Habemus Papem. We have a pope!

This video captures my feelings perfectly.

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The Year of Two Living Popes and One Unchanging Faith

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Popes Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Francis

Does anybody remember that this is the Year of Faith?

It’s certainly been a historic year so far.

Our beloved Benedict, Pope Emeritus, handed the Church forward to his successor, Pope Francis. The Year of Faith has become the Year of Two Living Popes. 

It is one faith; one holy and apostolic Catholic faith. For those who will stop to think about it, that is a miracle in itself. Benjamin Disraeli, when asked what proof he could offer of God’s existence, replied, “The Jew, sir, the Jew.”  To that I would add that if anyone doubts the divinity of Jesus Christ, I would offer them the Catholic Church and its 2,000 year history of faithful teaching.

The Catholic Church has persisted through the fall and rise of more than one empire. It has survived the venality of some of its own popes. It has come through plagues, famines and times of great wealth. And it has, through all of it, kept the teachings of the Gospels intact and unblemished.

I don’t think there has been an day or an hour in all this great swath of history that the Church has not been under concerted and powerful pressure to re-write the Gospels to suit the passing moral fashions of the time. I think the reason for this is simple: The devil is real. There is a malicious personality out there who wants to destroy us through our own predilections to immorality.

We are not so much engaged in a war as we are the objects of a war. This malicious personality wars against us by aligning itself with our own fallen natures. It attempts to subvert us in our path to our ultimate calling as sons and daughters of the living God. We are the object of war making based in a hatred that is outside time.

But this evil, which seems so powerful and omnipresent to us who are in the soup of this life, is almost nothing in the halls of eternity. It is a vanquished foe whose only hold on us was broken at the cross. All we have to do is turn our faces away from the darkness and walk into the light.

The Catholic Church is the light, shining in the darkness of this world. Despite the undeniable fallenness of the people who govern it, the Church itself does not falter when it comes to providing the sacraments and teaching the teachings that show us the way to heaven.

This Year of Faith and two living popes — one reigning and one emeritus — is historic. But it is also part of the flow of the Church through history. Pope Benedict handed the Church forward and the Cardinals chose Pope Francis to take it up.

People who unwittingly are the mouthpieces for the devil yammer about how the Church must “change” its core teachings about life, love, sexuality and the common good or be found guilty of being “out of step with the world.”

Out of step with the world haters

Let’s think for a moment what they are demanding. What does it mean to be “in step” with the world?

“In step” with the world, as they define it, means that people are only human when those who have the power to do so define them to be human. It means that vast numbers of people may be killed at any time, for no reason at all.

Being “in step” with the world means that women and children are commodities to be bought and sold, raped and worked. It means that reducing women and children to objects and then using their rape, torture and murder as entertainment is a “right” that transcends any claims to their human dignity. Being “in step” with the world means that women’s bodies can be harvested for their eggs that are then sold online. It means that women’s wombs can be rented as surrogates.

Being “in step” with the world means “designing” babies that we will find good enough for our celestial selves to raise. It means discarding tens of other babies in this process to get the one perfect one we want.

Being “in step” with the world means destroying marriage, doing away with family as a unit that creates, nurtures and supports young human beings. It means that multinational corporations can pillage and destroy without restraint.

I could go on, but the point is that being “in step” with the world is being “in step” with decay, death and destruction. Being “in step” with the world is the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do.

The Catholic Church is not called to make the world comfortable in its sins. it is called to lead the world to redemption from its sins. 

The world may and does excoriate the Church for “being out of step” with its many killing machines. It may and does excoriate Catholics for following their Church. It may and does try to force us out of public life and silence our witness.

But the world will not prevail.

White crucifixion

Jesus said, “On this rock, I will build my Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

This is the Year of Faith. It is also the year of two living popes.

But this year is, as all years are, the year of the One and only Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

Holy Father Demonstrates Humility and Simplicity on His First Day in Office

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Habemus Papem!

 

We have a pope, and our new pope has his own way of doing things. Twenty-four hours after he stood on the balcony and gave us his first blessing as our Holy Father, Pope Francis is already exhibiting an independent streak.

He dressed more simply, refused a Papal limousine, asked for our prayers and (get ready for this) went back to the Vatican hotel where he had been staying before his election to collect his own luggage and pay his bill.

