Archive for May, 2010

Folks, it’s official now.  The coup that we talked about
back in April is a fait accompli.  Today’s Pilot reports that Scot Landry will now be Secretary for Catholic Media, leaving his position as Secretary for Institutional Development.  Though it’s good that they kept an orthodox Catholic guy in the Cabinet, the expression “spinning a silk purse from a sow’s ear” comes immediately to mind about a role involving media & communications for this particular diocese.  That cannot be underestimated as a problem, but we don’t have more to say now.  Beyond that seemingly insurmountable problem, we learned that Neal Finnegan is on the board of Catholic TV.  Neal was chair of Catholic Charities when Bryan Hehir was president of CC, so they are long-time buddies. Neal is turning out to be more influential than many people may have realized, and it all seems to come back to extensions of the Bryan Hehir power-base.  Finnegan also led the search that hired Chancellor James McDonough (who was part of the coup), and Finnegan has given more than $12,000 since 2004 to pro-abortion, pro-gay political candidates like Joe Biden, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, and John Kerry.  How do folks with this history of supporting politicians who rabidly oppose the Catholic Church get named to key positions like that?  We wish Scot good luck in his new role–but how would you like to be in charge of Catholic media given the deeply ingrained institutional forces above and around you who spend personal funds and energies supporting politicians who oppose the Church?

What was published about the search committee for the new secretary of development is already grounds for concern–it will include Chancellor McDonough, the Vicar General, and unnamed members of the Catholic Foundation Board.  It is known that Chancellor McDonough had a role in the coup, so that is troublesome.  No evidence of strong leadership by the Vicar General has been reported since he took his role nearly 4 years ago.  And we don’t know who the Catholic Foundation Board members are.  Cardinal O’Malley should publish the names of everyone on the search committee for this position, there should be no one on the search committee who has a history of donating to politicians who have opposed the Church on abortion and marriage, and no candidate should even make a short-list of consideration (let alone get hired) who has donated to pro-abortion politicians.  In addition, no one from the Catholic Schools Foundation fundraising campaign who threw Fr. Rafferty under the bus and said they were disturbed about him legitimately rejecting the child of a lesbian couple should be even remotely under consideration for this role.

Keep reading our “Big Picture on the Catholic Schools Situation” blog post started yesterday.  The content is the first and only place you will see everything you need to know about this.

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Over the past few days, we were working on an essay to give the big picture on the issue of allowing children of gay couples to attend Catholic schools.  We appreciate the feedback many of you have graciously offered along the way.  The essay is now complete and can be found here.  We hope you find it an enlightening read.

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While folks at BHE work on plans to address the ongoing
scandal and crisis in Boston, you will want to take a moment and read this excellent piece by Fr. Roger Landry, an outstanding priest of the Diocese of Fall River. He has shown a remarkable ability to say exactly what most of the officials in the Archdiocese of Boston should have been saying since this thing erupted but have not.  I agree with most of what he’s written and have some questions as well when it comes to the whole matter of a policy that tries to keep everyone happy.

First of all, here’s a link to the piece: Parental Partnership in the Mission of Catholic Schools. And here are a few choice excerpts:

Fr. Roger J. Landry
The Anchor
Editorial, May 28, 2010

The mission of Catholic schools emanates from the mission of the Catholic Church, commissioned by Jesus to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and instructing them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). The fundamental purpose of Catholics schools is not to make “graduates” who go on to future educational and employment success, but to make “disciples.”

It’s true that some parents opt to send their children to Catholic schools not because of the formation in the faith, but because they provide a superb education, committed teachers and administrators, small classrooms, and a disciplined and safe environment for learning. The primary reason Catholic schools exist, however, is religious. They help Catholic parents raise their children in the holistic context and rich culture of the truths of the faith, so that their children may develop the gifts God has given them and succeed in this life and the next. When Catholic schools accept children from families that are not Catholic or do not practice the Catholic faith, this religious focus remains, insofar as the schools seek to model for those children and their families how much God loves each one of them and, without proselytism, to introduce them to the beauty of the Catholic faith in action, flourishing in a school community based on Christian love.

To understand why the decision of St. Paul’s does not violate Catholic principles but rather affirms and applies them, we need to appreciate some general Catholic principles as well as what makes the application of them to the new situation of children raised by same-sex couples somewhat unique.

The first principle is that the Catholic Church seeks to welcome everyone and to call and assist everyone to conversion and holiness of life. Specifically with regard to children, the Church is never looking for a reason to turn a child away, but sometimes, with great reluctance and sadness, needs to do so for the good of the child. This paradoxical situation happens not just with Catholic school decisions, but with something far more important and fundamental: the sacrament of baptism. The Church obviously desires all parents to bring their children to be baptized, but when they do, the priest, in order to celebrate the sacrament, has the duty to determine that there is a “well-founded” or “realistic” hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith (Canon 868 in the Code of Canon Law). The Church always welcomes the desire of parents to baptize their children, but needs them to understand that baptism is a sacrament of initiation tied to a way of life. If there is no realistic hope that the parents are going to raise the child in the faith — ordinarily by committing to teach the child to pray, take her to Mass, provide for her religious instruction, set a good Christian example at home, and choose godparents who will take seriously her religious upbringing — the pastor, outside of a danger of death situation, must reluctantly delay the baptism. This is one of the most excruciating things a pastor is ever asked to do, because of the importance of baptism for salvation. While it may seem that such a decision only penalizes a child for the parents’ lack of willingness to follow through on their larger commitments, the pastoral decision is actually made in view of the good of the child, who assumes rights and responsibilities upon being baptized. If the child is not going to be nourished in the faith to know and live by those privileges and duties, then the Church defers the baptism, hoping that either the parents will have a change of heart or the child, upon maturity, will freely request baptism as a catechumen. The U.S. Bishops reemphasized these principles in a 2006 document with specific application to children presented by same-sex couples.

