicians who oppose the U.S. bishops and who dissent on Church teaching.  The chief advocates in Maryland and in Washington are baptized Catholics.  Like Msgr. Pope, I have my opinions; and like him, in obedience we both defer to the Archbishop and the national shepherds of our Church.  We share our ideas, pray for courage and know that God will not abandon his children.

Faith & Values in the News

Religious Banners Removed at Catholic School

God forbid that young people at school events should get a taste of traditional American liberties, like freedom of religion and freedom of speech… NOT!  Schools can teach science and the faith of atheism but are to make no mention a Creator.  Schools can teach safe “promiscuous” sex and give away condoms, but not a penny is available for abstinence education.  Schools are forbidden to teach the 10 Commandments and then wonder why youth misbehave and get in trouble with the law.  All manner of vulgarity is tolerated but not a bible verse on a sheet… yep, these girls are real trouble-makers, but the right kind.  When Islamic religious fanatics burn the flag, destroy property and commit murder… we target our sights upon peaceful Christian cheerleaders at a school football game.  Ah, the world is insane!

Muslim Prayer Room Opens at Catholic High School

How many Catholic chapels are there in Islamic schools?  Where does courtesy end and religious indifferentism begin?  How does one reconcile this with the insistence that “Catholic identity” is not at risk in our parochial schools?  Do the Jewish children get their private prayer space as well?  What about the Wiccans and Satanists?  Do they get chapels to honor the goddess and/or the horned beast?  Certainly, we would not want to discriminate or be judgmental… would we?  Ah, the plight of radical tolerance!

7-Election 2012

It does not look good for Romney… vote with a cup of coffee.  The trouble is that the Tea Party is into another type of drink!

Ex-Priest Sues the Catholic Church to Clear His Name

If what he says is true, I really feel sorry for this guy and there needs to be justice.

The New York Times Remembers Sister Mary Rose

Rest in peace, Sister, and many thanks for saving children and Covenant House.

Children Freak When Disney Channel Cartoon is Interrupted by Porn

If trash television were not trasmitted at all then such accidents would not happen.  The truth is that our children are exposed to unhealthy and vulgar images all the time.  We cannot trust television to babysit our children.  It is a compromised media.  The providers are more interested in making money, even with virtual prostitution, then in helping parents to raise kids of good moral character and virtue.  In any case, if adults are themselves corrupted by this media, then how can they pass on anything of value without the poison of hypocrisy?

The Scandal of Father Bob Pierson

STEPHEN:

Father Joe, what is your take on Father Bob Pierson?

 

FATHER JOE:

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:

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons 

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.

STEPHEN:

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.

FATHER JOE:

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.

STEPHEN: 

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.

FATHER JOE:

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.