In Defense of Bishop Campbell

In Defense of Bishop Campbell April 25, 2013

Sir Thomas More (Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527)
Sir Thomas More (Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527)

There is no way to win an argument with a bully: A bully is not interested in being persuaded, and a bully is not interested in being right; a bully is interested in one thing—being a bully. In the present case, I am speaking about moralistic bullies for the patently wicked, abominable, Satanic evil of homosexuality. They are not interested in being just or righteous; they are interested in imposing their evil on society by rhetorical manipulation and legal threat, even if it means attempting to remove from others the freedom to say, “No, I will not support you in your evil.”

If you have not been following the case I am talking about, there is a story about it today in the National Catholic Register. According to the lead paragraph:

Bishop Frederick Campbell and other school officials in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, could face criminal charges under the city of Columbus’s anti-discrimination laws for upholding the Church’s moral teachings on sexuality by firing a lesbian gym teacher.

 

i.
LET HER EAT EPISCOPALIAN WEDDING CAKE

It seems that the gym teacher in question, 57-year-old Carla Hale, has filed a complaint with the Community Relations Commission. Her attorney demands that she be reinstated, and threatens the possibility of a lawsuit. It should be noted here that Ms. Hale was not fired for being a lesbian, but only after the diocese learned that she was in a “spousal relationship” with another woman: The firing involves not her “orientation,” but her behavior and its inconsistency with Catholic moral teaching and the objective of Catholic education. Bishop Campbell has not sought to make homosexuality illegal. He has not even sought, not in this case, to make gay marriage illegal. He has said only that someone in an actively gay relationship can not teach in a Catholic school. Let Ms. Hale teach gym in a public school. Let her get hired by the Episcopalians. (Okay, those last two sentences are coming from me.)

Back to the Register.

Columbus’ anti-discrimination ordinance criminalizes discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression” and has no exemption for religious employers. Violators face prosecution for a first-degree misdemeanor, a criminal charge that carries up to six months’ jail time and a $1,000 fine.

The constitutional question involved here should be simple. (Note that I say “should be.”) The first amendment forbids government intrusion into religion; that is to say, the state can make whatever laws it likes with respect to secular institutions, but when it comes to meddling in the moral teachings and discipline of a church, it is overstepping its jurisdiction. Carla Hale taught for a Catholic school; the government does not have a veto over God. If, as so many like to insist, there is a “wall of separation” between Church and State, that wall is impregnable on both sides. (Although, the fact is, the purpose of the first amendment was not so much to prevent the church from having a voice in the public square, as it was to keep government busybodies and bullies out of the affairs of the church. It says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion; it does not say that religion can’t impede with the free exercise of government. But few are making that argument anymore.)

 

ii.
lust groping for the door

The self-evidence of all this aside, however, it is hard to know what a court will do these days. And when those recourses are gone to us, to whom do we go? Do we gather up arms? No. In part, we do take up the weapon of moral persuasion and a sound mind. The truth must be spoken and spoken clearly; a foundation must be laid; the Church can’t be merely defiant; defiance must have a grounding. But Fr. Z (and H/T to him for pointing me toward this story) has some thoughts of his own on this point:

The Church can’t win this rhetorical war. The forces allied with the unnatural are too pervasive, too effective in the public square through the MSM. We don’t have either a large enough megaphone [or] a message that can pierce through the fog of emotion or of ignorance or of lust-saturated self-centeredness that wreathes the debate.

These are stark words, but the point about “the fog of emotion” and “lust-saturated self-centeredness” is well taken. Those states of mind are inevitable when one is accustomed to describing evil in the language of rights. And who can reason when eaten up by lust? Listen to a portion of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah:

And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has been the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door. (Gen. 19:5-11, ESV)

So that they wore themselves out groping for the door: Could there be a better description of a lust so vast it is incapable of reason? The men of Sodom were so filled with lust that even in their blindness they were desperate to beat down the door so they could get at their prey. And though these words were written thousands of years ago, are they not just as descriptive of the willful and self-enveloping passions of many today? We have become violent and un-dissuadable in the pursuit of our own wickedness. But what strikes me in this passage, too, is the vanity of Lot in attempting to compromise with men who are that far lost in their wickedness. No good could have come of it; rather, the men of Sodom have even greater contempt for Lot and everything that is moral and just.