With regard to Catholic school admissions decisions, similar principles are at work. The Church never wants to turn a child away. Rather, it has a deep desire to share the blessing of a Catholic school education with as many children as possible. At the same time, however, there is a requirement, for the good of the child, that the parents commit to raise the child in a situation that at least does not contradict the values and formation given at the school. If the child’s education will not be coupled to a way of life consistent with it, the parents and school would be placing the child in a spiritually and morally schizophrenic situation — which is obviously harmful.

Kids being raised by couples who are unmarried, married outside of the Church, or divorced-and-remarried are seldom taught to look at those situations as models, or even as goods to be desired. Very often the parents of those children accept the Church’s understanding of marriage even if in their own circumstances they do not live in accordance with it. There’s a moral conflict, not an inherent one — and in many circumstances the relationship happily can be brought into conformity with the moral law. Same-sex relationships, on the other hand, not only can never be reconciled with the Church’s teaching on marriage, but are often looked at as a positive good. On occasion they are even, scandalously, celebrated with parades and rallies in ways that other non-traditional situations never are. This only magnifies the inherent conflict and confusion a child of a same-sex couple at a Catholic school could suffer.

This last part is where I have questions:

The new situation of children being raised by same-sex couples — made possible and more common by the recent advent of artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization and same-sex adoptions — requires the Church to apply our Catholic principles to these new circumstances. The Archdiocese of Denver has a general policy that it has already begun to apply to children of same-sex couples. The Archdiocese of Boston is presently working on one. Any such policy will need to emphasize a double welcoming: Catholic schools seek to welcome all children, provided that parents welcome the Church’s teaching and are prepared to partner with the Church for the good of the child’s overall and integral education.

Is not that final sentence at the crux of the conflict here?  Hopefully we all agree that the first mission of Catholic schools is to help Catholic parents raise their children in the truths of the faith.  Is there really a scenario where a gay couple welcomes the Church’s teaching and partners with the Church in their child’s education? As Archbishop Chaput concluded, that implicit conflict would be virtually impossible to reconcile with their lifestyle. Is there really some policy that could enable a gay couple to honestly say “Yes we welcome the Church’s teaching and will partner with the Church in my child’s faith education”? What if they say this to get their child admitted, but do not follow through? How  do you not leave teachers uncomfortable teaching the truths of sexuality and the immorality of the gay couple’s relationship to everyone in the class, if they are concerned doing so will cause the kid to become confused and conflicted as described above and as was a concern of Fr. Rafferty at St. Pauls?   Independent of all that, as the Pilot said in their editorial does this not also result in the appearance that the Catholic Church is giving her recognition and implicit seal of approval on the parental relationship? If one homosexual couple attends or marches at a Gay Pride parade, does that mean their child would not be admitted because the couple is flaunting the Church’s teaching in a celebratory public parade, but the child of another same-sex couple who doesn’t attend the parade is OK?

What Fr. Landry wrote offers very valuable insights to help guide the decision-making in Boston and elsewhere.  But at the same time, it still feels to me like the “Big Tent” with the smiling face on the welcome sign along with lots of fine print in the hands of folks like Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors, Michael Reardon, and Mary Grassa O’Neill has high likelihood of instead being a big slippery slope with no guardrails.

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The storyline on this whole Catholic schools fracas in
the Archdiocese of Boston just keeps getting more full of contradictions when you look at what Cardinal Sean O’Malley published on Wednesday, what Fr. Bryan Hehir said on Thursday, what The Pilot published Friday, and what Fr. Rafferty just disclosed has happened to his parish.  Readers, we have a major crisis here in Boston, so it is urgent that readers Take Action this weekend.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said  “we have never had categories of people who were excluded” (a factually true statement reflecting the past), but he also said we have to maintain our responsibility to teach the truths of our faith on sexual morality and marriage “courageously.”  He also said Boston should look to the precedent set by the Archdiocese of Denver (which does not allow children of same-sex couples in Catholic schools): “…their positions and rationale must be seriously considered” as Boston works on our policy.

On Thursday, Fr. Bryan Hehir–who the Cardinal recently described as “strategic advisor” with “vast understanding of the important place our Church has in society” who brings “fidelity to the work of the Church” and whose “voice brings clarity to our message and mission in serving the Catholic community in Boston”–obfuscated, overshadowed, and contradicted the Cardinal with a message on WBUR that admitting kids of gay couples is a done deal already and what happened in Denver in reality doesn’t matter at all to the Cardinal.  People I know in the business world say publicly undermining or correcting the boss on an issue of international visibility like this and making it clear that either one or the other is lying should get Hehir fired immediately.  We agree.

Beyond that, we learned more yesterday about exactly why Fr. Rafferty was right to deny admission to the kid of the lesbian couple.  As cited on ThrowtheBumsOutin2010, in a letter to his parishioners, Fr. Rafferty said the following:

We want you to know that, in this instance, we believe our decision was made in the best interests of the child based upon our discernment that in our Catholic environment, with its teaching on marriage as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman, a child from a same sex family might feel discomfort, frustration or confusion.  Additionally, in our small school, without support services, we were concerned whether we could help a child of this age reconcile an inherent conflict between our teachings and his home life.

So as many of us knew all along, that is nothing that should have been “disturbing” to the Catholic Schools leadership types like Mary Grassa O’Neill, Jack Connors, or Michael Reardon that would lead them to throw a good priest under the bus–instead they should have said, “Kudos to you, Fr. Rafferty, for doing the right thing.”

