Clerical Malpractice and Priests Who Encourage People in Their Sins

Deacon Greg Kandra, who always has the story, published a recent post about a priest in San Francisco who removed the portrait of Pope Benedict XVI because members of the parish complained that they felt hurt by things the Holy Father had said about LGBTQ people.

The priest said he was “saddened” by this, but removed the portrait. In his letter to the parish, he wrote about people who “will not accept us as we are” and what we should do about them. His letter asked parishioners to “forgive” the pope, as if the pope had sinned by refusing to back down on Church teachings.

While I have not read every word Pope Benedict wrote, I have read quite a few of his statements on the question of gay marriage and the responsibilities of political office holders. None of the things I read said anything condemning homosexual people. So far as I know, the Holy Father has always supported the simple truth that homosexuals are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God and that they are precious in His sight. 

Despite this, I admit that some of what I read was hard for me to accept. I had gay friends who meant a lot to me and I did not want to disappoint them by failing to support gay marriage. I wrestled with this, prayed about it and engaged in lots of long talks with my pastor over it. It was a tough one for me.

I ultimately decided that I have proven to myself by my past actions that I can not be the arbiter of what is morally right. I do not have the wisdom. I have made egregious mistakes that resulted in great harm to other people by assuming that I knew more about right and wrong than 2,000 years of Christian teaching.

It was not an easy step for me, but I realized that the only way to follow Jesus is to “trust and obey.” What that means for me, as well as for any other Catholic, is that I follow the teachings of the Church. What has happened since I made the decision to bow my head and stop trying to be my own pope is that I have found that the Church proves itself right in the long run. I may have difficulty with a particular teaching at first. I may be so deeply embedded in the world’s reasoning that what the Church says seems upside down to me at first. But I have learned that this is the nature of following Christ.

Jesus’ teachings have always seemed upside down to the world. I believe that is a natural outgrowth of seeing things through eternal eyes versus seeing them with our temporal, fallen vision. It you follow Jesus, you will often be at odds with the world. If you follow Jesus, you will often find yourself practicing one kind of self-denial or another. It may be that you find yourself denying your own selfish impulses to take the easy way out to instead follow Jesus through the narrow way. It may be that you have to go against the popular reasoning and place yourself at odds with the people around you.

This can cost you a great deal. It can cost you your friends, your comfort level with other people, even your job or livelihood. But if you persist in denying Christ with the words you say and the things you do you will  inevitably come to a point where you have denied Him in total. You will no longer be His follower. You will be the world’s thingy person. The cost of that is your soul.

The priest in Deacon Greg’s post missed an incredible opportunity to stand for Christ. He side-stepped a chance to express his vows to the Church in living action in front of the people of his parish. I am sure there would have been painful consequences if he had done this. But I am equally certain that he would have been a much better priest and a much better witness for Christ if he had.

We are not called to duck and cover when the going gets tough for Christians. We are called to persist in following Him, come what may, until the end.

A priest who sidesteps this responsibility and in essence gives people support in their sins is not functioning as their shepherd. Instead of protecting them from the wolves of a culture that tells them their sins are not sins and they can do whatever they want and God Himself is wrong if He disagrees with them, this priest joined that culture and supported it in its contentions.

Gay people are human beings. There is nothing wrong with being a homosexual person. Nothing. Homosexuals are just people who are slightly different from heterosexuals, and that difference is not something that interferes with their functioning as productive people. However, some of the things that homosexual people do are wrong. I’m not going to be specific here, because I am not their priest and it is not my job.

But if it was my job, I would hope that I did not fail them by encouraging them to think that their sins don’t matter. That is not tolerance. It is, in fact the ultimate cruelty. It leads people away from God in the name of God. It is clerical malpractice.

For a Catholic priest to take down the portrait of the pope because parishioners don’t like things the pope has said concerning their sins, is weak in the extreme. Poor, sad priest. Poor, sad parishioners who have such a shepherd.


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  • Bill S

    “I ultimately decided that I have proven to myself by my past actions that I can not be the arbiter of what is morally right. I do not have the wisdom.”

    Yes you can and yes you do. You’re not the Pope. You can acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. The Pope makes a dumb statement like gay marriage poses a threat to world peace. He is the only person in the world who can’t apologize. Instead, everyone believes him and adjust their world view to be consistent with his. You can’t really forgive someone who won’t apologize but you don’t have to hang his picture in a place of honor in your Church.

    So I guess this will be deleted. Go ahead. Knock yourself out.

    • Theodore Seeber

      If your wisdom leads you to think that two men can join as one flesh and make a child (the traditional description of “marriage” accepted in just about any western culture, even the polygamous ones) then there is something seriously deficient with your wisdom and a deep mismatch between observed scientific fact and your wisdom.

