Do Catholics have a “right” to hold positions of leadership in the Church -– including teaching the Catholic faith to children and administering the Eucharistic sacrament -– while they live, openly and knowingly, in direct contradiction to fundamental teachings of the Church?
Conversely, does the Church have a right, and a responsibility, to uphold the integrity of its teachings, by assuring that those publicly involved in Church ministries accept and try to live the truth of those teachings?
These questions -– not issues of “love,” or “compassion,” or “respect” -– are at the heart of the media-driven controversy that has recently unfolded at St. Anthony’s Parish in Oceanside.
The immediate issue is the removal from various ministries – including religious education teacher and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion – of a parishioner who is a partner in a civil same-sex “marriage,” in open contradiction of the Church’s clear and unambiguous teaching that marriage, within the natural law of God, can only exist between one woman and one man.
This is not, however, a singling out of homosexual Catholics. Any Catholic who chooses to live in open contradiction of a fundamental moral teaching of the Church – a heterosexual couple living intimately outside of marriage, or a divorced person who remarries, without an annulment, outside the Church; someone working in the abortion industry or belonging to an overtly racist organization, to cite just a few examples – should understand that by continuing to do so, in open, willful rejection of Catholic teaching, they exclude themselves from leadership roles in the Church’s ministries.
This is not to say that one has to be a saint to serve in Church ministry. If that were the case, we would all be excluded. There is a major difference, however, between accepting the teachings of the Church and striving —- however much we may continually fall short — to live according to those teachings; and openly, willfully rejecting Church teachings, and giving testimony by one’s public example that those teachings need not be followed.
Of course, each of us is free to reject what the Church teaches, and to live our lives accordingly – taking our chances that God agrees with us, and not with His Church. If we do so, however, it seems rather presumptuous for us to then demand that the Church countenance our rejection of its teachings, by allowing us to administer its sacraments and to teach that which, at least in part, we do not ourselves believe.
Indeed, the “respect” called for by the gentleman in question in this matter is a two-way street. One would hope that someone who “loves” the Catholic Church would – even while disagreeing with some of its fundamental teachings – have enough respect for the Church not to demand that it undermine the integrity of those teachings by hypocritically ignoring them, or pretending they do not exist.
A word is also in order here about the suspect timing of this controversy. The person in question reports that he was informed of his removal from these ministries on January 21. Yet “reports” of the decision, as Newsday dutifully noted — without the least hint of a reporter’s curiosity about the “coincidence” of the timing – came more than two months later, “days after statements by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York that the church, while not abandoning its teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, should be more welcoming of gays and lesbians.”
Is it too cynical to detect in this timing not a spontaneous outpouring of “shock” and pain, but rather a strategic decision calculated to try to discredit a Church leader?
The parishioner in question correctly states that Church leaders “can’t remove me from our (Church) community.” No one is trying to. All are welcome in our Catholic Church. But, again, if we choose to live in public contradiction to its teachings, we should respect the Church enough not to demand leadership roles in its public ministries; nor should we endeavor to publicly denigrate Church leaders for having the integrity to keep the Church faithful to the teachings it proclaims.
Cardinal Dolan rightly urged that the Church’s “defense of marriage” not be “reduced to an attack on gay people.”
Similarly, we would hope that those who promote same sex “marriage” would not allow their advocacy to degenerate into attacks on the Catholic Church.