The trouble with being Catholic is that there’s not a quiz at the door. One can thus rise to “prominent Catholic” status without knowing anything much at all about the Catholic faith, as readers of The Chronicle will have observed in the advertisement taken out by San Francisco citizens deeply concerned that Archbishop Cordileone is acting like a Catholic.
It’s not a particular surprise that the signatories are confused about their faith, since they also seem to think Pope Francis reads their local newspaper.* Let’s take a look at a few of the misconceptions, which you can read in full in the image of the ad posted at SF Gate.
“We believe in the traditions of conscience, respect, and inclusion on which our faith was founded.”
Actually the Catholic faith isn’t founded on anyone’s traditions at all. It’s founded on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man, suffered, died, and was buried, and rose again on the third day.
Christ poses the question, “Who do you say that I am?”
Christ is God. The Person who created you, and upon Whom you depend for your very existence. He loves you like no one else in the universe, has suffered unto death itself in order to rescue you from sin and make a place for you in Heaven, but He also leaves you free to choose whether or not to accept that gift of His love.
“. . . our Archdiocese has been an ‘immigrant church’ built on a rich tradition of diversity.” “Archbishop Cordelione repeatedly labels the behavior of our fellow brothers and sisters (and their children) as ‘gravely evil’.”
Watch the slight of hand on that language: The idea of ethnic diversity — there is neither Jew nor Greek, all nations will adore You — is indeed the unchanging teaching of the Catholic church. But there has never been a place for what we might euphemistically call “moral diversity.”
To quick grab a Bible verse I googled the phrase “neither idolators,” knowing it would generate some list of sins or another. St. Paul was always writing to the early churches with lists of unacceptable behaviors, because this “moral diversity” thing is nothing new under the sun. People want to do what they want to do, and be considered approved church-people all the same. 1st Corinthians 6-9 was the top search result, thank Google not me. I tacked on verse 10 to finish the sentence:
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people–none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.
Do note, as the Church does, that a predisposition or inclination or temptation towards any of these sins is not the question. We are all tempted to sin. But what God has always asked is that we reject sin. That is: Even when we succumb to temptation, that we acknowledge we did the wrong thing and resolve to avoid repeating that sin in the future. What Christ gives us is the opportunity to turn away from our sins, again and again and again.
The Good Thief was promised a place in heaven not because Jesus said, “Don’t worry, I’m tolerant of thieves,” but because the criminal was sorry for his sin and asked for mercy.
So let’s talk about that, because it’s a topic of one of the charges against the archbishop:
“He has selected and installed a pastor who . . . distributed to elementary school children an age-inappropriate pamphlet.”
You can read about the case here, but let’s note the salient fact amid all the side stories: The pastor made what we can charitably assume was an honest mistake, apologized for that error, and resolved not to repeat it again.
If the pastor genuinely believed and persisted in distributing the pamphlet in question, you’d see me writing about it, too. But here’s the clincher: We Catholics are merciful and forgiving. We understand that people sometimes do the wrong thing. We accept apologies. We accept that if an employee says he has learned from his error and won’t do it again, that employee deserves another chance.
Continuing with charges against this same dread pastor, who also:
” . . . marginalizes women’s participation in the church by banning girls from altar service . . . “
Really, prominent Catholics? This is your expose? This was the worst you could do? Watch out yellow journalists, we’ve got some big dirt here.
Um, listen: The decision about whether to have male-only or co-ed altar servers is left to the discretion of the pastor and/or bishop. That’s a thing. There’s a good reason for that thing: Altar service is one of the ways that boys explore vocations to the priesthood. In some cases, pastors determine that it’s really no problem for girls to serve as well; but it’s reasonable for a pastor to decide to go boys-only, just like it would be reasonable for, say, a girl’s sports team to decide that yeah, they’d like to really have just girls on their team. Not because we don’t want boys playing sports, but because there’s a time and place for girls-only events.
If the dirt were something like, “Girls have been asking for a vocations club of their own, and have been repeatedly refused the opportunity to form one,” we’d have a story. The story we really have is, “Prominent Catholics unable to find actual complaint about archbishop, resort to whimpering about questions of personal preference.”
At which point, the remainder of the advertisement makes perfect sense. Summary: “He’s not listening to our advice!” and “If he keeps trying to make Catholics follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, people who don’t believe the Catholic faith are going to quit saying they’re Catholic!”
God bless you, Archbishop. Keep up the good work. Thank you prominent non-Catholics for showing the world just how powerless you are against the truth of the Gospel.
*I dunno, maybe he does. If so, my mistake. In which case, my open letter to Pope Francis: Why? You can get Dilbert online! This isn’t necessary! Custody of the eyes, Holy Father, custody of the eyes!