      • pagansister

        Theodore, marriage is for more than making babies. It is for the love, caring, companionship, friendship & trust that 2 people can share, for hopefully a lifetime.

        • Fabio P.Barbieri

          So I take it you are married to your parents. At least, assuming that they are decent parents.

          • pagansister


            • Theodore Seeber

              Decent parents would provide you with “love, caring, companionship, friendship & trust”. No need for a marriage for that.

              In fact, just about any significant friendship will provide you will all of those things.

        • Theodore Seeber

          I neither understand nor agree with that definition. I can have “love, caring, companionship, friendship & trust” without ever having sex, let alone getting married.

          What I can’t have is a child raised by two parents who are *committed* to raising a child, which is the more traditional definition of a marriage.

          • pagansister

            Fabio, that would be —no. I had great parents, but having a sexual relationship was NOT included. Marriage assumes (in most cases) along with the other things I mentioned, sexual intimacy.

            • Theodore Seeber

              And the legitimate purpose of sexual intimacy is the unitive and procreative, not the recreational. Recreational sex differs very little from rape.

              • pagansister

                For you, Theodore, the “legitimate purpose of sexual intimacy is the unitive and procreative, not the recreational.” How in the world you can relate recreational sex to rape is to me unbelievable. There is no connection at all. Rape is forced, violent, controlling, dominating SEX WITHOUT the CONSENT of one of the parties involved. In short—it is a crime.

          • pagansister

            Right, Theodore, without sex there is no possibility of a child. However, not all married couples want children, and can have all the things I mentioned as well as a sex life with their commitment to each other—ie marriage. (naturally a sex live can occur outside of marriage—and does in some cases).

            • Theodore Seeber

              What one wants? What are we, 3?

              We don’t get what we want- and that is usually a good thing. I learned that lesson very early on. Wants mean nothing.

              But like I said, during my wandering years I was very attracted to the theology of Buddhism- in which *want* (as opposed to need) is the source of all suffering.

              • pagansister

                To rephrase, Theodore–We don’t ALWAYS get what we want—-sometimes we do. I wanted the man who became my husband, and I got him, I wanted my 2 children, and I got them etc. I didn’t want 3 children, successful. Not being a Buddhist, I have no idea about “want” being the source of suffering.
                My grandson is 3—-

    • Zai


      I just want to say one thing: the Pope is not espousing HIS views, at least not in the sense that he came up with the rules himself. He is restating, in varying ways, the teachings that the Church has always held. Part of it is his interpretation or his way of explaining it (perhaps the world peace bit fits here), but saying that homosexual actions are sinful in that they are not part of the design of sexuality, as given to us by our Creator, is not HIS opinion. By our Faith, we know that this is the opinion of the Creator, who gave us our nature. We aren’t changing our views for the Pope, but rather the being he represents.
      I was going to leave these two things but:
      1. You CAN and should forgive someone who won’t apologize. It frees up your own heart. Think about how important it is for victims of familial abuse to forgive their abusers.
      2. Admitting that you do not know everything is the first step to wisdom. It is wiser to say that I do not know every moral thing and look toward something with that apparent authority (read: the Church) than just doing everything by trial and error with a sense of self-righteousness (which is sure to crop up periodically). Ms.(Mrs.?) Hamilton is simply stating this fact. She does not know, so she found something that does know and is trusting it to guide her.

    • Rick

      Bill, this blog seems to trigger a lot of stress and anger for you. Take better care of your health and curb your stress a bit.

      • Bill S

        Is that what you think? I never get stressed or angry. Life is too short.

  • Robert King

    There is nothing wrong with being a homosexual person. Nothing.

    Well, nothing wrong with them that isn’t also wrong with every single one of us. We all are broken and vulnerable to temptation because of Original Sin. We all have “intrinsically disordered” desires – whether in the sexual realm or with regard to food or money or power or any variety of human relationships. Each of our “disorders” is slightly different, but we all have to struggle and even suffer to order our desires toward the One who is Good.

    It has always bothered me that homosexuality or same-sex attraction or whatever is singled out as “disordered.” We’re all screwed up, just all in different ways. But Christ loves each of us, and gives each of us grace to be healed, to be saved, and to be glorified in union with him.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I agree.

    • Zai


    • Rick

      If you check out the Catechism you will find several things labeled disordered including masturbation and birth control. Those are the only two I can think of right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if gluttony and drunkenness were also considered disordered, in that they are a misuse of a natural and healthy process. Homosexuality is not the only condition labeled disordered by the Church.

      • Rick

        Here’s a link that describes how the Church uses the term “intrinsically disordered.” The phrase covers a lot of behavior.

