2013 Favs: The Church has Gay Priests? Duhhhhh

Pope francis

Is there any adult Catholic who attends mass regularly who is unaware that many of our priests are homosexual?

I have a response for this not-so-startling reality.

Big deal.

Pope Francis recently gave a brief press conference during which he took a couple of hard-ball questions about gay priests. He answered them with what you would expect: Honesty.

I’m going to paraphrase rather than quote because I don’t have what I think are good quotes to use. The various permutations of what he said are spread all over the internet. You can find them and be confused by them there.

Basically, if I understand it, he was replying to questions about a specific priest whom he’s appointed to a high position and who may have fallen off the chastity wagon in his past. This particular priest is rumored to be a homosexual.

If what I read is mostly accurate, the Holy Father said that:

1. If a priest is truly seeking to follow Christ, and,

2. He is keeping his vows of chastity now,

3. Then, who is anyone, including the Pope, to cast him out?

When asked about rumors of this particular priest’s scandalous past, he seemed to be saying that these were sins of the past that have been repented and which are not happening now.

All this is in keeping with the Catholic Church I know and love.

The Catholic Church is the most forgiving, most loving place any sin-shamed person can go. I have sins in my past that are not only really bad ones, but that were extremely public. I can tell you from personal experience that forgiveness is not to be found just anywhere. I was not forgiven, ever, by some people. They basically cast me out of the Christian universe over things I had done 20 or 30 years before.

I didn’t come to the Catholic Church seeking forgiveness. I came because Christ in the Eucharist called me with an insistent call. But one of the things I found is the first genuine forgiveness I had ever encountered.

So for me it’s a simple equation. If I can be forgiven, then some homosexual priest who fell off the chastity wagon once upon a time, deserves forgiveness, as well.

Not, notice, my forgiveness. This hypothetical priest hasn’t done anything to me. I don’t need to forgive him. He and I are square. He deserves forgiveness from the same place where we all go for it: The wounded and loving Heart of Jesus. The blood that flowed from Jesus’ side fell on homosexuals, just as it did everyone else.

There is no sin so dark that He can’t forgive it. There is no hurt so deep that He can’t heal it. And there is no person so broken that He can’t use them to build His Kingdom.

What I ask of a priest is sincerity and authenticity of purpose. I want priests who are all in for Jesus and who have what it takes to lead us through the challenges that are coming as part of this post-Christian world in which we now live.

That means I want priests who stand for holy matrimony, who stand for life, who will not back down and run away when the Church is attacked by secular forces. The priesthood is a leadership position. I want priests who will lead God’s people through the morass, who can hold their little flocks together in the storm and deliver them safely to heaven.

Those are big things I’m asking. They are far beyond the ability of any human being, gay or straight. Only priests who are, as I said, all in for Jesus can do them, because they are possible only if they are attempted with heavy doses of heavenly grace.

We need priests who give themselves to Jesus through Our Lady in such a profound way that they can, in obedience to their bishops, be the leaders God needs for these times.

I don’t care if a priest is gay. Doesn’t bother me a bit.

What I want is true priests, holy priests, who are for-real followers of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Married Priests? I’m not Holding my Breath.

Priest

The press has jumped all over another errant remark from the Vatican, this time about married priests.

I’m not going to hold my breath until the Vatican decides to do away with the celibate priesthood. The reason is that I like breathing. However, I am game to, just for fun, look at as a proposition. Let’s consider for a moment how doing away with the requirement for celibacy for our priests would affect our Church.

So far as I know, not even the perpetually-hyping press has gone so far as to suggest that the pope is considering doing away with chastity for priests. Chastity means, in its most base interpretation, no sex outside of marriage. I am giving you the bottom drawer meaning of this word for the purposes of this discussion, but it has many layers beyond that.

Just for now, we will limit the concerns about chastity to the no-sex-outside-marriage consideration. Since no one wants priests who are not chaste, we have to assume that even if the Church decided to waive the requirement for singlehood for its priests, it would still hold that they must either be celibate or married.

If the Church suddenly started admitting married men to the seminaries in large numbers, the face of the priesthood would change along with them. Changes in the institutional Church and the way it does business would have to follow.

First, allowing married men would almost certainly increase the overall percentage of heterosexual men in the priesthood. It would do this for two reasons. One: I doubt that the priesthood would remain as attractive to homosexual men under these circumstances, for lots of reasons. Two: The priesthood would attract a number of heterosexual men who had previously given it a pass because they felt called to marriage.