Speaking of doing the right thing, The Pilot (whose publisher is Cardinal Sean O’Malley) has an editorial, “A proper course of action”  that also says Fr. Rafferty did the right thing. Here’s an excerpt:

The decision by a parochial school in Hingham to rescind enrollment to the child of a woman who made public to the pastor that she was living in an openly homosexual relation deserves some analysis and should not be dismissed as insensitive or bigoted, as it has been portrayed in some media reports…

The Catechism explains that “scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’

It can be argued that the appearance of normalcy and acceptance of homosexual behavior that would follow from accepting gay parents into the life of a Catholic school — at parish functions, fundraisers, as chaperones for field trips, etc. — could lead other children to grave confusion about the nature of marriage as the union between a man and a woman. And, of course, we cannot forget the potential psychological trauma that a young child of such a union may face when the school curriculum on the sacrament of marriage and human sexuality emphasizes the complementarity of the sexes as the plan of God for humankind and describes homosexual acts and relations as contrary to the natural order of creation.

This new argument put forward beyond those previously advanced is backed by Pope John Paul II’s Letter to the Bishops on Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:

The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes…brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour. One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups’ concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing….

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society’s understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy

So where do we sit right now?  In the absence of any correction by the Archdiocese since Hehir’s comments were first aired on Thursday, the Archdiocese is leaving the impression that Hehir’s comments represent the final word on this situation. Given that his trusted senior advisor contradicted the boss a day after the Cardinal’s statement, what we do know is that the Cardinal seems incapable or unwilling to stand-up and govern his own leadership team, advisors, and archdiocese at this time.

Who is leading the Archdiocese of Boston today?  Is it Cardinal O’Malley?  Fr. Bryan Hehir?  Jack Connors?  Chancellor James McDonough? As the old TV game-show To Tell the Truth used to say, “Will the real Archbishop of Boston please stand up?”

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The news today is that it seems we have a deception of
monumental impact for the future of Catholic education in this country underway in the Archdiocese of Boston.  Fr. Bryan Hehir appeared on WBUR Thursday talking about the situation of the lesbian parents whose son was denied admission to a Catholic school, and he directly contradicted Wednesday’s nuanced message from Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

The first con-job or deception is what Cardinal Sean, Bryan Hehir, and everyone speaking for the Archdiocese have characterized as the purpose of Catholic education in Boston, namely, to educate everyone, including “unconventional households.”  We are curious as to where exactly this came from as an underlying assumption in the first place.  In contrast, Archbishop Chaput said, “The main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values.”  One  reader just sent us the following: “A Catholic school has no business in pandering to ‘diverse, often unconventional households’ who subvert at home what the child learns at school.”  Isn’t that what a public school is for, not a private school?  “The Cardinal points out that the question must be the best interest of the children. But the real question to be answered here is: Which children?  Unlike a public school, the Catholic school’s mission is not to educate every child in the Boston area, including the children of  this lesbian couple, and not to find ways to provide an education to the children of every unconventional family. Its mission is much more unique and focused: educating young minds in the treasures of the Catholic faith.”

Hehir’s bottom line message on WBUR was that Catholic schools in this archdiocese have been and will remain wide open to children of gay couples.  He said, “Are we doing it already?  Yes.   And we intend to do it as the Cardinal indicated, with formal policies!”

This leads us to the second part of the deception–namely what the actual status of addressing this scandal is. Compare what Fr. Hehir said about doing it already and continuing to do it vs the headline in today’s Pilot:

Cardinal calls for study of policies on children of gay couples in Catholic schools

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said the Archdiocese of Boston should look to the precedent set by another American archdiocese that has already grappled with this issue.

The Archdiocese of Denver has formulated a policy that calls into question the appropriateness of admitting the children of same-sex couples. It is clear that all of their school policies are intended to foster the welfare of the children and fidelity to the mission of the Church,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a rare mid-week blog post. “Their positions and rationale must be seriously considered.

What did Bryan Hehir say about the Denver situation on WBUR?  (Listen for the question at about 5:00 in the recording and Fr. Hehir’s response at about 5:45):

I think you need to take the cardinal’s statement at face value.  His judgment is that the good of the child is most important and we do not exclude children based on family background. I think the Cardinal’s point about Denver, it is always understood that each diocese is under the control and direction of the bishop, and bishops do not move across diocesan policies when they differ from one another.  At times, the Catholic bishops conference as a whole makes policy decisions that bind the  whole conference.  But I think it’s understandable that Cardinal O’Malley is not going to be talking about what other bishops do, this is a very complicated case. We’re talking about what will happen in Boston.

With all due respect to Cardinal Sean and Fr. Hehir, someone is deceiving us.  Either a decision has already been made and the thinking from Denver is not impacting the Boston Archdiocese’s plans–in which case the Cardinal’s message was deceptive.  Or, Fr. Hehir spoke incorrectly, in which case he is deceiving us.

In either case, when a senior cabinet secretary and influential advisor contradicts the Cardinal a day after the leader of the archdiocese makes a very significant public position statement, we have a big problem.  Between outside power-broker Jack Connors rearranging the Cardinal’s cabinet leadership team under his nose and this now, it feels more and more like we have a crisis of episcopal leadership and don’t know who is running the Boston Archdiocese any more.

We are asking all readers who care about the future of the Archdiocese of Boston and Catholic education in this country to visit our Take Action page and start firing off faxes, emails, and calls to all of the officials named.  Yes folks, that includes the Holy Father, his chief of staff, the Papal Nuncio, the prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, the head of the Congregation of Religions Education, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Yes, all of them.  You can even send faxes to Rome at no charge by following the links on that page. Priests and people who work for the church can send faxes without having to identify your name and parish–all you need is a valid email address.

The message is simple.  We need the Vatican to intervene in Boston to address a crisis of episcopal leadership and ensure that the moral values, true teachings, and doctrines of the Catholic Church are be taught without limitation in Catholic schools, and first and foremost for children of Catholics to form their faith.  Please take action today.

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Catholics got a tiny bit of good news in Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s carefully-worded and pastorally-sensitive blog post about the Hingham school situation, but some very troubling implications remain in what he wrote, so there is much to still be concerned with. This post reflects initial reactions to the Cardinal’s statement, from a newcomer to the blogging team here.

