Faithful readers, this is now the final version of the
“Big Picture” essay. In view of the conflicting messages and lack of recent communications from officials in the Boston Archdiocese over the matter of letting gay couples’ children attend Catholic schools, this essay outlines all of the issues to be considered in the big picture of this topic. Everyone commenting on this topic from the Boston Archdiocese seems to be covering just a narrow slice or two of the problem, and it appears that even the Cardinal and his advisors may have forgotten some of the outstanding things he said earlier in his tenure here in Boston on the issue of homosexuality. Hopefully, if all of the concerns and arguments are in one place, then people on all sides of this issue who care about Catholic school education can see the big picture holistically and better chart the course ahead for the benefit of children, schools, and the Catholic Church as a whole. The reason this essay is at this blog is because Fr. Bryan Hehir was the last voice heard (and literally the only voice audibly heard) from the Archdiocese of Boston on this issue–and he has made some of the most controversial and confusing statements on the issue which merit clarification.
Well-known individuals including Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Fr. Roger Landry of Fall River, and Dale O’Leary have already written outstanding pieces on this subject, and this essay is intended merely to extend their enlightening work and help all concerned to more easily and thoroughly understand the issue.
1. Identity and Purpose of Catholic Education
The main mission of Catholic schools is educate children of Catholics with an education shaped by Catholic faith and moral tradition. When Catholic schools accept children from non-Catholic families, the religious focus remains, and although Catholic schools welcome and teach many children who are not Catholic, this is not the primary mission. It is unclear where the Boston Archdiocese got the idea that serving “unconventional households” is the central mission of Catholic education. That is what a public school is for.
2. Partnering with Parents
Archbishop Chaput, Dale O’Leary, Fr. Roger Landry and Vatican documents including Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis) have said it well. The school needs to partner with parents to develop children in the faith. That means the parents have to accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and help reinforce them in the home and family life. Archbishop Chaput wrote, “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.” There is an inherent conflict here with gay parents who are happily living a relationship that is considered immoral, which permanently deprives children of their natural law right to both a mother and father, and which can never ever be considered valid by the church. This is uniquely different than situations where parents are divorced, single parents, or co-habitating heterosexual couples, where those parents themselves may hope for the potential of a valid marriage, and where the relationship can indeed hopefully become valid in the eyes of the Church some day.
3. Excluding People from Catholic Schools
For various reasons, including the need to maintain that Catholic identity and partnership with parents, Catholic schools have indeed excluded “categories of people” in the past. This is contrary to what Cardinal O’Malley said in his May 19 message. Though it has changed now, in years past, parish-based Catholic schools used to admit only Catholics, and required the family live in the parish’s geographic region and be a member of the parish. Blogger Paul Melanson reports that he was excluded from Catholic schools because he was from a military family, and the Catholic school required that the family be living in the same area for 5 years. Children are excluded from schools on an individual basis because of behavioral problems. The Vatican has declared that active homosexuals should be excluded from seminaries. For Catholic schools to exclude children might not be optimal in terms of the new mantra of “welcoming everyone,” but everyone needs to remember it’s a private school, and as such someone will inevitably be excluded.
Fr. Roger Landry at CatholicPreaching observed the similarity to the situation of baptizing children, where the Church wants all children to be baptized but the priest 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). “If there is no realistic hope that the parents are going to raise the child in the faith…the pastor…must reluctantly delay the baptism 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.”
Fr. Landry notes that it’s similar for Catholic school
admissions decisions. “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.”
4. Inherent Contradiction: Catholic School Education for Kids of Gay Parents
Pope John Paul II taught in Veritatis Splendor (No. 113) that the “right of the faithful to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity must always be respected.” As most readers know and others have written, there simply is an inherent contradiction associated with trying to educate children of gay parents in Catholic schools. Archbishop Chaput wrote the Church teaches 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.” When the Church teaches that gay marriage is against the will of God at the same time the parents live a lifestyle that rejects those beliefs, then the child will hear the Church saying their parents (upon whom they rely for sustenance) are bad. The burden and stress is borne by the child, who is caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church.
As Dale O’Leary put it, “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. 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.” This is the same thing that the Denver Archdiocese concluded.