Second, allowing married priests would mean that our priests would have wives and families, with all the concerns that go with them. I’ve heard talk about the finances involved in providing priests an income that would allow them to support their families. That is certainly one change that would have to happen. The Church would also have to address the lifetime sinecure of health insurance, retirement lodging and other things it provides for priests now.

Priests today sign their lives over to the Church. They even make their bishop the next of kin on their living wills. They go where they are sent and do what they are told. In exchange for this, they never have to worry about a roof over their heads, medical care, retirement or any of the other things that bother the rest of us.

They are “sons of the Church” in a literal, almost childlike, way.

But if these “sons of the Church” were married men with other people they were responsible for, the dynamic of all this would change drastically. Not only would decisions have to be made about how the Church would go about providing for their families, which if the priests followed Church teachings, would be large, but it would have to consider these families when making assignments to the priests.

It’s one thing to transfer a single man from hither to yon at a moment’s notice. It’s quite another to ask a wife to quit her job and the kids to leave their schools and move around like a flock of hummingbirds.

Another consideration is the resentment and anger of the families of these men. I’ve heard deacon’s wives complain about the fact that the Church does not recognize their existence. If the deacon was a priest, and the priest had a wife and seven kids with one on the way, how would the Church deal with the multiple angers and resentments of family members who felt that their existence was being denied?

Wives can be reasoned with (sometimes) but children are another matter. With kids, it’s ignore now and visit them in the drug rehab later.

Third, would be the major change in how Catholics themselves view their priests. Catholics dote on their priests. They shower them with gifts, respect, trust and compliments. In exchange, they expect to be catered to and coddled by their pastors in a way that no Protestant could even conceive of.

I know. I was a Protestant for a long time, and I can tell you no one expected the kind of one-to-one, personal attention that Catholics expect and receive from their priests. Catholics go running to their priests with their problems, expecting (and receiving) filial attention and comfort.

It’s an incredible relationship, and most of it is based on the simple fact that the priests are all-in for their ministry in a way that no married man could ever be. Catholics dote on their priests, and their priests dote back. All this mutual doting forms a kind of glue that holds this disparate Church together as an incredibly well-functioning social unit. We, all of us, priest and laity alike, stand before the Eucharist — which in a real way is the Church — in a relationship based on the fact that the priests have made the priesthood their life’s commitment.

All of this — all of it — would change if the Church moved away from the celibate priesthood.

I’m just touching on three areas I can see that would have to change if the Church waived the requirement for non-married celibacy for priests. In truth, the entire dynamic of the priesthood as it’s been practiced for a thousand years would change. This would require painful adjustments for the Church, the men who are priests now, for the families of future priests and for the parishioners.

Do we want to do it?

I don’t know.

It’s not my call.

But I’m not holding my breath.

The Pope and “Judging” Gay Priests, Redux

Pope francis and dove

The National Catholic Register has an excellent article by Edward Pentin. The article analyzes the press reaction to Pope Francis’ comments concerning homosexuality.

The Holy Father made these comments during his flight back to Rome from World Youth Day. I wrote about them here, and gave you a video of them here.

The point the NCR article makes is that the Pope did not overturn 2,000 years of Catholic teaching on this issue. He simply gave an example by his actions as to how it is lived out in real people’s lives.

The media not only misinterpreted Pope Francis’ comments, but it has consistently, and with what seems to me to often be deliberate malice, misinterpreted Catholic teaching on this subject in its entirety. This is so widespread that I can’t just offhand think of a major media outlet that represents Church teaching accurately.

I know this is due to some extent to the limitations of space and time in which they work. There is also the problem of shoddy workmanship in which they settle for quoting one another rather than checking things out. Whatever the causes, the media has consistently portrayed Church teaching concerning homosexuality inaccurately and negatively.

I was impressed and proud of the way Public Catholic readers responded to this dust up over Pope Francis’ statements. The comments to these two posts concerning the Pope’s remarks were thoughtful, well-informed and intelligent.

You were not stampeded by the press. Bravo!

One thing that I think you already know, but that I want to make clear, is that the Catholic Church does not “hate gays” and it certainly is not homophobic. The only way it could be judged “homophobic” is by self-serving definitions of the word used by people who claim that any limit on homosexual behavior is, de facto, “homophobic.”