First of all, the good news in his post is that he supported Fr. Rafferty, the faithful Catholic priest at St. Paul School in Hingham who decided to not admit the son of a lesbian couple to Catholic elementary school because of concerns for the impact to the child.  After Jack Connors, Mary Grassa O’Neill and Michael Reardon threw Fr. Rafferty under the bus, the Cardinal in effect, finally rolled the bus off him.  He talked about “ensuring the moral theology and teachings of the Church are not compromised,” and “regardless of the circumstances involved, we maintain our responsibility to teach the truths of our faith, including those concerning sexual morality and marriage. “  He also acknowledged the Denver  archdiocese’s precedent  from his friend and classmate, Archbishop Charles Chaput, of refusing admission to children of gay parents because of concerns about the ability to educate them in the true moral teachings of the church.

It is clear that all of their school policies are intended to foster the welfare of the children and fidelity to the mission of the Church. Their positions and rationale must be seriously considered.”

The archdiocese is going to work on developing policies.  But that’s where the good news ends and the concerns begin.

The Cardinal wrote, “Going forward, we will be consulting on these issues with a wide-range of people including the Presbyteral Council and Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.”  Would that be the same Archdiocesan Pastoral Council that had no problem with Fr. Bryan Hehir’s first social justice conference in 2006, for which they all were given a flyer promoting the conference with a speaker who had led a Newton Catholic church’s participation in Boston’s Gay Pride Parade and funded by the morally-questionable “Catholic” Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  See our March 31 blog post. The speaker talked about how to create a parish-based social justice program, and beyond that, the CCHD has funded pro-abortion and pro-gay organizations, ACORN, and a range of Saul Allinsky-modeled radical, left-wing political organizations.  If  no one on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council raised questions about that, why should we trust their judgment and insights on something like this?  And would that be the same Presbyteral Council whose meeting minutes of several years ago reflect a request by a priest to get Voice of the Faithful items on their meeting agenda (we are not making this up!), and also reflect objections to orthodoxy in St. John’s seminary, and objections to the Vatican’s documents on homosexuals in the priesthood and seminaries?  Check back later for links to these documents.  We’d feel much better if the Cardinal said he was consulting with the Vatican and not with these organizations and an unspecified “wide range of people.”

Is Michael Reardon, who called Fr. Rafferty’s decision and actions “disturbing” still going to remain in a leadership position in the archdiocese where he can threaten parishes with a cut off of funding whenever they defend Church teachings?  What about Mary Grassa O’Neill, who also threw Fr. Rafferty under the bus?  What about Terry Donilon, who said all kids are welcome at Catholic schools, somehow misunderstanding that Catholic schools are “private schools” where there is typically some admission or selection criteria, and it’s instead “public schools” where all kids are welcome?

Should schools admit some kids whose parents are homosexuals if the parents are low-key and agree they will accept teachings of the truths of Catholicism on marriage and sexuality, but then deny admission to other kids if their parents are publicly insistent on getting watered-down teachings so that the education of all kids is no longer consistent with Church teachings?  Once a kid is admitted, what if the parents later complain about the teachings being offensive, troublesome, and discriminatory to their child and their family?  You wanted to do a good thing for the child, but then it becomes problematic down the road.  How do you prevent books like “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “King and King” that normalize same-sex-parent families from being introduced in the schools to make everyone feel comfortable (for the good of the child of the gay couple) but it has a negative impact on the education of all kids?  If the policy says kids of gay couples are OK, then how do you defend not having openly gay teachers, and then insurance benefits for them?

If you think there is not a slippery slip, just look at how Employment Non-Discrimination Acts (ENDA) that would absolutely positively never result in “same-sex marriages” resulted in exactly that over time.  In A Gay-Protection Forum, (Boston Globe, Oct. 15, 1989) the Globe denied that Massachusetts new sexual orientation nondiscrimination law put Massachusetts on a slippery slope to same-sex Marriage or domestic partnership benefits.  In the SJC’s 2003 Goodridge v. Dep’t of Pub. Health decision that the law banning gay couples from marrying was unconstitutional, part of the court’s reasoning rested on the legislature’s previous decision to ban sexual orientation discrimination.  There is simply no denying the slippery slope is a reality.

Many people also seem to get confused because they are putting homosexual couples on the same playing field as parents who are divorced, remarried without an annulment, drug addicts, watching pornography, co-habitating outside of marriage, or engaged in some behavior considered sinful by the church.  They ask, is the Church somehow grading sins.  If the Church were to exclude kids of gay couples from Catholic schools, then why does the Church allow kids whose parents are in other imperfect situations.  That’s like comparing apples and cars.  Kids of divorced couples were born of what was once a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church, and there remains hope and possibility that the parent(s) will enter a valid marriage in the future.  The same principle holds with these other situations.   As we all know, the Catholic Church only recognizes as valid the marriage between a man and woman.  Period.  A homosexual couple with children—especially one in a state-recognized “marriage” or civil union—has made a decision that permanently and legally denies that child to their natural law right to have both a mother and father.  More importantly, that homosexual couple’s relationship can never be valid in the eyes of the church.  There’s a fundamental difference that the media and most people seem to not understand or be acknowledging.

The risk here is that people who say and honestly believe they are working to improve Catholic education will inadvertently mess up in the interest of being open to everyone.  With the finest of intentions, by turning private Catholic schools–intended first and foremost to educate and form Catholic kids in the core tenets of our faith and morality—into a “big tent,” the Catholic identity and values of that Catholic education will be compromised.  There’s no way to avoid it, and history is our guide.  So, that same Catholic school education they want to preserve will lose its distinctive identity, and will be gone for generations in the future.  We urge readers concerned about this situation to visit our Take Action page and start sending letters to all of the people listed.  Despite the Cardinal’s well-written post and support in principle for maintaining the values of a Catholic education, the policy discussions will be moving quickly, and this is a matter of grave urgency.