I don’t see these changes as a departure from the papacy as it has been, but as a return of the papacy as a pastoral office that speaks to the world in the name of Christ the Lord that it always has been. Rather than behaving in a manner befitting what the press has termed “Christ’s CEO,” Pope Francis has shown us a Holy Father who has come to serve the Lord, and us in His name.

I think it would be a mistake for anyone to take this gentleness and simplicity as weakness. Pope Francis’ actions demonstrate an unruffled confidence in the Christ of the Gospels that comes from the kind of faith that survives anything the world can throw at it. He is humble, but I predict that we will see that it is the humility of an inner strength born of great faith and holiness.

I’ve excerpted an Associated Press article detailing the Holy Father’s first day in office. You can find the entire article with all the details here.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis put his humility on display during his first day as pontiff Thursday, stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay the bill himself in a decidedly different style of papacy …

… He kept the simple iron pectoral cross of his days as bishop and eschewed the red cape … choosing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy.

… “He believes the church has to go to the streets, to express this closeness of the church and this accompaniment with those who are suffering.” Francis’ authorized biographer, 

…Sergio Rubin, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

… Rubin recalled how the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would celebrate Masses with homeless people and prostitutes in Buenos Aires.

… Francis began his first day as pope making an early morning visit in a simple Vatican car to a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary and prayed before an icon of the Madonna.

He also told cardinals he would call on retired Pope Benedict XVI, but the Vatican said the visit wouldn’t take place for a few days.

… Francis, the first Jesuit pope and first non-European since the Middle Ages, decided to call himself Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor.

The new pope, known for his work with the poor in Buenos Aires’ slums, immediately charmed the crowd in St. Peter’s, which roared when his name was announced and roared again when he emerged on the loggia of the basilica with a simple and familiar: “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”

By Thursday morning, members of his flock were similarly charmed when Francis stopped by the Vatican-owned residence where he routinely stays during visits to Rome and where he stayed before the start of the conclave.

“He wanted to come here because he wanted to thank the personnel, people who work in this house,” said The Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, who is staying at the residence. “He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by one.”

He then paid the bill.

“People say that he never in these 20 years asked for a (Vatican) car,” he said. “Even when he went for the conclave with a priest from his diocese, he just walked out to the main road, he picked up a taxi and went to the conclave. So very simple for a future pope.”

Francis displayed that same sense of simplicity and humility immediately after his election, shunning the special sedan … so he could ride on the bus with other cardinals, and refusing even an elevated platform from which he would greet them, according to U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

… “I think we’re going to see a call to Gospel simplicity,” said U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

… Francis’ election elated Latin America, home to 40 percent of the world’s Catholics … On Wednesday, drivers honked their horns in the streets of Buenos Aires and television announcers screamed with elation at the news.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said the cardinals clearly chose Francis because he was simply “the best person to lead the church.”

Reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto, Karl Ritter and photographer Luca Bruno in Rome contributed. (Read the rest here.)

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Pope Francis I: Takes the Bus, Supports the Poor, A Stalwart Battler for Life, Traditional Marriage and Evangelization

Our new Holy Father chose to live in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace when he was Cardinal Bergoglio. He also cooked his own meals and took a bus to work instead of using his chauffeured limousine. 

This son of a railway worker has four brothers and sisters. He wanted to be a chemist and has a degree in chemistry. But God intervened in this plan and he entered the Society of Jesus instead. He is an intellectual who studied theology in Germany and who defended the poor in Argentina’s economic crises of a few years ago.

During the military junta in Argentina, Father Bergoglio worked in the position he had then as head of a seminary to oppose the so-called “liberation theology” and insist on what an article for the National Catholic Reporter called a more traditional reading of Ignatian spirituality, mandating that Jesuits continue to staff parishes and act as chaplains rather than moving into ‘base communities’ and political activism.

He is unwavering in his support of traditional Catholic teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception. At the same time, he has dealt compassionately with victims of HIV-AIDS, going so far as to visit a hospice and kiss and wash the feet of AIDS patients. In September 2012, he accused priests who refuse to baptize children born out of wedlock of a form of “rigorous and hypocritical neo-clericalism.”

Here are a few comments Pope Francis I has made:

  • Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord.” 
  • … if the Church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old. 
  • On the Unjust Distribution of Goods The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many.
  • On baptizing children born out of wedlock In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl, who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!
  • On Evangelization Jesus teaches us another way. Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit. 
  • On Abortion We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. The responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors and health professionals. 
  • On the death penalty We aren’t in agreement with the death penalty.
  • On gay marriage Let us not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.