 

iii.
refreshed with the blood of martyrs and saints

So too today: The pro-gay lobby is vast and well-connected and determined and wicked; and no, we will not win this fight for the truth of God—not ultimately—by any attempt to reason with them, by any effort at moral logic or persuasion. Moral logic and persuasion are necessary for the purpose of helping lay the foundation that will rebuild an upright culture after the moral wreckage has been done and has had its last. What will win this fight, however long it takes to fight it, is simply this: courage and fortitude and faith and a willingness to suffer and, if it should come to that, to be martyrs. If Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots,” it is equally true that the tree of the Church must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of martyrs. What will win this fight is the knowledge that, in times like these, God has been known to raise up saints.

And that is the ground upon which we must stand. This we know: The Church does not hate gay people. Christ was nailed to the cross and died for everyone. Gay people need our love and our prayers. But when it comes to behavior, the Church must not, can not, will not compromise with evil. And homosexuality is evil, in part, because it is self-robbery. It is self-robbery of one’s God-given identity; it is replacing one’s identity with an idol. It is evil because it defaces the image of God in one’s very body. Man does not create himself.

Ms. Hale does not need to be filing complaints and lawsuits. She needs to repent.

Failing that, everyone, everywhere—in particular those in the Church—must support Bishop Campbell for the courageous stand he has taken in defending the Church’s moral teaching against intrinsic evil. He has acted as a Catholic bishop is supposed to act. Everyone, everywhere—in particular those in the Church—should pray that he has the gift of fortitude from the Holy Spirit to stand by his action, whatever the cost to himself personally. Because in the end this is not about Bishop Campbell personally, but about the moral good and the dignity of the human person and the truth of the Lord.

For as Pope Francis put it when he was Cardinal Bergoglio, the attempt to foist gay marriage upon society is “a machination of the father of lies.” And the Catholic Church will not compromise with him.

My hope is that, in standing firm and fighting this fight, Bishop Campbell will inspire his brother bishops to the same courage. Pentecost is near. Let us pray for the gift of fortitude for our bishops. Those who love evil are determined, in the end, to make opposition to homosexuality, wherever it comes from, illegal. They are serious. So should we be.

Catholic bishops, this is the time to stand up. This is the time to man up. We have your back. I certainly do.

 

 

You can write Bishop Campbell a letter of support:

Most Rev. Frederick Campbell
Bishop of Columbus
198 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215
commailbox@colsdioc.org

 


 

updates

1. Deacon Greg Kandra also picks up on this story, emphasizing the same point that I make above: The firing is not over Ms. Hale’s orientation, but over her “spousal relationship.”

2. Here is a sad and disgusting example of what I mean when I say that bullies are not interested in being reasoned with, and that pro-gay activists are bullies. Such is, in part, cost we must be willing to pay for speaking the truth in season and out of season.

3. In a related story in the Washington Post, Bishop William Murphy—who had earlier fired a man from his parish job for marrying his male partner—has returned to him a petition, signed by 18,000, asking that he be reinstated. The cover-letter on the petition is just one sentence long: “FROM YOUR FAITHFUL ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP.” No signature. Well, kudos to Bishop Murphy. The former employee, Nicholas Coppola, says, “I really don’t understand what sort of message Bishop Murphy is trying to send.”

[Well, I understand it, loud as a bell. Bishop Murphy had a more polite (and longer) way of putting it than I would have.]

“Is he no longer listening to the faithful?” wonders Coppola.

[Actually he is. It’s just that you’re not one of them. Not right now. You need to repent.]

4. I heard this a few days ago on a podcast, but am linking it here because I saw it again today on The Blaze. Lesbian activist Masha Gessen is very outspoken in admitting that the push for same-sex marriage is not about “equal rights,” but rather about destroying the institution of marriage altogether. An audio clip of Gessen is at the link. It is necessary to always be thinking three or four steps ahead to where the progressive activists really want to take us. It’s never one big leap; it’s always a series of gradual, seemingly harmless steps, couched in the language of “equality” and “rights.” Or as C.S. Lewis put it, in the voice of Screwtape, “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

***

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