Cardinal O’Malley, Jack Connors, Mary Grassa O’Neill, Michael Reardon, and others—please be careful with the final decision.  Please.

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If you have not yet read Dale O’Leary’s piece
about Catholic schools
or the piece by Denver’s Archbishop Chaput, please check those out.  Today, we continue the saga about the crisis and scandal by revisiting the letter that Michael Reardon, Executive Director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, sent to all schools in the Boston Archdiocese.  Here’s the original letter.   The National Catholic Register has a rewritten version, authored by Catholic Answers apologist and author, Jimmy Akin, that conveys what Rearon might have said had he chosen to be frank:

Dear School Administrators:

You may be aware from recent publicity that St. Paul School in Hingham has declined to enroll an eight-year old boy who has two lesbian “mothers.” St. Paul’s School does not receive support from the Catholic Schools Foundation, so we have no leverage over them, the way we do you. In light of the media reports, we thought it important to clarify the position of the Catholic Schools Foundation so that none of you get the idea of copying St. Paul’s example. Consider this letter a shot across your bow. Our policy is that no school will be considered for support if it either by policy or in practice declines enrollment for students with same-sex “parents.”

It does not matter how disruptive a situation such enrollments would create. It does not matter how difficult a position it would put the thus-enrolled children in. It does not matter how it would put pressure on teachers not to fully and vigorously proclaim Church’s teaching about marriage. It does not matter what other parents in the school might say about the way their children should be educated. None of these things count. What matters is that these children be admitted. This is the sine qua non.

We believe a policy or practice that denies admission to students with openly homosexual parents is at odds with our values as a Foundation, the intentions of our donors, and ultimately with Gospel teaching. Gospel teaching requires that we turn a blind eye to all the concerns named in the previous paragraph. The necessity of admitting children with openly homosexual parents trumps them all. There can be no rational disagreement on this point, and if you do disagree, you are opposing Gospel teaching.

Our concern is the education of young people. We will not fund any school that that treats students and families (note that I am classifying two homosexuals and a child as a family without qualification) in such a manner. You heard me right. We are so concerned with the education of young people that we will deny funding to all the other students in your school if even one child is not enrolled because he has openly homosexual parents. The need of the one outweighs the needs of the many. We care more about providing a Catholic education for this one student more than providing Catholic education for all the other students we would otherwise provide assistance to. This tells you what our values are. We will use financial scorched-earth tactics against any school that disagrees with us, even at the urging of the parents whose children attend the school. This policy has been unchanged since our founding in 1983. [Really? They would have yanked funds in 1983 over this issue?—ja]

We are proud that Catholic schools are known for being welcoming communities for all students except the ones who must be denied enrollment for various rational reasons that I am ignoring here. So although this incident is disturbing to politically correct sensibilities, we are thankful that it is isolated, not a policy of the Archdiocese, or indicative generally of the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese. Know that we appreciate all you do to make your schools places where all, including open and active homosexual partners but not including parents who would disagree with us, will feel welcome. And remember that if you fail in such efforts, we will withdraw all financial support from your school and the other students it has. Consider them financial hostages to this issue.

Please contact me at 617-778-5981 if you have any questions or if I can be of any assistance to you.

With hope for the students we serve and the future of Catholic education, I am

Sincerely yours,

Michael B. Reardon
Executive Director

You’ll want to read the whole piece at the Register.  If you want to take action on this, time is of the essence.  Visit our newly updated Take Action page, and let officials in the Holy See know about this scandal immediately.

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Hot off the presses, this piece was recently written by
Dale O’Leary, an internationally known lecturer and author of The Gender Agenda and  One Man, One Woman: A Catholic’s Guide to Defending Marriage.  Cardinal Sean O’Malley described Dale in an August 2008 blog post about a Courage event  as “always so good.”  This piece is reprinted here with the permission of the author.  It’s perhaps one of the most important pieces you can read on this topic, along with what Archbishop Chaput has written, so please share it widely.  After you’ve read it, please take action.

Catholic Schools

By Dale O’Leary

Today Catholic schools, and Catholic elementary schools in particular, face a difficult problem. What should they do when parents, who are openly living contrary to the Church’s specific teachings on marriage and sexuality, want their children admitted? The teachers cannot — must not — compromise Catholic moral teachings, that is the very reason for their school’s existence, but in doing so they realize that they will be teaching the children that some of their parents’ choices are wrong. The teachers cannot water down the Church’s teachings because there are children in the class that come from broken homes or live in homes with two ‘mommies” or two “daddies.”.

The concept of father and mother is central to Catholic theology. God is our Father in Heaven, not a generic parent. Jesus is our brother, and therefore the Blessed Mother is our mother. Every biological father has from the moment his child is conceived the awesome responsibility of being an image of God the father. Failure to do this carries terrible consequence for the child’s faith and sense of security and for society. Two mommies or no mommy is not God’s plan.

Every child has a biological father and mother. Separation from one or both parents is always perceived by the child as a loss. A fatherless family is not equal to a father/mother family. Tragedies happen – death, divorce, desertion, single parenthood. When they do, the adults involved must cope as best they can, but no one should purposefully make a tragedy.

When two women decide to conceive a child by artificial insemination donor, they are purposefully creating a tragedy. Given the limited number of children available for adoption, children should not be placed in homes with two parents of the same sex.

Teachers in a Catholic school cannot promote “diversity” in family styles. They cannot pretend that Heather has two Mommies or that it is good for Gloria to go to Gay Pride rallies.

Parents who send their children to Catholic schools need to understand this. If, in spite of this, same-sex couples insist on applying,  they need to be told in no uncertain terms that were their children admitted they would be taught what the Church teaches and if their child’s classmates ask why Suzie has two mommies, they will be told that Suzie has one mommy and another woman lives in their house, but God’s plan is for every child to have a mommy and a daddy.