For sources, check here, here, here and here.

Pope Francis I: Powerfully Pro Life

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Pundits who were pushing for a pope who would abandon 2,000 years of Catholic teaching and go chasing after the moral fashions of the world will probably be disappointed in Pope Francis I.

The new Holy Father has a decades-long record of supporting the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage and the Gospel support of the poor. For instance, he called abortion a “death penalty” for unborn children in a 2007 speech. 

The LifeNews.com article describing this says in part:

The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio … once called abortion a “death sentence” for unborn children, during a 2007 speech and likening opposition to abortion to opposition to the death penalty.

In an October 2, 2007 speech Bergoglio said that “we aren’t in agreement with the death penalty,” but “in Argentina we have the death penalty.  A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.” …

… The remarks came during the presentation of a document called the Aparecida Document, a joint statement of the bishops of Latin America.

The new pontiff also denounced euthanasia and assisted suicide, calling it a “culture of discarding” the elderly. (Read the rest here.) 

Habemus Papem! Pope Francis I: Who is He?

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These are gleanings from various web sites.

Pope Francis I, who was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was born December 17, 1936. He is the 267 pope of the Roman Catholic Church in a line that goes all the way back to the Apostle Peter. He is the first pope from either Argentina or the Americas. 

Reports vary as to whether he chose his name in honor of the Society of Jesus Francis Xavier or Francis of Assisi. He was promoted Cardinal in 2001, and before his election, served the archdiocese of Buenos Aires. He is one of five children. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1959. He was a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits.)

Based on what I’ve read, he has a history of supporting Catholic moral teachings in matters concerning the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage.

This article from CNA/EWTN News has more details:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A respected Italian journal said Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, a 76-year-old Jesuit, was the cardinal with the second-highest number of votes on each of the four ballots in the 2005 conclave.

The journal, Limes, said its report was based on information that came from the diary of an anonymous cardinal who, while acknowledging he was violating his oath of secrecy, felt the results of the conclave votes should be part of the historic record. 

The journal said it confirmed the diary’s count with other cardinals.

Cardinal Bergoglio, who has also been mentioned as a possible contender in the current conclave, has had a growing reputation as a very spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership serving in a region with the largest number of the world’s Catholics.

Since 1998, he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style is low-key and close to the people. 

He rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as “Father Jorge.”

He also has created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world’s bishops.

The cardinal has also written books on spirituality and meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages.

In 2010, when Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, Cardinal Bergoglio encouraged clergy across the country to tell Catholics to protest against the legislation because, if enacted, it could “seriously injure the family,” he said.

He also said adoption by same-sex couples would result in “depriving (children) of the human growth that God wanted them given by a father and a mother.” 

In 2006, he criticized an Argentine proposal to legalize abortion under certain circumstances as part of a wide-ranging legal reform. He accused the government of lacking respect for the values held by the majority of Argentines and of trying to convince the Catholic Church “to waver in our defense of the dignity of the person.” 

His role often forces him to speak publicly about the economic, social and political problems facing his country. His homilies and speeches are filled with references to the fact that all people are brothers and sisters and that the church and the country need to do what they can to make sure that everyone feels welcome, respected and cared for. 

While not overtly political, Cardinal Bergoglio has not tried to hide the political and social impact of the Gospel message, particularly in a country still recovering from a serious economic crisis. (Read the rest here.) 

We are Catholic

This put a grin on my face. I hope it does the same for you.

Have a blessed Sunday, my friends.

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Are Gay Priests Who Support Traditional Marriage Hypocrites?

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I admit it.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the three priests and one former priest who torpedoed Cardinal Keith O’Brien. 

For those who don’t know, Cardinal O’Brien was an outspoken opponent of the move to redefine traditional marriage. In what appears to at least some people to be a hit job, three priests and one former priest came forward recently with accusations that the Cardinal had made passes at them 30 years ago. All of these men were adults when this is supposed to have happened. One of them even admits that the passes occurred after “late-night drinking.”

They also admit that this occurred over 30 years ago in 1980.

So, other than indicating that Cardinal O’Brien attempted to commit sexual sin with another adult in 1980, when he was not a cardinal or even a bishop, what does all this mean?