This essay could stop here with the arguments aired by most of people who have written on this topic, as clearly more than enough reasons are out on the table to make the same decision in Boston as was made in Denver. However, the comments by Boston Archdiocesean officials including Cardinal O’Malley, the secretary for social services, the superintendent of schools, and others suggest there will be some new “Big Tent” policy that makes an attempt at keeping everyone happy by formally approving the admission of gay couples’ children, but which will in reality water-down teachings for everyone while it also compromises the identity of Catholic school education. But even beyond the very legitimate arguments above, there are many other important issues associated with this situation that very few people are discussing which need to also be laid out and considered.
5. Important Facts About the Hingham Situation
Several facts should be noted about the Hingham situation
which are relevant to Fr. Rafferty’s decision and to the discussion about a policy going forward. The parents in this case have publicly stated they are not Catholic. They are Christian but do not attend church regularly, and wanted a Catholic school education because of the emphasis on Christian values such as compassion and empathy–values not at all unique to a Catholic school, and which could no doubt be readily gained in a loving home, the Boy Scouts, or any other Christian school. They told the media they filled out the school’s application form which merely asked for names of “parents,” but in reality the form asks for the names of the “mother” and “father” on separate lines, and multiple sources indicate the parents misrepresented themselves on the form by completing only a last name and first initial where mother’s and father’s names were requested. When the Archdiocese offered to help find another Catholic school, the lesbian mother said she was uncertain she would enroll her son in another Catholic school because she needed to learn more about their educational programs. She said, “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.” This gives additional validation to the decision by Fr. Rafferty to deny admission, and strongly suggests that these parents do not welcome the Church’s teaching, nor are they prepared to partner with the Church for the good of the child’s overall and integral education. No statements of comments from the Archdiocese have yet acknowledged this reality of the Hingham situation or the likelihood of encountering a similar situation with most other gay couples. The Archdiocese needs to publicly acknowledge this.
6. The Slippery Slope
So, what might the consequences be of a Boston policy
that welcomes children of gay parents as long as the parents agree that the child will be taught the truths of the Catholic faith on sexuality and sexual morality? Will school application forms ask for the names of “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” instead of the names of the mother and father? What happens if the parents agree to their children being educated in Catholic sexual morality at school, but then go out and publicly celebrate their homosexual lifestyle with their child at the annual Gay Pride parade? Once a child is admitted, what if they come home crying and distraught because they learned in school that God views the parents’ relationship or “marriage” as invalid and immoral? What if the parents later complain about the teacher for saying something about the truths of the faith they felt was offensive, troublesome, and discriminatory to their child and their family? How can teachers be totally comfortable teachings the truths of Catholic teachings on marriage and sexuality when they know it’s likely to make a sensitive child feel hurt or uncomfortable and could result in an accusation of hate-speech? How should the school deal with a teenage boy with two daddies who questions his normal friendship with another boy, may feel his parental situation makes it OK to sexually experiment and hit on the friend, or decides he must be gay (or a teenage girl who sees her lesbian mother as a role model and thinks her close friendship with another girl means she’s probably a lesbian? Should a 14-year-old boy who identifies himself as “gay” and applies as an “out” gay teen to a Catholic high school be admitted? Beyond this, if the policy says children of gay couples are OK, then how do you defend not having openly gay teachers, and then insurance benefits for them?
As has been written previously, for those who think there is not a slippery slope, just look at how Employment Non-Discrimination Acts (ENDA) that were positioned as absolutely never to result in “same-sex marriages” led to 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. 4 years later it was legal for gay couples to adopt children. 14 years later in the SJC’s 2003 Goodridge 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.
7. The Scandal of Giving Implicit Recognition to Gay Partnerships
As The Boston Pilot explained in their editorial, the
Catechism says 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.’ There is no doubt that giving recognition to same-sex unions by virtue of their children being in Catholic school will have consequences, but no one from the Archdiocesan hierarchy has said a peep about this concern or seems to realize it is part of the gay agenda and they have apparently fallen for it hook-line-and-sinker.