        Examples I missed are anal and oral sex to climax between married couples, abortion, lying, and calumny. As you mentioned most of us (all of us?) have engaged in intrinsically disordered acts.

      • pagansister

        Often wondered just why pleasuring yourself is a “sin” and considered “disordered”.

        • Theodore Seeber

          Pleasure for the sake of pleasure alone is always disordered. ALL of the seven mortal sins can be summed up as pleasure for the sake of pleasure alone without regard for how one’s actions affect others (and one’s actions ALWAYS affect others, you can’t get away from the law of causation).

          • pagansister

            If no one else is involved in my self pleasure—it affects no one else as I am alone. As I said, how that can be considered “sinful” is amazing.

  • Allison H.

    We are converts and although the authority of the Church drew us in, it was difficult to give up being autonomous arbiters of truth. It is one thing to say, “I don’t believe this that the Church teaches and another thing to say, “I have trouble with this teaching but I believe it to be true because I trust Jesus.”

    I am pleased to point my teenagers to this article; thank you for writing!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Allison. You made my day.

  • Dale

    The situation at Most Holy Redeemer is a difficult one. For those unfamiliar with the church, it is located in the Castro neighborhood, which has long been considered the heart of gay San Francisco. The parish, from what I understand, is predominantly composed of persons who are gay, lesbian or transgender.

    News of events which have been connected with Most Holy Redeemer occasionally make the rounds of the Catholic blogosphere. Typically, there is unhappy, even angry, comments made about the priests there not being more vocal about Church teaching on homosexuality. In particular, I have seen many demands that if these teachings are not strictly and continuously enforced, then the parish should be suppressed and the church closed.

    I can understand the appeal of this attitude of “like it or lump it.” If the parish is heterodox, if the priests can not present authentic Church doctrine for fear of losing their flock, perhaps the church has no right to call itself Catholic. In this view, the parish needs to sink or swim.

    However, I am not sure that perspective is for the best. If Most Holy Redeemer did close, it would end the presence of the Church in the lives of many residents in the neighborhood. I think that would be a terrible loss for them, and for their souls. My sense of what the priests are trying to do (and with knowledge by the archdiocese) is to gather the flock and lead them to safety. Sometimes this means a gentle approach rather than a commanding approach.

    I don’t live in the San Francisco Bay area so I am not familiar with the details of life in the parish. But I do think the situation there is difficult and not easy to judge. The priests there have a difficult job. They need to continue to bring souls to Christ, and this requires a balance between herding and nurturing. Surely there must be easier parishes to shepherd!

    I am reluctant to pass judgment on events there because I am so unfamiliar with their context. When I do hear of some cause for scandal it is from the pen of one or two local activists who monitor the parish. That seems to be the case in this most recent news.

    I think the priests did a good thing to bring Pope Benedict’s photo into the church. The intent was to encourage prayers for him after he announced that he was stepping down from the throne of St. Peter. I am saddened that some parishioners were so upset that they threatened to leave. The priests there seem to share that sadness. Clearly, there was a need to teach and to nurture a Christian perspective.

    Rather than require that parishioners accept the temporary presence of the photo, the priests decided to give in to the demand that the photo taken back to the rectory. The priests seem to have decided that teaching requires ears, and that if those ears are turned away, no teaching can be made. Whether the priests will be able to guide those parishioners into a more compassionate, and Christian, understanding remains to be seen. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely we will ever hear about it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you for providing a more complete viewpoint about this. It gives balance to what I said and shows that every side always has another side.

    • pagansister

      Dale, thank you for explaining the situation from a different point of view. You sound like a very compassionate person.

      • Dale

        Pagansister, thank you for the kind words. However, I am a sinner who is in need of God’s mercy and love. I pray that God will have compassion for me, despite my failings.

        • pagansister

          No one is perfect, Dale. One does the best one can in life. :-)

  • Jessica Hoff

    Sinners don’t like to be called on their sin. In our society they have learned to play the ‘victim’ card.

    • pagansister

      Who might those sinning victims be, Jessica? I’m not sure everyone claims to be a “victim”.

  • Isabel

    There are also gays against gay marriage. Denying gay marriage is not going against homosexuals. Marriage is an institutional relationship between a man and a woman who aims at prolonging life. The homo can legally share their goods in common, but they did’nt need for that wedding.

    • Reluctant Liberal

      In the spirit of compassion that you seem to have offered your comment, I would like to inform you that many people dislike the term “homosexual.” It is considered to be clinical, derogatory, and dehumanizing. Preferred terms are “gay” or “queer.”

      • Fabio P.Barbieri

        And your point is?

        • Bill S


          The point might be that we should try not to be clinical, derogatory, and dehumanizing in our discussions of gays. Sentences like “The homo can legally share their goods in common, but they did’nt need for that wedding.” just make us sound ignorant and unsympathetic.