It means that a vigorous voice in support of traditional marriage has been silenced at a critical point in the debate. It also means that the British Isles will have no representative in the upcoming election of the next pope.

I do not want to give the impression that I think that what then Father O’Brien did was right.

However, as I have said in other posts, just about any woman in public life could make similar accusations against numerous powerful men. If you want to go back 30 years for these things, I doubt very much that there is a man in public life who could emerge from that kind of open season on their past unscathed. I also don’t think that many women would be in such good shape if you drug out every stupid thing we ever did or said in the name of sexual attraction and then declaimed it as unforgivable.

The last thing I feel like doing is to go into a faint and start fanning myself like Aunt Pittypat from Gone With the Wind over news that priests, bishops and, yes, cardinals, have committed sins at some time in their lives. My basic reaction to all this is, “where’s the beef?” Or, maybe I should say, “What’s the beef?”

I am not dismayed or scandalized to learn that leaders in the Church have committed sins. I expect that this is true of every single person on this planet.

There is a world of difference between a drunken priest making a pass at another adult and a bishop or cardinal transferring child molesters around, thereby enabling them to continue molesting children. If you don’t see that, then I don’t think I’m going to try to explain it to you.

One of the more predictable bits of commentary about Cardinal O’brien’s very public disgrace has been that he is a “hypocrite,” since it appears that he is gay and at least somewhat actively so, while he speaks against gay marriage.

This raises a question that has bemused me for a while. The whole basis of this contention about the Cardinal’s “hypocrisy” seems to be founded on the idea that if a person is homosexual, then they must be in favor of gay marriage and if they say otherwise, they are lying. I think this contention is inaccurate. 

Christians often have to chose between what members of “their” group want and following the Gospel. These choices are painful. They frequently result in bitter accusations of betrayal and hypocrisy directed at the Christian by their former friends.

I don’t know Cardinal O’brien, but I do know many gay people, some of whom are deeply committed followers of Christ. At this point in history homosexuals’ standing under the law is in flux. When the question concerns things like civil rights, there is no conflict for a homosexual and their Christian beliefs. In fact, Christianity is, or should be, their strongest advocate.

But the question of gay marriage puts homosexual Christians to the test. If they are a priest or someone else in Christian leadership, the conflict will be even sharper for them simply because they can not sidestep it. They will have to chose between following Christ in matters such as the legal definition of marriage and following the gay community, and they will have to do it publicly.  

Before anyone goes off and throws a pity party for homosexual Christians, I would like you to consider the challenges that women face in their fealty to Christ. The whole question of abortion balances on the shoulders of young women, many of whom are in desperate situations and who were brought to this pass by brutality and misogyny which is often ignored and allowed by various religious leaders. Yet women who follow Christ may not, can not, advocate for the killing of innocents. We are forced instead to advocate for an end to the brutality of abortion and at the same time work for an end to the brutality of misogyny.

That can be difficult, but it is our call as Christian women.

In a similar fashion, Christians who are also homosexuals are called to live out their Christian walk as people who have been the objects of discrimination but who may not take the easy route of following the crowd as they work against this discrimination. They must, like all the rest of us, chose Christ.

It just doesn’t jibe with me that every person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction must, by definition, think and behave exactly like every other person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction. It certainly does not apply to Christians, who must, by definition, be the change agents for the Gospel in a fallen world.

The way that fits Cardinal O’brien’s situation, as well as every other priest, is that whether or they are homosexual or heterosexual, they must be priests and Christians first. It is not hypocrisy for a priest to follow the teachings of his Church. I think it would be hypocrisy for him to do otherwise.

I am not defending Cardinal O’brien. I don’t know him. I don’t know his accusers. I am aware that, as often happens, there may be other charges that come to the fore that change my evaluation of him.

However, as of now, I do not see him as a hypocrite. I see him as a human being who has sinned, but who has also remained faithful to his charge as an officer of the Church.

Every single human being sins. Sexual sin, simply because the temptations are so powerful and universal, are the downfall of many people. However, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion, not any Church teaching) sexual sin like this, which involves adults in a consenting situation, is perhaps one of the most understandable of sins, coming as it does from our longing to love and be loved.

Is a homosexual priest who follows the teachings of the Church concerning marriage a hypocrite who deserves to be pilloried and disgraced? Absolutely not. 

