Before reading today’s post, you’ll want to read the previous post about How People from the Archdiocese React to Your Emails.
A priest who serves on the Presbyteral Council and who also works at the Chancery on an important initiative responded back to our email/fax campaign (“Catholics Ask Holy See to Intervene in Boston Archdiocese“) over the Catholic Schools policy to admit children of gay parents and complained about getting “spammed” by our emails.
In How People from the Archdiocese React to Your Emails, he sent us a short email asking to be removed from the emails. Since he’s a member of the Presbyteral Council who apparently approved this ill-conceived policy, we asked him a few questions:
- Are you OK with the use of the Holy Father’s quote out of context at the beginning of the policy, which has the intended effect of deceiving readers into believing the Holy Father approves of such a policy?
- When a gay or lesbian couple becomes chair of a fund-raising or parent committee, how exactly will the school avoid implicitly or explicitly giving recognition to the validity of their relationship?
- When a five-year-old asks their parents why Johnny has two daddies, how does this avoid corrupting the innocence of the young mind of that child?
- Is there some process for how individual Catholics should communicate directly with the Presbyteral Council members?
He responded back, but never answered the questions about the deception or the problems with the inherently flawed policy. That’s probably because he had no credible answers for them. He conveniently skipped those, and only commented on how he personally would like to receive communications.
Communications from the faithful to him need to be neat and not bothersome. If a lot of people have the same thing to say, we should go to the effort of aggregating all of the input in one petition with all of the signatures, so he is not troubled by multiple emails.
He feels people should each go to the effort of writing their own personal messages, rather than signing a pre-written letter, even though the Cardinal and his leadership team have such a well-established practice of ignoring personal correspondence from faithful Catholics, that people just don’t want to waste the time any more composing personal letters they know will end up going nowhere.
Our method of communicating didn’t help him understand how we came to our conclusions. Isn’t this one-page letter with six points pretty much self-explanatory about the rationale?
Here’s his email back to Joe, and then you’ll see Joe’s response back to him, slightly edited to not reveal the identity of the priest:
To: Joe Sacerdo <firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 8:51pm
Subj: RE: Stop sending copies
I am very interested in hearing the voices of Catholics and their opinions. It is important that Catholics share their ideas and concerns with their priests and bishops. It helps our dialogue and helps us to know the “sensus fidelium.” Normally, priests and pastors get these perspectives in personal conversations with their people or at their parish pastoral councils. They bring those concerns to Presbyteral Council meetings on a regular basis.
If your group, using the same words, had decided to send one petition with numerous signatures that would have been instructive and helpful.
If your group had instructed members to send their individual perspectives to me, in their own words but with similar thoughts, that too would have been instructive. I would have been happy to receive all of them.
What I got today was the same message in my email box…over and over again, with only the signature changed. Thus, my comment that, after one, I understood the issue and the concern.
The method you used was not helpful in making sense of how your group arrived at its conclusions. It gave no background. It did feel like “spamming,” even if that were not your intention.
I want to hear important ideas, strong convictions, deeply held beliefs, as long as they are expressed without calumny or detraction and are spoken with true charity.
I have met and spoken with the members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council on several occasions. I have found them to be dedicated and hardworking members of the Church, men and women who love the Church very much. I would not characterize them and have no reason to believe that this “organization is corrupted.” To characterize this fine group of people in such a way saddens me. I believe it to be an unfair and unjustified accusation, based on what came through today.
Thank you for contacting me. I hope we can continue to find actions that build up the Body of Christ and continue the Cardinal’s mission of recovery, trust and evangelization.
From: Joe Sacerdo
Date: Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 6:47 PM
Subj: Re: Stop sending copies
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts back in the detailed message. Much of what you outlined would make sense and would work in the means you outlined–if the actions by the archdiocese weren’t rooted in deception and were rooted in the teachings of the Church.
I think we may differ on much, but on this we should agree–the Catholic Schools admission policy and it’s means of coming about were rooted in deception. Cardinal Sean put out his statement last May saying the Denver policy would be carefully studied and considered, but Fr. Bryan Hehir said a day later on WBUR that the Denver policy didn’t matter at all to the Cardinal–the Boston Archdiocese was already admitting children of gay parents and would continue doing so, just with a formal policy. One of the these two gentlemen was lying. Based on the outcome policy, it would appear that it was the Cardinal. The policy released says that “we are guided by the words of the Holy Father, by Canon Law, and the USCCB.” We both know that is also a lie. Mary Grassa O’Neill is on the record in September saying the archdiocese had two options in which way they went with the policy, and an internal decision was made to not discriminate, then the policy was written around that decision. There was no guidance by the words of the Holy Father, whose quote talked about all students being able to access Catholic education without regard to financial limitation. The reality is that the decision was made internally to “not discriminate”, apparently based on some combination of the Cardinal’s own belief, Bryan Hehir’s input or pressure from Jack Connors and other donors–and then people went out and found quotes that could be used in some way to back that position. If they read Canon law, they’d know that the Code of Canon Law: 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. Furthermore, the principle of subsidiarity would require decisions be made at the pastor level, not by the archdiocese.
What should faithful Catholics make of the objective reality that the Cardinal, the Presbyteral Council and APC all let this through with an intentionally deceptive use of the quote by the Holy Father opening the policy and an outright lie that the archdiocese was guided by the words of the Holy Father?
The policy was created in secret. There was no opportunity for input by rank-and-file Catholics.We tried providing input and it was completely ignored.
APC members were asked to not share drafts with anyone. After the fact, are people supposed to go to their pastor, who might be on the Presbyteral Council, or their local APC member, and politely ask afterwards, “Why did you allow this deception? Could you try to have more integrity in the future?”
Start with deception, you’re going to get angry people when it’s clear what’s happened.
How to communicate with you and others? Ideally, it would be nice if everyone composed their own thoughtful message; however, we have well-established precedents where organizations offer a pre-written letter to sign online in order to weigh-in on issues with Congress or other representative organizations. They operate almost exactly as we created ours… We could consider an approach where the signatures are queued up and one petition with many names is submitted. However, since the Cardinal has established a precedent where he ignores letters and emails sent to him by both lay Catholics and clergy, an individual letter even with many signatures would never be noticed. Perhaps if you can ask him to start responding to letters, as his precedessor did, more people would be willing to take the time to write individual letters. But since he ignores all letters, faithful Catholics no longer want to waste the time composing their thoughts individually so a form-letter is the best solution.
As for the APC, yes, they’re hard-working and many are dedicated to the Church. But they let the Schools Policy go through with no comments about the deception referenced above and they let the archdiocese sponsor a conference featuring Fr. Thomas Massaro, who had a record of supporting a pro-abortion politician excommunicated by her bishop. I know you are quite familiar with that conference. From what I read in another email sent to us, the APC recording secretary obviously has an agenda and it’s not necessarily advancing the teachings of the Church. And she’s now on the Pastoral Planning Commission to plan the future of the archdiocese. More orthodox Catholics from the APC could have no doubt been chosen for this commission, but instead we have a woman who, as evidenced by the email I received, seems to be manipulating the minutes of APC meetings to highlight feedback that goes against Church teachings and minimizing feedback that supports church teachings. That sounds corrupt to me. Previous Social Justice Conferences also backed by the APC had similarly controversial speakers.
I hope this helps explain what got us to this point, and I hope and pray that you and other priests will stand-up and defend Church teachings on the important issues embodied in this policy and other matters.
# # # #
The priest didn’t respond to this email.