Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Polite Bigotry

The man who will become the new Archbishop of Philadelphia in September, Charles Chaput:

“This is the issue of our time,” Chaput adds, speaking of “gay marriage,” in an interview published today in the National Catholic Reporter. “The church understands marriage as a unique relationship, with a unique definition, which is the faithful love of a man and a woman for each other, permanent, and for the sake of children. As children, if we don’t know that our parents love one another, our lives are very unstable. That’s why I think every child deserves a family where the father loves the mother, and the mother loves the father. For us to redefine marriage as anything else undermines that notion. I think it’s very important that the church keep insisting on this.

Let us take a closer look at Chaput’s argument, he claims marriage is, “for the sake of children.” Curiously, “The Roman Ritual” revised by decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and published by the authority of Pope Paul VI, places references to children in red brackets. This is done so that the sacred minister at Catholic wedding rites can easily omit all references to children/childbearing in wedding ceremonies.

Catholic theology specifies two ends to marriage. First the “unitive end” and secondly, the “procreative end.” Marriage is a union of love and life that may also lead to physical reproduction. However, not all marriages will be procreative, a common example would be any marriage entered into by a woman who is no longer capable of reproduction. These marriages are recognized as valid and a sacrament by the Church, even though procreation is impossible. The unitive end of marriage is sufficient for a valid and sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church and always has been. This is not “new” nor does this in anyway constitute a “redefinition” of marriage.

As regards Chaput’s statement, “As children, if we don’t know that our parents love one another, our lives are very unstable. That’s why I think every child deserves a family where the father loves the mother, and the mother loves the father.”
On surface, this statement seems perfectly reasonable and it resonates interiorly with most people. Of course, a child should be raised in a community of love (family), where he/she is loved. However, the term “parent” needs to be defined. The simple biological act of reproduction does not make a person a parent. Saint Joseph did not engender Jesus and yet, I doubt that Archbishop Chaput would argue that Saint Joseph was not a father to Jesus.

Being a parent means taking an active role in the life of a child. It means loving that child. It means waking up in the middle of the night to nurse a child suffering from the flu, measles, or chickenpox. It means making time to help the child with homework and encouraging him/her to pursue their dreams. It means nurturing that child physically, psychologically and emotionally. It means enabling that child to mature into an autonomous adult, who can stand on his/her own, face the world and have a real shot at happiness.

That child may or may not share your DNA. That child may be your grandchild, your niece/nephew, or may be your adopted son/daughter. What makes you his/her parent is honestly loving and caring for him/her. That, Archbishop, is what every child “deserves.” I doubt, hope, that you never “checked” your parent’s genitalia and I sincerely doubt you ever considered that central to their parenthood.

Chaput goes on to say, “I think it’s very important that the church keep insisting on this [that marriage must always be heterosexual].” Again, we need to define our terms. I have already addressed the false notion of “redefinition of marriage.” I would take issue with the use by Chaput of the term “church.” The Second Vatican Council defined the “Church” as “the people of God.” This was beautifully illustrated in the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s:

“Catholic participation in the southern civil rights movement culminated at Selma in March 1965. As was customary in much of the South, Selma’s Catholic churches were strictly segregated, with the priest in charge of the African American “mission” parish ignored by the city’s other clergy. (One attempt at integration of the city’s “white” parish by a group of African American teenagers met with fierce resistance.) 1 In addition, the bishop of Montgomery, Thomas Toolen, attempted to prevent northern Catholics from responding to the please of civil rights activists for assistance, maintaining that outsiders were “out of place in these demonstrations—their place is at home doing God’s work…”2 Regardless, priests from fifty different dioceses, lay people, and nuns flocked to Alabama to join in the marches.