If the men who made these accusations against Cardinal O’brien were, indeed, politically motivated, they were successful. They have done much harm to the cause of traditional marriage in Britain. They have also made certain that someone who supports Church teaching will not take part in the election of the next pope.

If that was their motivation, they need to look at themselves as people. I am appalled by the tactics the gay rights movement sometimes uses in their fight to redefine marriage. If that is what they did, then I would say that Cardinal O’brien is something of a social martyr for the Church.

A Telegraph news article about Cardinal O’brien’s situation says in part:

The Cardinal Keith O’Brien Downfall video had been ready to run for ages. The story of three priests and one ex-priest complaining of inappropriate behaviour was timed to break when the Scottish prelate retired at 75 next month. The aim was to expose his alleged hypocrisy. To quote our blogger Stephen Hough, responding in the comments to his blog post yesterday, “I’m convinced that what he did (if he did it) was harmless enough, but he may not have thought it harmless if he’d caught other priests doing it … at least until this week.” If the scandal had come to light next month, that would have been nicely timed to ruin the Cardinal’s reputation just when the media would be running retrospective pieces about him. And, of course, it would throw a spotlight on O’Brien’s passionate opposition to gay marriage, effectively silencing the Scottish Catholic Church on this subject, and probably the Church in the rest of Britain, too.

What no one could have guessed is that Pope Benedict would resign, meaning that Cardinal O’Brien would be the only Briton with a vote in the next conclave. The Observer story was brought forward, with devastating results. The four complainants had the good sense – and, arguably, the courage – to inform the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, of their claims. (Mennini, it should be noted, is not in the pocket of the British bishops to the extent that previous ambassadors have been.) So the Vatican already had a file on Britain’s senior Catholic churchman, and Pope Benedict, on being informed of its contents, decided to bring forward O’Brien’s resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. In other words, the alleged victims of these inappropriate acts were helped by something that the Church’s critics have often refused to recognise: Joseph Ratzinger’s determination to purify the Church of sex abuse, right up until the last week of his pontificate. (Read more here.)

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Newly Professed Nuns and Brothers: Mature, Educated, Devout

Nuns and brothers who took their perpetual vows in 2012 are mature adults with work experience who come from Catholic families. 

That’s the basic result of a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. 

The survey shows that today’s newly professed religious are well-educated, individuals who have had to overcome discouragement from others in seeking a vocation to religious life. 

One thing that interested me is that age appears to be no impediment for many of these people, since the oldest woman was 66 at the time she professed her perpetual vows and two of the men were over 60. I had always heard that no one who was over 40 could enter religious life. It appears I was wrong.

I think this is great news for people who have come to know Jesus later in life and who feel the call to live out their days as vowed members of a religious community. It is particularly important for women. 

NUN

In a world where the enslavement and trafficking of women and children is growing apace with rape as an instrument of war and the use of child soldiers, the voice of strong Christian women is badly needed.

The Church needs nuns.

There is a female viewpoint that must be present when dealing with crimes against women and children. Also, many times, women are the only ones who can gain the trust and cooperation of severely victimized people. 

I pray for women religious to step up to this challenge. They are so needed. 

Here are a few facts from the survey that stood out to me. You can read the entire survey here

The average age of newly professed women is 40, while the average of men is 39. Eighty-give percent of the respondents are cradle Catholics. Seventy-eight percent come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Ninety-six percent of them have at least one brother or sister; 45% have four or more siblings. 

This is a highly educated group of people. Twenty-two percent have a graduate level degree with 60% having a bachelor’s degree. Eight-two percent of them had worked before entering religious life. Eighty-eight percent had participated in ministry activities before entering and 95% had regularly participated in private prayer activity. Sixty-nine percent had participated in Eucharistic Adoration.

Seventy-four percent of the respondents said that they were discouraged from entering religious life by one of more persons. Women were more likely than men to report that they had encountered discouragement about considering a vocation. Men were more likely than the women to be encouraged by their parish priests to think of religious life as a life’s vocation.

The youngest sister or nun was 23 at the time of her profession, while the oldest was 66 years of age. Eight women professed perpetual vows at age 60 or older. The youngest brother was 25 and the oldest is 62. Two of the men are age 60 or older. 

Clerical Malpractice and Priests Who Encourage People in Their Sins

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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.

Lonely

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.

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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.

Malpractice fitted

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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