What about children whose parents divorce and one or both remarries?

If the parents choose a Catholic school or even CCD for their children, the teachers cannot compromise the truth.

I was given the responsibility of presenting the Church’s teaching on marriage and divorce to a seventh grade class. In the front row was a boy whose family I knew. His father had recently divorced the boy’s mother to marry a younger woman. I presented the teaching clearly and unambiguously. The boy looked me in the eye and said, “Are you saying that God doesn’t like divorce?’

“Yes,” I responded, “in the book of the prophet Malachi it says God hates divorce.”

He replied, “Good.”

I knew that this boy had borne the pain of divorce and he was glad that God was on his side. We must be on the side of the children. We cannot assume that the children want to be protected from the truth.

Persons in same-sex relationships who have children naturally want to protect their children’s feelings. They aren’t going to want their children to be exposed to the truth. A Catholic school cannot agree to hide the truth.

Once people go down the wrong path, there are no good answers. Either the children will be denied the benefits of a Catholic education and feel rejected because they can’t go to Catholic school or they will be admitted and then find out that God doesn’t approve of their parents’ choices or they will be admitted and the school will compromise its principles. If this happens, the other students will be confused about the Church’s teaching and not understand why God doesn’t approve of Suzie’s mommies who so nice and bring cookies and help out in the cafeteria.

So what is the school to do? What is in the best interest of the children of same-sex couples and the other children? If they accept the children in the school, the children will either be alienated from their parents on whom they rely or alienated from God who would be seen as condemning their parents’ choices. While older children might be able to understand and even appreciate the Church’s teaching, younger children certainly will not. To them it will just seem mean. It will put the teachers in an untenable position and confuse the children’s classmates. Therefore, it is reasonable for Catholic elementary schools to explain to same-sex couples that this is not the place for their children.

The real question is: Why would a same-sex couple want their children in a Catholic school? Surely, they know the Catholic Church’s teaching. If they think that teaching will change, they are gravely mistaken. One can only assume that they hope that their presence at school events and their acceptance into the community will undermine that teaching and they are using their children as pawns.

The Catholic Church has every right not to allow its schools to be used in this way and in doing so, they are protecting the best interests of all the children.

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It is noteworthy that Cardinal Sean’s August 15, 2008 blog post covers three topics very relevant to the current Catholic schools situation.

First, he talks about a newly-published book by his classmate, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, entitled, “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.”  The president of Catholic University of America said in a review quote,

Chaput urges Catholics to live our faith without compromise and to use our faith as the foundation for renewing American society in the twenty-first century.

In case you missed it, Archbishop Chaput has written an outstanding piece himself on a situation of gay parents wanting their kids in Catholic schools a few months ago.

Secondly, he talks about a fundraiser reception for Catholic schools he attended on Cape Cod.   He said “the only two reasons to justify having Catholic schools” are:

to ensure it is truly Catholic and truly be one of excellence

Lastly, a little more than halfway down the page (after the Proud2BCatholic part), you’ll see the Cardinal attended the closing Mass of the 2008 Courage Conference at the Marian Spritual Center in Medway. Courage is an organization for individuals who struggle with same-sex attraction, but seek to live their lives consistent with the teachings of the Church. Here is what the Cardinal wrote:

There were almost 200 participants at the conference and Dale O’Leary, who is always so good, gave her keynote address at the conference on “Attachment Disorders and the Need for Love.”  The ministry of Courage is a very important one. You can find out more about them visitng their web site

There are many people who disagree with the Church’s teachings on chastity and living the Ten Commandments. For that reason, I was very happy that the Gospel reading was the one where Jesus is walking on the water and Peter walks on water to join him. When Peter begins to sink, Jesus takes his hand and says, “Take courage.” We need courage to be faithful disciples of the Lord. Faithful discipleship is not a cheap grace. It is a costly grace. Following the Lord and embracing his teachings in this secularized society telling us to do something else takes great courage.

We are naturally so grateful to all of those who support this ministry. They are helping people to live their faith and they need to be reaffirmed in their desire to follow the teachings of the Church.

To be faithful disciples of the Lord, embrace his teachings, and exhibit faithful discipleship in this secularized society takes great courage.  Is that what Secretaryof Education Dr. Mary Grassa O’Neill and the leaders of the Catholic Schools Foundation demonstrated last week?  Let’s hope they all read this and reconsider their response. We also ask all readers to visit our newly updated Take Action page and start sending some letters immediately.

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Readers, given the interest and urgency level around the situation with the lesbian couple whose son was declined admission to a Catholic school, we thought you should all read this March 10, 2010 column by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.  It describes how he responded to a strikingly similar situation.  It’s too good to excerpt–folks should read it in its entirety, including a response by Fr. Bill Breslin that follows Archbishop Chaput’s column.  Readers of this blog should send copies of these to Cardinal Sean, Fr. Bryan Hehir, Mary Grassa O’Neill, Jack Connors,  Michael B. Reardon, and others in the Pastoral Center.   We are wondering why they don’t just cite Bishop Chaput’s fine work for their response.  Here it is.  Enjoy!

Catholic schools: Partners in faith with parents

Denver news media have reported in recent days on the case of two children of a lesbian couple in Boulder.  The couple was informed by Sacred Heart of Jesus parish school that the older child, whom they were enrolling in kindergarten for next year, would be allowed to attend kindergarten but would not be able to continue into first grade the year after.  Their younger child would be welcome to finish preschool, but not continue into kindergarten.   Many have wondered why.  Sacred Heart of Jesus parish has borne the difficult publicity surrounding this issue, but archdiocesan policy was followed faithfully in this matter, and the policy applies to all Archdiocese of Denver schools.

Some background is important.  Then we’ll turn to the human realities involved.