      • Theodore Seeber

        I find “queer” (since despite being straight, it was used against me in grade school due to my autistic behaviors which other children found highly confusing) to be far more derogatory, and dehumanizing than any clinical term such as homosexual or my preferred term, Same Sex Attracted (the last, SSA, containing no judgement as to whether or not a person has become *sinful* with respect to the great temptation and compulsion that they are faced with).

  • Laddie V Mapani

    Homosexuals want sin to be accepted as a norm. It like a rapist fighting to be accepted as a normal. Instead they shoul fight the devil within and repentlike everyone else. Whats special about homosexuals they are not special at all. Public sinners with no remorse and they want the pope to apologise, for what. Our selves we do not fight God to accept our sins as normal should be ashamed of them selves.

    • pagansister

      Laddie, what 2 consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom is the business of only the 2 people involved. It is their “normal”. I can only guess, but most people—not talking sexual things here—probably commit what some would call “sinful” things daily—not on purpose, just part of everyday life. I’m sure I do. There are varied definitions of “sin”.

      • Theodore Seeber

        And thus we get the very definition of moral relativism. Whatever feels good, and is their “normal” from a sample of two (somehow I do not think that is statistically significant, and indeed, the difference between the mathematical definition of “normal” and the moral relativist’s chaotic version is a huge part of my point).

        Having said that, I see no reason why homosexuality should be considered “more sinful” than contraception. In fact, it is a form of contraception- and like all forms of contraception, it is a form of rape.

        • pagansister

          Theodore, have you considered contraception actually might help prevent abortions? So, is it still a form of “rape” in your opinion? How do you find contraception a form of rape in the first place?

          • Theodore Seeber

            “Theodore, have you considered contraception actually might help prevent abortions?”

            Yes I have. And then I realized it also prevents pregnancies! Which is the natural result of sex done correctly, which takes 18-25 years in our culture and at the end of which you have a new functional citizen of the country.

            “So, is it still a form of “rape” in your opinion? How do you find contraception a form of rape in the first place?”

            The definition of rape that I am going with is “using another human being for sexual pleasure”. Contraception denies the sharing of genes, which is the purpose of sexual behavior to begin with.

            I realize that this is a proceptive definition of rape, and extremely objective, denying any subjectivity in the process.

            The telelogical purpose of sex is procreation. The secondary purpose of sex is unification. I do not understand the recreational purpose of sex, but that might be my autism talking as I find many other activities to be far more enjoyable with far less energy waste.

            • pagansister

              Yes, Theodore,your definition of “rape” is most certainly different than mine, and IMO that of the legal establishment.

              • Ted Seeber

                Part of the reason for that is consent makes no sense to me. It isn’t an objective term in my experience, and cannot be measured.

            • rick

              The Church tends to use the word lust in the way that you are using the word rape. JPII equated lack of “self-donation” (service and love) in the sexual act as lust. I think the word rape has a very specific moral and legal meaning and using it to refer to lust is counter-productive in helping people to learn about church teaching. Remember the guy who said that if a woman gets pregnant after a “rape,” it wasn’t really a rape since the body short-circuits the reproductive process in a “true” rape. Conflating lust and rape makes Christians sound absolutely crazy. We sound crazy enough to the world when we say that marital sex should be based on self-donation not lust!

              • Ted Seeber

                Well, you see, that’s the problem I have- lust, when directed against another person with NO intent for putting the good of the other person above one’s own good, IS rape.

  • Bill S

    “Homosexuals want sin to be accepted as a norm. It like a rapist fighting to be accepted as a normal. Instead they shoul fight the devil within and repentlike everyone else.”

    Unfortunately, this attitude is far too prevalent and shows what gays trying to live by the faith are up against

    • Theodore Seeber

      Same sex attracted people who actually live “by the faith” in it’s fullest definition, agree with this attitude. See for a group of SSAs who *DO* live by the faith.

  • miriammom

    I’ve worked in places where “diversity” programs were used as a form of harassment to traditional religious. folks. As a convert to Catholicism I’ve seen where all this tolerance leads: CHAOS. On the TLC network there is a show entitled, “Sister Wives.” Polygamy is next. It’s one thing to let people live their own lives, it’s another to enable dysfunction.

  • pagansister

    Do you watch “Sister Wives” miriammom? I don’t, but just wondered. With the economy the way it is, I doubt if many men would want to support more than one wife, and forget supporting all the kids he could father with many wives. :-)

  • Manny

    “The priest said he was “saddened” by this, but removed the portrait.”

    How can a priest remove the picture of the Pope? What a coward. Maybe he should be replaced with someone that has some cojones.