If you have not yet read two landmark pieces about the gay agenda to normalize homosexuality, please do read them–they deserve a whole post and wide circulation amongst the Church hierarchy themselves. “The Overhauling of Straight America” appeared in Guide Magazine, a homosexual publication, in November 1987—over two decades ago. This landmark article has become a “bible” of the homosexual movement. It outlines strategies and techniques for a successful widespread propaganda campaign to confuse and deceive the American people and demonize opponents.
This isn’t really about the child, although the child is affected also. It’s about caving in to the homosexual agenda. The agenda is part of a spiritual battle, and the reaction from Fr. Bryan Hehir, Michael Reardon, Jack Connors, Mary Grassa O’Neill, and Cardinal O’Malley suggests we may have already lost the battle. Yes, the Church does often let different “categories” of people go to its schools. But unlike the other “categories” of people, the homosexual movement is out to weaken and destroy the Church. Because the lesbian couple in this incident have said in the media they were concerned about the religious education taught in Catholic schools, it appears that the purpose of the parents was ultimately to paint Catholic belief about human sexuality as wrong and force others at the school to adjust to homosexual “parents.” Here are a few passages from the article:
STEP 1: TALK ABOUT GAYS AND GAYNESS AS LOUDLY AND AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE.
The first order of business is desensitization of the American public concerning gays and gay rights. Ideally, we would have straights register differences in sexual preference the way they register different tastes for ice cream or sports games: she likes strawberry and I like vanilla; he follows baseball and I follow football. No big deal.
The principle behind this advice is simple: almost any behavior begins to look normal if you are exposed to enough of it at close quarters and among your acquaintances. ..In the early stages of any campaign to reach straight America, the masses should not be shocked and repelled by premature exposure to homosexual behavior itself. Instead, the imagery of sex should be downplayed and gay rights should be reduced to an abstract social question as much as possible.
…we can undermine the moral authority of homophobic churches by portraying them as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step with the times and with the latest findings of psychology. Against the mighty pull of institutional Religion one must set the mightier draw of Science & Public Opinion (the shield and sword of that accursed “secular humanism”). Such an unholy alliance has worked well against churches before, on such topics as divorce and abortion. With enough open talk about the prevalence and acceptability of homosexuality, that alliance can work again here.
STEP 2: PORTRAY GAYS AS VICTIMS, NOT AS AGGRESSIVE CHALLENGERS. (more)
Do read the entire article, as well as this summary of the book, “After the Ball — How America will conquer its fear and hatred of Gays in the 1990’s.” The reactions from Boston Archdiocese in this situation–especially by Fr. Hehir, Mary Grassa O’Neill, and Michael Reardon, but also Cardinal O’Malley–have gone exactly as was outlined and predicted by homosexual authors more than two decades ago.
Pope John Paul II’s Letter to the Bishops on Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons also warned about this problem. The Church “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.”
Canon Law may also give some guidance. Canon 22, prohibits the canonization of civil laws that are “contrary to divine law.” Because same-sex “marriages” or civil unions and mutatis mutandis adoptions are contrary to divine law; it is arguable that the civil law allowing them cannot be regarded by the Church as valid. Admission of the children to Catholic schools would certainly give the impression that the status of the parents is comparable to parents united in the bonds of Holy Matrimony.
Fortunately, one source from the Boston Archdiocese, The Pilot, acknowledged this problem, saying, “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.”
8. False Compassion on the Sinner
Cardinal Sean wrote in May 19, 2010 blog post on the schools issue, “We need to present the Church’s teachings courageously and yet in a way that is compassionate and persuasive.” Yet in his post, for some reason he didn’t present the Church’s teachings or say anything about the immoral homosexual relationship that precipitated this whole situation.
The Cardinal had a strong voice on this same topic just a few short years ago, but sadly now he seems to have lost it. On November 23, 2005, in his own letter on homosexuality, he called on Catholics to show true love to persons with homosexual tendencies by telling them that homosexual acts are sinful. Otherwise, we are dangerously “deceiving people.” He reminded Catholics that although Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, he did however – after saving her life – tell her “Go and sin no more.” We were told that some Catholics are misled into false kindness towards those with homosexual tendencies. “If we tell people that sex outside of marriage is not a sin, we are deceiving people.” The pastor of souls, whose first priority is the spiritual wellbeing of his flock, warned that spiritual wellbeing may be threatened by such false kindness. “If they believe this untruth, a life of virtue becomes all but impossible.”