Catholic schools began in this country in the early 19th century.  Catholics started them as an alternative to the public schools of the day, which taught a curriculum often hostile to Catholic belief.  In many ways times have changed, but the mission of Catholic schools has not.  The main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values.

We take great pride in the academic excellence of our schools as well.  The reason is simple.  A strong, well-rounded academic education helps to create mature citizens who contribute to the wider community.  It’s also true that some of our schools exist as a service outreach in largely non-Catholic communities.  Many of our schools also accept students of other faiths and no faith, and from single parent and divorced parent families.  These students are always welcome so long as their parents support the Catholic mission of the school and do not offer a serious counter-witness to that mission in their actions.

Our schools, however, exist primarily to serve Catholic families with an education shaped by Catholic faith and moral formation.  This is common sense.  Other religious traditions do the same according to their beliefs, and at a heavy sacrifice.  We need to remember that Catholic families pay twice for a Catholic education: through their taxes, they fund public education; then they pay again to send their children to a Catholic school.  The idea that Catholic schools should require support for Catholic teaching for admission, and a serious effort from school families to live their Catholic identity faithfully, is reasonable and just.

That’s the background.  Now to the human side of a painful situation.  The Church never looks for reasons to turn anyone away from a Catholic education.  But the Church can’t change her moral beliefs without undermining her mission and failing to serve the many families who believe in that mission.  If Catholics take their faith seriously, they naturally follow the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals; otherwise they take themselves outside the believing community.

The Church does not claim that people with a homosexual orientation are “bad,” or that their children are less loved by God.  Quite the opposite.  But what the Church does teach is that sexual intimacy by anyone outside marriage is wrong; that marriage is a sacramental covenant; and that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman.  These beliefs are central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society.  The Church cannot change these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The policies of our Catholic school system exist to protect all parties involved, including the children of homosexual couples and the couples themselves.  Our schools are meant to be “partners in faith” with parents.  If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible.  It also places unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church.

Most parents who send their children to Catholic schools want an environment where the Catholic faith is fully taught and practiced.  That simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents.  That isn’t fair to anyone—including the wider school community.  Persons who have an understanding of marriage and family life sharply different from Catholic belief are often people of sincerity and good will.  They have other, excellent options for education and should see in them the better course for their children.

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March 5, 2010

What wisdom is at work in not having children of a gay marriage in a Catholic school?

By Father Bill Breslin, pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus, Boulder

If a child of gay parents comes to our school, and we teach that gay marriage is against the will of God, then the child will think that we are saying their parents are bad.  We don’t want to put any child in that tough position-nor do we want to put the parents, or the teachers, at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Why would good parents want their children to learn something they don’t believe in? It doesn’t make sense.  There are so many schools in Boulder that see the meaning of sexuality in an entirely different way than the Catholic Church does. Why not send their child there?

The core issue for us Catholics on this question is our freedom and our obligation to teach about marriage and family life as our Faith teaches. If parents see the cultural interpretation of what tolerance has become as more important than the teachings of Jesus, then we become unfaithful to the Lord and we lose the meaning of the beatitude, “Blessed are you when they insult you for My sake, for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.” Many of Jesus’ teachings were not popular. In fact, He was crucified for His teachings.

Glossing over differences on essential matters, and pretending that crucial issues are irrelevant, is not tolerance. It is relativism, meaning that nothing is important anymore and everyone can have their own interpretation of what is goodness and truth. This kind of tolerance, which is a decidedly secularist invention, seeks to separate all moral discourse from public life. However, those who embrace this kind of tolerance do not, of course, acknowledge that they are imposing their own moral judgments upon society.

The Catholic Church invests in parish schools so as to assist children in becoming disciples of Christ and to stand as a light shining in the darkness that has rejected Christianity and the truth of being human, including the meaning of human sexuality.

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In the latest news from the Boston Archdiocese,
Cardinal Sean O’Malley , his senior cabinet officials, and big fundraisers all say it’s perfectly fine for the child of a homosexual couple to attend Catholic Schools.  This decision came the same day as Pope Benedict XVI blasted gay marriage as “insidious and dangerous.

This comes just two weeks after Cabinet Secretary for Social Services, Fr. Bryan Hehir, keynoted a conference with a priest who advocates for gay priests and the gay lifestyle.  Just a few days ago, we learned that two “Catholic” legislators who are Knights of Columbus recently voted approval to allow what could be millions in taxpayer dollars spent for gay programs in schools–and the Archdiocese said nothing in response.

Short version of the current story. On Wednesday, it was reported in the mainstream media that a faithful Catholic priest at St. Paul School in Hingham decided to not admit the son of a lesbian couple to Catholic elementary school. The reason quite simply is that the parents’ relationship “was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Kudos to that priest.  But there was backlash, especially from donors to the Catholic schools.  Now key players from the Cardinal on down have distanced themselves from that faithful priest, disavowed his decision and declared any Catholic school that gets funding from the Archdiocese must admit children of gay couples.

Our researchers cant find any official Church teaching on the specific issue of a Catholic school admitting children of gay couples. (After all, how long has it been that we have gay couples with children, let alone those who want their kids to attend Catholic schools?).  So, we’ll focus this post on three things.  First, what the Church does say, secondly, how  another diocese with an archbishop who is a strong leader responded to a similar situation, and third, our perspective on whats happening in Boston and whos pulling the strings here in Boston on this issue that is not the archbishop.

The Vatican has criticized adoptions by gay couples

Here’s what the Vaticans  2003 “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons” said:

As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.

The Archdiocese of Denver backed a similar decision to exclude kids of gay couples.

Archbishop Chaput of Denver gave a brilliant defense of his position last year that children of gay couples should not attend Catholic schools.