One participant observed that many speakers at the headquarters of the Selma campaign “pointed out with happiness and gratitude that this was the first time that so many Catholic priests, acting with their bishop’s permission, had joined them on the front lines of the movement.” 3 Ralph Abernathy congratulated one priest on the Catholic turnout, jocularly adding that “the only ones they hate more than Negroes down here are Roman Catholics, especially Monsignors.”4 Newspapers across the country, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, carried front-page photos of nuns in full-habit striding down Dallas County roads.5 One editorial concluded that “For a great many Catholics…the pictures of demonstrating clergymen and religious, flashed on TV screens or bannered across front pages, spoke more clearly and directly than any conciliar decree could ever do about the effective presence of the Church in the world today.” A nun marching down Selma’s Highway 80 made the same point more emphatically: “We are the Church,” she declared.6”

During discussions at the Second Vatican Council a “proof text” for the concept of collegiality (that the bishops come to decisions jointly) was being sought. Cardinal Ottaviani quipped, “the only one I can think of is, ‘…and they fled’ [Mark 14: 50]” As citation above demonstrates, bishops (like Bishop Thomas Toolan & his Southern colleagues) often get it wrong. The hierarchy simply remains silent about these popes and bishops, knowing that silence is a stealthy censor and ignorance of history serves as an effective “white-out.”

Chaput’s comment, “It’s also important to say that we’re not against gay people”
It is the standard bromide employed by members of the hierarchy whenever they attempt to destroy the Civil Rights of LGBT people. It is as threadbare as it is hollow; it is a hypocritical nod by vice to virtue. It is reminiscent of bromides such as, “Hate the Race, Love the man.” Employed by Southern racists to justify segregation, Jim Crow laws and the ban on interracial marriage.

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by the hierarchy, later the hierarchy declared her a saint and martyr for the Faith. It seems that bishops don’t make mistakes, just martyrs and saints, but not always the way God prefers.


Anonymous said...

Father Geoff:
Once again you have gifted the Church with your posting of Chaput's comments on gay marriage...the role of marriage...and the needs of children.

The Church is reverting more and more to the time of Martin Luther...we are no longer an uneducated immigrent laity.

It is no secret of the bleeding of the church. Just come to Mass on a Sunday morning and the atendance is very noticeably. As the pew poll has stated the largest religious denomiation would be the people that have left the RCC.

I am a catholic priest...approacing my 75th birthday...and gay all my parents divorced when I was 9 and both remarried outside the that time I was declared unfit for Orders because of my parents wouldn't be till I was 40 yo that I enterd a monastic community and in that community was called to O
Orders..I left that commnity and incardenated into the diocese I now reside..

The Archbishop needs to look at the history of the church and see how it has hurt so many.

Geoff thank you for being Christ in our midst and bringing hope and love

Hope my poor typing makes sense

Father Geoff said...

Dear Vince,

"It's always darkest before the dawn." A college English professor of mine quipped, "Truisms are truisms, because they are true."

Thank you for your service to God's people.



Tal said...

Father Geoff, it seems the Church is ignorant of her own history and the flexible stance she has taken to marriage over the last 2000 years. St. Paul, for example, denigrated marriage compared to celibate life--a position the Church has clearly shifted away from (now we use the euphemism of "calling"). Certainly, the early Church did not include matrimony among the Sacraments (it had to work towards this truth). And interesting to note, the Holy Family wouldn't even be considered such under canon law, the union never having been consummated.

As you point out, and I think convincingly, there is great flexibility in the sacrament of marriage, capable of including our truth. And the history of the institution demonstrates a consistent trend towards recognition and inclusion.

The Church will come to acknowledge us. But sadly, it will come from being dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age, rather than from a position of wisdom and charity.

matt said...

good article. chaput going to the high profile see of philly makes me shudder. i keep hoping the church won't reward loudmouth right-wingers with important posts, but my hopes almost always seem to be unfounded. chaput is one mean guy.
toolen, btw, was the bishop of mobile (montgomery is in the diocese--now archdiocese--of mobile.)

Father Geoff said...

Dear Matt,

When non-Catholics speak of the papacy, they refer to "the" Pope.
When Catholics speak of the papacy, they refer to "this" Pope.

Americans should be able to grasp this distinction. "FDR" and "Nixon" both held the office of President. Just as "John XXIII" and "Benedict XVI" both held the office of the Papacy. All similarities end there and the office endures long after the current occupant expires.

Mareczku said...

Why does it annoy me so when some Church leaders have to proclaim that they are not against gay people? Or that they "love" gay people? It reminds me of hearing how white southerners years ago would proclaim how they loved the "Negroes" but that those people needed to know their place. They thought Northerners didn't understand. I sure don't understand some of these bishops. I think some of them are just afraid of antagonizing the small group of Catholics that hate gay people.