It is never easy to deliver a message that calls people to make sacrifices or to do difficult things. Sometimes people want to punish the messenger. For this reason we priests at times find it difficult to articulate the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.
Yes indeed it is difficult. Fortunately, Fr. Rafferty found the courage to do it. But a few years later when the rubber hit the road in this situation, the Cardinal and others from the Archdiocese including Fr. Hehir and Dr. Grassa O’Neill seem to have followed the all-too-familiar approach of false compassion which ignores the sins and wrong way of living that many people engage in, and does exactly what the Cardinal himself warned against. St. Thomas Aquinas has written about this issue and Archbishop Fulton Sheen has an outstanding video on the problem of false compassion that all should watch. False compassion can blind us from actually being motivated to help the sinner amend their ways. We excerpt from what apologist/blogger Paul Melanson at LaSalette Journey recently wrote on this topic:
..while it is true that everything must be done to help sinners, this cannot include helping them to sin or to remain in sin. Because of human frailty, every sinner deserves both pity and compassion. However, vice and sin must be excluded from this compassion.” As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, this because sin can never be the proper object of compassion. (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, a.1, ad 1).
It is a false compassion which supplies the sinner with the means to remain attached to sin. Such ‘compassion’ provides an assistance (whether material or moral) which actually enables the sinner to remain firmly attached to his evil ways. By contrast, true compassion leads the sinner away from vice and back to virtue. As Thomas Aquinas explains:
“We love sinners out of charity, not so as to will what they will, or to rejoice in what gives them joy, but so as to make them will what we will, and rejoice in what rejoices us. Hence it is written: ‘They shall be turned to thee, and thou shalt not be turned to them.'” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 25, a.6, ad 4, citing Jeremiah 15:19).
True compassion is an effect of charity (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, a.3, ad 3). But it must be remembered that the object of this virtue is God, whose love extends to His creatures. (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 25, a.3). Therefore, the virtue of compassion seeks to bring God to the one who suffers so that he may thereby participate in the infinite love of God.
9. Contradictions in Fr. Bryan Hehir’s WBUR Interview about Catholic Schools
Several key contradictions and points of confusion emanating from the Archdiocese were covered in this May 21 blog post. (That included the claim that the purpose of Catholic education in Boston was to educate everyone, including “unconventional households. It also included the disconnect between Cardinal Sean, who said on May 19 that the Archdiocese was going to study this matter and “seriously consider” the Denver Archdiocese’s positions and rationale, and Fr. Hehir, who directly contradicted his boss a day later on WBUR saying Cardinal O’Malley is not going to talk about what other bishops do, Boston does not exclude anyone, Boston Catholic schools are accepting children of gay parents already, and “we intend to do it… with formal policies.”) We are still awaiting an statement from the Archdiocese to resolve this contradiction.
But the self-contradictions in what Fr. Hehir said
are actually worse than many people originally realized. First of all, he said, “At times, the Catholic bishops conference as a whole makes policy decisions that bind the whole conference. ” If Fr. Hehir really believes and accepts this, and if he is to be trusted in the future, then why did he proceed as President of Catholic Charities with honoring the pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage Mayor Menino at their 2005 fundraiser–in direct opposition to the USCCB’s Catholics in Political Life, which states:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
Even more disturbing is Fr. Hehir’s apparent failure to learn from public recognition of his past mistakes and wrong positions on issues like sexual morality and public policy over time. On WBUR (listen at 13:00), he was asked, “How is the church going to be able to balance this policy of openness and inclusion, at the same time adhering to some teachings of the church that tell people their families are living in sinful ways?” In his response Fr. Hehir reaffirmed comments made earlier on the program by a lesbian mother whose son attended a Brookline Catholic school for a year, saying:
Ms Gonzales very eloquently made the point that Catholic moral teachings include sexuality, but it goes to a much broader range of questions about character, social justice, regard for the poor, human rights, and that’s an extraordinarily important point to mention. That’s precisely what I meant when I talked about the full range of our moral teaching, this includes teaching about sexuality but is not confined to that.