The Church offers the same gifts of the sacraments to homosexuals as she does to everyone else. There is no bright line in Church teaching that says that homosexual acts are worse than adultery or other, similar, sexual sins. The Church — and the Pope in his press conference — simply refuse to deny that these acts are, in fact, sinful.

If the Church bowed to the dictates of trendy morality and started going along with people’s demands that it tell them that their sins are not, in fact, sins, it would certainly not be doing them any favors. In fact, it would be endangering their immortal souls, and denying its own mission.

The Church cannot do this.

The Church is here to be a pathway to heaven. It shines a light on the narrow path that will take all of us who chose to follow it Home.

Do you want to go to heaven? Then do what the Catholic Church teaches.

It’s as simple and easy as that.

For those Protestants who don’t fully understand what I am saying, doing what the Church teaches will lead a person into a close, intimate and fruitful relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They will be born again into the new life of truth and spirit. Doing what the Church teaches means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I know this is hard to see from the outside, but I’ve lived it, and I know it’s true.

The Church cannot tell people that their sins are not sins. That would be the worst possible lie. It would wreak damage on them of eternal dimensions.

Churches who are falling into the trendy mindset of re-writing the Gospels to suit the fancies and fashions of the day are misleading their followers. They are ignoring their responsibilities to the people who trust them, and to the God they claim to follow.

The Catholic Church, for all the failings of its people, will not do this. It is the Rock and it will not lie to you in ways that can get you sent to hell.

This is not homophobia. It is love.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Misinterpreting Francis (1944)

NEWS ANALYSIS: A Vatican official chided the mainstream media for its conflation of the Holy Father’s remarks on homosexuality.

– CNA/Alan Holdren

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality during a press conference on the papal plane back from World Youth Day in Rio were largely misreported by the mainstream press, according to a Vatican official and a Church expert.

During a surprise and wide-ranging in-flight press conference Sunday that lasted 80 minutes, Pope Francis reportedly said: “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” the Holy Father went on. “It says one must not marginalize these persons; they must be integrated into society,” he said, and he reportedly made the distinction between homosexual acts, which are sinful, and tendencies, which are not.

“The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying, either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby,” he said. The Pope recently said a “gay lobby” exists in the Vatican, which protects some priests and threatens to blackmail others.

The Catechism states that the number of men and women who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.” The inclination is “objectively disordered,” it continues, and “constitutes for most of them a trial” (2358).

It adds, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (2358).

The Catechism teaches that homosexual persons “are called to chastity” and that “by the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (2359).

 

Not Changing Doctrine

But large media outlets, such as the BBC, often accused of promoting same-sex rights, were quick to report the story in accordance with their own biases. The BBC splashed this headline across its news site: “Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people?” Others followed suit, misleadingly implying that the Holy Father “doesn’t judge gay people.”

“[The Pope] is not saying homosexual acts are not a sin, and he obviously isn’t changing Church doctrine, but he is making a change of emphasis,” one Vatican official close to the Pope told the Register on condition of anonymity.

 

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/misinterpreting-francis?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-07-30%2012:53:01#ixzz2aXmze850

New Jersey Archbishop Strains out Gnat of Legalities, Swallows Camel of Child Sex Abuse

“Whoever harms one of these little ones that believes in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck and he was cast into the sea.”

Minnesota030

I support the bishops.

How many times, over how many issues, have I said that?

I support them whenever and however they teach and preach the Gospel of Christ. I support them in their battles against secularism and the social dissolution around us. I support them in their efforts to evangelize this great Church and inspire the people of God to stand up and speak out for Jesus.

I support the bishops.

Except when I don’t. 

When a bishop stops preaching Christ and Him crucified and starts parsing legalities in order to get around rules he wrote himself and which he gave us his word he would keep, I take a look at him. When a bishop does this in order to excuse another violation of the promises to stop endangering children by placing them in the care of priests who are known child abusers, I don’t follow him.

A case in point is Archbishop Myers of New Jersey. Archbishop Myers has evidently placed a priest who is a convicted child abuser in a position where he will be in extensive contact with children.

Let me repeat that: Archbishop Myers put a convicted child abuser in ministry to children. 