Chaput said the parents of Catholic school students are expected to agree with church beliefs, including those forbidding sex between anyone other than married, heterosexual couples.  “The church cannot change these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the teachings of Jesus Christ,” he said. Chaput said Catholic schools work as religious partners with parents, but that doesn’t work if the parents don’t respect church beliefs or openly reject them. He said that also puts unfair stress on the children and their teachers. Chaput acknowledged that many Catholic schools accept students from other faiths and from single-parent families, but he said their parents are expected to support the Catholic mission of the school.

Whats Happening in Boston

In the opinion of the team here at Bryan Hehir Exposed, the situation for Boston can best be summed up in three words: failed episcopal leadership.  Did Boston get a response like that of Archbishop Chaput.  No.  We got the exact opposite.  Mark Silk over at SpiritualPolitics covers this in “O’Malley v Chaput.” He opens with “What a difference a diocese makes” and closes by saying “…we may ponder his [O’Malley’s] emergence as the closest thing to a paladin progressive Catholicism has in the American hierarchy today.”  (Could it be that Cardinal Sean is rapidly emerging as the left-leaning successor to Cardinal Roger Mahony and this is just another manifestation of that?)

Some of you might recall what happened early in Cardinal O’Malleys tenure here in Boston.  When he washed just the feet of men for Holy Thursday in 2004 liberal women complained, and he responded by asking  the Vatican what to do.  The Congregation for Divine Worship “affirmed the liturgical requirement that only the feet of men be washed at the Holy Thursday ritual.”  But the Cardinal caved in to the pressure and after 2005 decided to wash the feet of women anyway.  This sounds like de ja vu.

The person heading up fundraising for Catholic Schools is wealthy power-broker Jack Connors.  In 2007, the Boston Globe described him as “a man with his hand still firmly on the levers of power… Who is going to say no when Jack comes calling?”  From this article, it sounds like he does a lot of good work for a lot of good causes.  With respect to this latest schools fracas, Mr. Connors’ picture is at the top of the article in today’s Boston Globe, where he is quoted as saying. ‘I am disappointed that . . . this faith that I love seems to find new ways to shoot itself in the foot.”

Readers should know that besides raising money for Catholic Schools and doing lots of good work for a lot of good causes, Mr. Connors was also co-chair and a key fundraiser of the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that nominated the pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage Sen. John Kerry.  When it was found that local business would take a $24 million hit due to the convention, Connors, said naysayers should “lighten up and enjoy it.”  According to Federal Election Committee campaign finance records, in the past 4 years, John M Connors, Jr. and his wife, Eileen, have donated close to $250,000 to the Democratic Party and to Democratic political candidates, almost all of whom support abortion and gay marriage, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd, and Martha Coakley (who said during her failed Senate campaign, devout Catholics “probably shouldn’t work in an emergency room.”).  We don’t know Mr. Connors, so no judgments on him–were just giving readers the factual information thats out in the public domain available to anyone.

The first message that was sent to schools about this situation came not from someone responsible for the education and moral formation of children, but from the fundraising folks.   Here’s the email threatening to cut off funding for any school that refused admission to children of gay couples.

Dear School Administrators:

You may be aware from recent publicity about an exclusionary admissions practice at St. Paul School in Hingham, which does not receive support from the Catholic Schools Foundation.  In light of those media reports, we thought it important to clarify the position of the Catholic Schools Foundation – – namely, that no school that promotes an exclusionary admissions policy or practice will be considered for support.

We believe a policy or practice that denies admission to students in such a manner as occurred at St. Paul’s is at odds with our values as a Foundation, the intentions of our donors, and ultimately with Gospel teaching.  Our concern is the education of young people.  We will not fund any school that treats students and families in such a manner.  This policy has been unchanged since our founding in 1983.

We are proud that Catholic schools are known for being welcoming communities for all students. So although this incident is disturbing, we know that it is isolated, not a policy of the Archdiocese, or indicative generally of the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese.  Know that we appreciate all you do to make your schools places where all feel welcome.

Please contact me at 617-778-5981 if you have any questions or if I can be of any assistance to you.

With hope for the students we serve and the future of Catholic education, I am

Sincerely yours,

Michael B, Reardon, Executive Director

Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education and Superintendent of Schools, who makes $325,000 a year and whose biography says that she never taught or administered in a Catholic school before landing the job, said in her statement that the church does not prohibit children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic schools and that the archdiocese will “work in the coming weeks to develop a policy to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future.”

Frankly, its unclear to a lot of us why a lesbian couple would want to send their child to a Catholic school in the first place, and it seems like it may also be unclear now to that couple.  The Globe reports “But the woman said she was uncertain she would enroll her son in another Catholic school because she needed to learn more about their educational programs.  She added: ‘I will be a little bit more guarded in my questioning so I’ll be able to have a real clear picture where they stand.”

Orthodox Catholics like C.J. Doyle, executive director of Catholic Action League of Massachusetts concur.  He called upon the archdiocese to “vigorously defend’’ the school’s decision to revoke admission to the youngster. “The real question here is why two people who radically repudiate the moral teachings of Catholicism would want their child educated in a Catholic school,’’ Doyle said in a statement.

We close with this excerpt from a timely post by Judie Brown of the American Life League entitled “Bishops Who Wear Badges…Of Courage“:

It has been said that strong, faithful shepherds can lead the “spiritual paralytic” to an understanding of Christ, His truth and His love for each of us. On the other hand, as St. Augustine wrote in reference to false shepherds,

You have failed to strengthen the weak, says the Lord. He is speaking to wicked shepherds, false shepherds, shepherds who seek their own concerns and not those of Christ. They enjoy the bounty of milk and wool, but they take no care at all of the sheep, and they make no effort to heal those who are ill. I think there is a difference between one who is weak (that is, not strong) and one who is ill, although we often say that the weak are also suffering from illness.

So, as we celebrate the good shepherds who have chosen to follow what is true and good, we salute them as we pray for those shepherds who, for whatever reason, need the audacity of faith to stand in the gap, defending Christ and bearing all manner of insults in His name.

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