Fr. Hehir said nothing about the homosexual couple living in a sinful way, and instead commends the woman–a perfect example of the false compassion mentioned earlier. Furthermore, in his response, he seems to be saying essentially the same thing in 2010 which he advised the Catholic bishops to do 27 years ago–broaden the focus from one important moral issue to a broader range of lesser issues–which history shows failed to work. In the book “Religious Leaders and Faith-Based Politics” (published in 2001), the chapter dedicated to Fr. Hehir (which drew on personal interviews with Fr. Hehir and with longtime observers of his work) mentions his “considerable” role played while at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in changing the public policy focus for U.S. bishops starting in 1983. Fr. Hehir’s influence moved the bishops from an almost exclusive focus on opposing abortion to a broader “consistent ethic of life” (also known as “seamless garment”) approach where abortion was dealt with in conjunction with other threats to life and human well-being like poverty and nuclear war. Fr. Hehir’s rationale cited in this particular book was that he believed:
First, that the abortion issue did not exhaust the richest of Church social teaching…Second, that the credibility and effectiveness of the Church’s teaching on abortion would actually be enhanced rather than diminished by placing it in the context of a broader social agenda.”
Though Hehir’s motivation was described several years earlier by a different author as a “concern that strict application of Catholic sexual mores in public policy would cost the Church valuable allies” (Changing Witness: Catholic Bishops and Public Policy, Warner: 1996; foreward by George Weigel), regardless of Fr. Hehir’s rationale, history would show that he was still wrong. The 2001 book acknowledges (p. 215) that the effect of Fr. Hehir’s recommendations on public policy had “proved quite minimal,” and as of the time of the book’s publishing, the ‘consistent ethic of life’ had not yet succeeded in diminishing public support for abortion. Furthermore, leading opponents of abortion within the hierarchy such as Cardinal O’Connor feared:
that pro-choice Catholic politicians would point to their support for other elements of the Church’s social agenda as a way of deflecting criticism of their pro-choice position–a fear, that, as it turned out, proved well-founded.”
So, Fr. Hehir’s influence which broadened the bishops’ focus from abortion to a range of other lesser issues did NOT enhance the effectiveness of the Church’s teaching on abortion at all, as we are told he believed and recommended at the time. This chapter also notes Fr. Hehir’s “crucially important” and “principal influence” roles in the Bishops’ peace and economic pastorals. Both of them were intended to make a significant impact on public policy. In the end, the impact is described as “utterly negligible.”
This author suggests that Cardinal O’Malley, Fr. Hehir himself, and others involved in making the decision on the future of Catholic education for the Archdiocese keep Fr. Hehir’s well-established track record of publicly-acknowledged wrong ideas in mind as they proceed in this critical matter.
10. Flaws in Cardinal O’Malley’s plans going forward
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.” Though this approach sounds well-intentioned, based on what is already known about the people the Cardinal typically consults with, all should question the composition and judgment of those tapped for input and advice on such an important decision. As noted in this March 31 blog post, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council apparently had no problem with Fr. Hehir’s first social justice conference in 2006, for which the promotional flyer to council members (p.14-15) listed support by the Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which has funded ACORN, pro-abortion and pro-gay organizations, and a range of Saul Allinsky-modeled radical, left-wing political organizations. A speaker who had led Our Lady Help of Christians parish participation in Boston’s Gay Pride Parade was also featured, talking about how to model those efforts in local parish social justice programs. At the APC’s most recent meeting for which minutes are (Sept. 10, 2009), Sr. Terry Rickard from RENEW International was there to present, and the council talked about the fall 2009 social justice conference which featured her as a speaker. As noted previously on this blog, Sr. Terry’s order, the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt, is associated with the liberal social justice group, NETWORK (who the USCCB recently criticized for their position on the abortion-funding national healthcare legislation), and the sisters’ website links of interest have nothing going to the Vatican or USCCB, but instead to organizations such the American Friends Service Committee and United for Peace and Justice that back gay rights and gay “marriage.” If no one on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council raised questions about the troubling aspects of these two conferences or Sr. Terry’s background, why should their judgment and insights be trusted on something as important as the future of Catholic school education?