Of course, as usual, the Archbishop is not the only bad guy involved here. Father Michael Fugee confessed to “fondling a 14-year-old boy’s genitals.” In the course of his confession, he evidently also said that he was a homosexual. Three years after his conviction, an appellate court vacated his conviction because the trial judge had allowed the jury to hear the part of the confession in which he said he was a homosexual.

I don’t know the legal hat they hung this on, but I do know that whatever basis it was sounds very much like political correctness run amok once again. I would guess that the assumption was that his admission of homosexuality was somehow regarded as too prejudicial for a jury to hear. The confession of child sexual abuse? Not so much.

So.

We have a confessed, convicted child abuser that the courts turn lose. Rather than go through another trial, the prosecutor’s office decided that what Father Fugee really needed was some of that counseling for sex offenders that has been shown to work so well at changing these guys.

The prosecutor basically did what we’ve condemned the bishops for doing. They gave a child abuser useless counseling, then put him back in the situation where he could do it again. The sop to public safety was that they made Father Fugee sign a piece of paper saying he wouldn’t do it again. More specifically, he signed a paper saying he would stay away from children, and Archbishop Myers signed it, too.

Let’s think this through. We have a court that vacates a judgement because the jury also heard that the confessed and convicted child abuser said he was a homosexual. Then, we have a prosecutor who follows in the footsteps of bad bishops and decides that what this guy really needs is some counseling and to make a promise that he won’t do it again.

Archbishop myers

Archbishop Myers, not to be outdone in this chain of abuse of the public trust and disregard for the welfare of children, follows through by putting said child abusing priest back where he’s with children, once again. As if that’s not enough, we also have a couple of people at the parish level who know all about Father Fugee’s conviction and go along with placing him with children.

Is there anyone involved in this situation who hasn’t violated the public’s trust? 

It is so tiresome to keep hearing about abuse of the system that is so egregious that we end up more disgusted with the public and Church officials who should have done something and didn’t than we are with the actual child abuser.

Everybody involved needs to lose their job. From Father Fugee on up the food chain to the appellate court justice, they all need to go into a line of work where they are not responsible for other people’s lives. I’m including Archbishop Myers in this, as well.

I haven’t read the fine print, but I honestly thought that the bishops gave us their word that they’d stop this nonsense of putting child molesting priests back with children so they could do it again. I thought they promised us they’d stop doing this. I also thought they meant it.

I think just about every bishop out there did mean it. But it’s becoming obvious that at least a couple of them made these promises with their fingers crossed behind their backs. 

Archbishop Myer sent an it-all-depends-on-what-the-definition-of-is-is letter to his priests in which he explains, basically, that he’s done nothing wrong. His reasoning is all about the finest of fine points in the Charter for the Protection of Children, a document he says that he helped write. He says that claims that he violated this Charter are “baseless.”

I wonder, has this guy ever heard of Jesus Christ?

Has he ever once thought about the Gospels he proclaims?

What does he think that shepherd’s crook he carries means?

I think that Archbishop Myers has broken the real Charter, and that’s the charter of trust with the Catholic people of the world. Notice, I did not say the Catholic people of his archdiocese. I did not say the trust of the children he allowed this priest to be near.

He violated my trust. And yours. And the trust of every person on this planet who follows the Church with the belief that it will lead us in the narrow way of Christ.

Jesus with children 12092 1

Whatever the fine points of this Charter that the Archbishop helped write himself to govern himself, he has violated both the letter and the spirit of the Gospels he proclaims. Jesus said, “Whoever harms one of these little ones that believes in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck and he was cast into the sea.”

What part of that contract doesn’t the Archbishop understand?

Archbishop Myer’s letter:

Arch myers letter

Arch myers letter page 2

 

From NJ.com:

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Fr Fugee with two boys during pilgrimage to Canada in 2010. Facebook photo

Amid calls for a Vatican investigation, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers came under fierce criticism Monday for his handling of a priest who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

At the Monmouth County church where the Rev. Michael Fugee had been spending time with a youth group, angry parishioners said they were never told about Fugee’s background and they questioned Myers’ defense of the priest, the subject of a lengthy story in the Sunday Star-Ledger.

“It’s complete craziness that the church can let this happen,” said John Santulli, 38, a father of two at St. Mary Parish in Colts Neck. “I’m a softball coach, and I need a background check just to get on the field. Every single person I spoke to today said, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t know about this.’ It’s incomprehensible.”

Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell, who previously said Fugee was operating in the diocese without his knowledge or permission, has ordered the pastor of St. Mary to bar the priest from any church activities, a spokeswoman said in a statement Monday.

The bishop of Paterson, Arthur Serratelli, has likewise said Fugee was on a retreat at Lake Hopatcong without permission.

For the first time in his many years as an advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse, Mark Crawford, New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on the archbishop to resign, characterizing Fugee as the latest in a string of problem priests shielded by Myers.

“The archbishop continues to insist it’s fine for Fugee to work with children. It’s a very dangerous message,” Crawford said.

George Washington University Catholics: Standing by Their Man

George Washington University logo 2012

Two students at George Washington University have begun a campaign to use the university’s regulations to silence a Roman Catholic priest.

Their reason? Because the priest follows Roman Catholic teaching.

According to one news story I read, the two seniors, Blake Bergen and Damian Legacy, “feel alienated because the chaplain at George Washington University’s Newman Center rejects homosexuality, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.” 

An article in the school’s newspaper, the GW Hatchet, says that the two students “have launched a coordinated campaign to rid the campus of the priest.” They claim that they have left the Newman Center because Fr Greg Shaffer’s “strong anti-gay and anti-abortion views are too polarizing.” Evidently, Fr Shaffer also committed the sin of using his freedom of speech to write a blog post in which he advises students with same-sex attractions to live celibate lives. 

Bergan and Legacy wrote a piece for Huff Po with the totally disingenuous title, “The Fight for Love at George Washington University,” in which they toss around words and phrases like  homophobic and “persecution of the LGBT community.” 

I’ve left this story alone, since Patheos’ blogger Dawn Eden clearly had the inside track. When Deacon Greg Kandra came alongside her with additional coverage, I thought it was done and done. 

I still don’t believe I have a lot to add, but I do want to bring out a couple of points for Public Catholic readers. 

First, the two men behind this attack on Fr Shaffer are not Roman Catholic. One of them was raised as a Jew and is now agnostic. The other wanted to become a Catholic priest and was turned down by Fr Shaffer because of his refusal to leave the gay lifestyle. He has since become a priest in something called the North American Catholic Church. I am not familiar with this denomination, but I’m sure it’s not Roman Catholic.

I’m not sure why no one has asked if this whole campaign is just a matter of personal sour grapes and vengeance masquerading as concern for a “cause,” but I think it is a legitimate question. I don’t usually consider personal motives when I look at political actions. But this time, they seem fairly consequential. 

Images

According to the George Washington University Newman Center web site, 3,000 of the 10,000 students on this campus are Roman Catholic. Everything I read on their web site sounds like the Newman Center is there to minister to these students, although they do welcome people who are not Catholic to join in. Nothing I saw there makes me feel that the students are in any way required to participate in Newman Center activities. 

Tempest in a teapot

Frankly, unless the university decides to play the fool and do what these men are demanding, this whole thing may turn out to be a teapot tempest. It sounds like a very nasty bit of vengeful character assassination aimed at a faithful priest who simply had the good sense to tell someone who was actively participating in the homosexual lifestyle that he was not good priest material. 

Duh. 

My comments on this are two-fold. First, this kind of wacko behavior could only occur in a social environment where people felt free to engage in Christian and Catholic bashing. These two young men probably wouldn’t be any less vicious if they weren’t feeling empowered by the endemic Catholic bashing on our campuses, but they most certainly would have taken another route for their personal vendetta.

Second, these priest bashers aren’t having it all their own way. Students on the campus have opened a blog supporting Fr Shaffer. 

It’s about time. 

Cowardly

Christians need to stop running away when someone attacks a fellow Christian and stand by them instead. This is the main point this post. We’ve gone on too long letting the bullies cull out one or the other Christian and attack them while the rest of us either run away or stand by and watch it happen. In truth, we are so glad that the object of the attack is them, and not us, that we keep quiet so that it won’t become us. 

There’s a word for this. It’s called cowardice. 

I am writing this post to commend the Catholic students of George Washington University for standing by their pastor. I am also writing it to encourage you to do the same when you see other Christians being attacked for following Christ. 

Silence means assent. We’ve been silent in the face of Catholic and Christian bashing for far too long. 

Are Gay Priests Who Support Traditional Marriage Hypocrites?

Priest collar

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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