Cardinal Dolan recently announced his decision to remain as Grand Marshall of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, in spite that the parade will feature a gay rights group marching under its own banner. There has been consternation among the ranks of traditional (dare I say sane) Catholics that this move by Cardinal Dolan is…. well shall we say… “ inconsistent” with the teaching of the Catholic Church (more on this in a bit), but what is truly bizarre has been the response to one of the responses.
Well known Catholic priest and blogger Msgr Charles Pope, recently wrote a post that did not criticize Archbishop Dolan in any manner, but merely noted the obvious fact that maybe it’s time for the Church to recognize some traditionally Catholic events in New York like the Al Smith dinner and the St Patrick’s day parade are no longer recognizably Catholic. He noted that the Al Smith dinner often features pro-abortion politicians and the St Patrick’s Day parade is held in an atmosphere of general debauchery and drunkenness and now will feature folks who advocate homosexual activity. In response his bishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl made him take down the post. The post has been discussed elsewhere and is preserved in cyberspace. You still can read it over at Brietbart at this link .
Of course Msgr. Pope has made a promise to obey his Bishop, as do all priests, and the Archdiocese owns the website, so the post has vanished. This episode still demands a couple of comments.
First one must note that Cardinal Wuerl’s response is absurd. How are we to understand Cardinal Wuerl’s thought process? It would appear that he thinks priests should not preach. I am sure Msgr Pope, obedient priest that I am sure he is, would not characterize his bishop’s action that way, but as for the rest of us, alternative explanations are difficult to come up with.
Last I heard the Catholic Church teaches certain things are sins, among them serious drunkenness (typically willful drunkenness is only a venial sin but if one is so seriously intoxicated that they completely lose the use of reason and perhaps engage in harmful behavior such as drunk driving, it can be gravely sinful). Beyond this it is pretty much widely known that the Church teaches sex outside of marriage, including homosexual activity is also sinful . So we must struggle to understand Cardinal Wuerl’s logic. If a priest thinks a certain public event is associated with lots of sin, is it now forbidden in the diocese of Washington to suggest that such an event not be closely linked to the Church? Is it a problem to suggest that the Church does not appears to be endorsing the event? Alternatively Is Cardinal Wuerl now saying homosexual sodomy and extreme drunkenness are no longer sinful in his view or is he saying it’s sinful but he does not care, and would rather his priests ignore it? I doubt Cardinal Wuerl would agree that was his intent. What are we left with? Oh yes …. Perhaps he just was concerned about the “harsh language”. It is always the “language” isn’t it.. We must not be “harsh”. This strikes me a laughable given that the Christ is depicted as being pretty harsh in the Gospels. We see him calling people hypocrites and devils, liars and telling folks that people who displease God will be thrown into the “lake of fire” etc etc .. So it appears that Cardinal Wuerl’s ultimate boss was pretty “harsh”. But what is troubling about the language in Msgr Pope’s post? Its a lot less “harsh” then language like that in John’s Gospel ( See John 8: 44-55) The post does make very brief mention of specific homosexual acts, but why this is uncharitable? If you are not particularly disturbed by the acts themselves why is it offensive to mention them?
While we are at it I have a similar question for Cardinal Dolan. I am not quite clear on his logic either. The teaching still “on the books” is that, when one knowingly engages in homosexual activity one is committing a serious sin and putting one’s soul in jeopardy. It’s not clear to me how Cardinal Dolan will smile and wave at groups advocating what the Church teaches is mortal sin. If he does not think homosexual sexual expression is a sin than why not just openly declare it? I would be interested in hearing from him what other commandments might get repealed? Will Cardinal Dolan be forthcoming about this? Will folks interested in these other sins get to march in the parade too? How about those of us more given to temptations regarding heterosexual sins? Adulterers perhaps? or Maybe folks who like multiple partners? Why limit ourselves to sexual sins? There are all kinds of people who might want to organize under the banner of favoring some sin or other. On what logical grounds are these people to be denied recognition by the Cardinal? At what point would Cardinal Dolan see he is not being “inclusive” but rather he is helping turn the parade into a Catholic parody by his participation.
Cardinal Wuerl and Dolan whether they know it or not, in a futile effort to appease people who neither like nor practice Catholicism, are throwing people who are trying to faithfully practice Catholicism under the bus. Somewhere there are Catholics struggling to live out the Churches moral teachings regarding sexuality, perhaps in the face of great temptation.
The teaching of the Church is that the only moral expression of sexual activity occurs in the context of marriage and is open to new life, Everyone is called to respect this teaching and all kinds of folks can find it challenging. There are single people who must refrain from premarital sex , couples who must not use contraception, gay people living chaste lives, even married folks, may face prolonged periods of celibacy if they are married to a spouse no longer willing or able to have sex, perhaps because of health issues. One can imagine all kinds of people who must resist temptation to seek sexual gratification in ways that are sinful and who struggle with temptations in this area. Adding to their challenge is that most of the world rejects these teachings so someone who seeks to follow them might be viewed as deranged in some way. Indeed even spouses may not agree on something like contraception. These people may very well follow the teaching, but may do so with great difficulty. Cardinals Dolan and Wuerl have in effect told these people, “the rest of the world is in fact correct, you are nuts”.
More precisely, they are saying through their actions is: if you ignore Church teaching, even perhaps if you have mocked it, we will sit and wave and smile at you when you parade by. But if you are a priest who attempts to uphold the teaching we will silence you. The message this sends to people struggling to live the teaching is not good. Who is being pastoral to these poor folks?
What all this suggests is that there are significant elements within the Church hierarchy at very high levels that appear not to take Church teaching all that seriously. One might even think they are a bit embarrassed by it. I can not read the mind of Cardinal Dolan and Wuerl, but I can only say one could very well view their actions in this fashion. This may very well be not be their intention, but one can hardly argue that this interpretation would be completely unfounded
It is conceivable they no longer believe the teaching, but it is more likely, they have so become desperate to seek kind words from enemies of the Church, like the folks at the NY Times, that they act like they don’t believe it, or maybe they even think that on some level by acting like the sin “does not matter” all that much they are being “non judgmental”. Lets leave aside the fact that correcting the sinner is one of the spiritual acts of mercy. I guess we can toss that out as old school. Take your pick as to what motivates these men, or invent your own theory but, in any case if the Church appears not take her own preaching seriously it is not good.
We have come to a very grave point, the sickness afflicting the Church is deep and wide, and because the Church doubts itself, Western civilization which was created by the Church is now getting sicker by the day.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!