As for the Presbyteral Council, we all owe the utmost respect for the many fine priests in Boston, but the Council’s orthodoxy has been somewhat mixed. Anyone who cares about this issue should know that meeting minutes of several years ago reflect comments including a request by a priest to get Voice of the Faithful items on their meeting agenda, objections to orthodoxy at St. John’s seminary (“the seminary seems to be tipped in an ultra-orthodox direction…as if Mt St. Mary’s in Maryland is the model”), and concerns about “the poor language and pastoral insensitivity of the Roman document on homosexuality and the seminary.” Cardinal O’Malley himself once raised concerns the council risked turning into a “Kangaroo Court.”
The Cardinal should change his plan immediately to instead consult with the Vatican–and not with these two organizations, or any of the people like Mary Grassa O’Neill, Michael Reardon, Fr. Hehir, or Jack Connors who have already come out critical of Fr. Rafferty’s decision, or any advisors who have given money to pro-abortion, pro-gay politicians that might be part of the unspecified “wide range of people.”
So, many faithful Catholics are asking the question, “Where to from here?”
First, the Archdiocese should refine its definition of the mission of Catholic education to focus primarily on teaching the truths of the faith to children of Catholics parents and those committed to raising their children with Catholic moral values. If the Archdiocese ends up with fewer donors and a smaller number of schools, so be it.
Second, the Archdiocese needs to clarify the current status and plans–either the Cardinal’s May 19 statement is correct that the Denver precedent and rational are being carefully studied and considered (and Fr. Hehir was wrong), or Fr. Hehir’s May 20 comments are correct that this is already a done deal and Denver’s precedent doesn’t matter. The least that faithful Catholics can expect is clarity and honesty from our Church leaders, and this contradiction has yet to be cleared up.
Third, participants in any committee or decision-making process regarding this issue need to be selected based on their proven commitment and backing for the truths of the Church’s moral teachings on sexuality and marriage. As discussed in Section 10, any people who have demonstrated a lack of commitment to these teachings should be excluded from decision-making.
Fourth, whatever policy is developed needs to take into account all of the principles described in Sections 1-8. Using criteria of what is best for the child sounds noble and compassionate in principle, but looking at the situation through only that lens fails to take into account other important considerations and consequences.
Lastly, Cardinal O’Malley’s own words on Catholic education and homosexuality should be recalled in whatever policy emerges.
The only two reasons to justify having Catholic schools” are to ensure it is “truly Catholic and truly be one of excellence.”
It is important to express the moral teachings of the Church with clarity and fidelity. The Church must be Church. We must teach the truths of the Gospel in season and out of season. These recent times seem to us like it is “out of season”, but for that very reason it is even more urgent to teach the hard words of the Gospel today.
Calling people to embrace the cross of discipleship, to live the commandments and at the same time assuring them that we love them as brothers and sisters can be difficult. Sometimes we are told: “If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me.” In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: “Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior.”
“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.”
Isaiah 5:20 teaches us “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness.” Now is the time for courage to teach the truths of the faith in season and out of season, even though it may be difficult. Few can question that Archbishop Chaput was indeed “compassionate and persuasive” when he wrote, “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…and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church.”
False compassion and failing to communicate when certain behavior is unacceptable is not the Gospel message of love for either the child or the parents. Those living a homosexual lifestyle who know their lifestyle is inconsistent with the Church teachings on sexual morality and marriage (without the hope of gaining validity as with divorced or single parents) should accept that enrollment in a Catholic school would place the child in a “spiritually and morally schizophrenic situation” which will be confusing and not in the best interests of the child. Fundraisers engaged in the much-needed efforts to raise money that will ensure the future of Catholic education must realize that this situation will be harmful to the children. It will also dilute the effectiveness of Catholic moral teachings and compromise the unique identity of Catholic schools whose very future the fundraisers–along with administrators, teachers, and parents–are working hard to preserve.
The Denver Archdiocese concluded that sincere, good-willed persons who have an understanding of marriage and family life that is sharply different from Catholic belief have other excellent options for education that would be a better course for their children. For the sake of the children, it seems clear that is the same conclusion which Boston and other dioceses should reach.
(Catholics concerned about this issue should visit our Take Action page and send a free fax immediately to the people listed)