Monday, February 26, 2007

But this ...

... is how you do NOT do gay Masses. A church in Utah is hosting a monthly Mass that "caters to gays and lesbians." And do they get catered to. (HT: Cosmos/Liturgy/Sex)
"It's just a nice way to come together and feel the spirit," said Brian Minjares, who attended the Mass with his gay partner, Kim Coates.
The Clearfield couple said they enjoyed the Mass, even though they aren't Catholic. The couple, who normally attend a different gay-friendly church, said it's another avenue to celebrate their faith.
"It's OK to be gay and Christian," Minjares said.
Now I've said in earlier posts that I don't see a problem (indeed, in a certain sense, there cannot be a problem) with Masses as part of a special-outreach ministry. But how orthodox and truthful can a Mass be where two non-Catholic men openly living as homosexual lovers can feel so affirmed in their okayness? Not every day is the occasion for fire and brimstone, I understand. But, as I will show below, the Church has said quite clearly that ministry to homosexual persons is no place for ambiguity. And practicing homosexuals are, to use the politest possible language, sufficiently sensitive to any hint that homosexuality is less than the summit of all virtues and graces that the two open lovers' enthusiasm is just about an infallible indicator that the whole Church teaching was selectively scrimped on.

Nor is it the case that a secular reporter was cherry-picking. The two priests cited in the story commit what I will charitably call religious malpractice (assuming they were not misquoted or miscited).
During the Mass, he also alluded to the fact that some disagree with ministering to the gay and lesbian community, saying, "This week I've been under attack."
Afterward, [Father Robert Bussen] said he doesn't understand why some see it as controversial.
"It seems to be a no-brainer," he said. "Shouldn't every church be gay-friendly and gay-welcoming?"
Well, in a certain sense, yes, but more about that shortly. More importantly ... who ... exactly ... "disagree[s] with ministering to the gay and lesbian community," as opposed to disagrees with certain forms of ministry. Who? Names of persons or groups or Church officials ... please?

The article continues:
The Mass, [Father Bussen] said, is a response to a statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last November on "Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations." ...
Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City said ... the November statement ... issued a dual call — to the gay and lesbian community and to the faith community.
I realize this is the reporter's formulation, not the monsignor's, but the implied parallelism and equal standing between "the gay and lesbian community" and "the faith community" is one that should repel. The Church is not another lifestyle- or hobby- or behavior-defined "community." It speaks with the voice of God, Who surpasses all in wisdom and understanding. This is not, as is presupposed in this very formulation, a discussion of two equals on an Augustinian "point inessential."

The Monsignor cited the USCCB document from November as inspiring the Masses. Does that document say anything more than tending "'a welcoming stance of Christian love' and for 'nurturing the bonds of friendship' to help bring gays and lesbians out of isolation"? Why, yes it does (PDF file):
All ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination must be guided by Church teaching on sexuality. The basis of this ministry, if it is to be effective, has to be a true understanding of the human person and of the place of sexuality in human life.
“Departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral.”30
Love and truth go together. The Sacred Scriptures tell us that the way to grow more Christ-like is by “living the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). The Church cannot support organizations or individuals whose work contradicts, is ambiguous about, or neglects her teaching on sexuality.31
30 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, no. 15.
31 See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, no. 17: “All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the C
hurch, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted.”
Check out the footnotes. They're to a 20-year-old letter by a man born as Joseph Ratzinger. He had a title then. And another one now. And that well-known hotbed of Reactionary NeoCaths called the USCCB reiterated the point last year. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger's 1986 letter noted one particular point for emphasis at the end of Section 3.
Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.
And Section 15:
No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral.
This is clear-cut. There neither can be nor should be ministry to homosexual persons that does not begin with the truth about human sexuality. And, particularly in today's climate, there is no room for silence or apparent neutrality on this matter. Yes, I cannot discern from the Deseret News article that anything actually heretical or false was taught. But that's not enough. Silence, neutrality or indifference are religious malpractice. Here is Cardinal Ratzinger (Section 15):
But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, (emphasis mine) in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral.
This is not something with which I am unfamiliar in my personal journey.

The first human being I ever told about "That" was a priest, in confession shortly after the first time I did anything sinful, in college. Frankly, I handled it rather badly and the priest guessed that this was the first time I'd ever told anybody. He suggested we talk afterward when his Confession time was over. During the conversation that ensued, Father tried to be helpful and said "maybe someday, Church teaching will change." Only the deference that a Roman collar always produces in me prevented me from slugging him. I understand that he was trying to be helpful, but all he could have done, had I stayed in the Church on those terms, was encourage false hope in me. For the flip side of what crushed expectations can do, compare Andrew Sullivan, post-Pope-Benedict, and his book "Virtually Normal" (which, no kidding, was a great influence on me).

At the other end, I asked my confessor once whether it was a mortal sin every time I wanked, which results in my staying in my seat during Communion about half the time I attend Mass. I pointed out that the Catechism said about masturbation (it's 2352 here) that "force of acquired habit ... [can] lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability." The exchange was as follows, near as I can recall:
FATHER: Obviously, if you genuinely were incapable of avoiding impure acts, that would make your acts inculpable. But some priests use that an easy out ...
ME: ... and I don't want that.
FATHER: ... and implying that purity doesn't really matter.
ME: The reason I'm asking you, Father, is that I know you won't do that. If all I wanted was a Roman collar to give me an easy "yes" to salve my conscience, I could get that easily enough.
FATHER: You're capable of periods of chastity, right.
ME: Yes.

(I had then-recently gone about 50 days while only abusing myself once. My annual two-week vacation is almost always cake. In several other circumstances of spiritual "high," I've gone about 10 days.)

FATHER: I can't judge whether every single thing you do is entered into with full consent; that's for your conscience to discern. You well understand what the Church teaches, whatever difficulties your heart has. But since you're capable of significant periods of chastity, when you break it, it probably is mortal sin. I certainly wouldn't assume otherwise merely based on the frequency of stumble.
In other words, my confessor was willing to make demands of me, even though he knew it would be, in a certain sense, "easier" on me for him not to do so. But the Cross is not easy. It doesn't, to not-exactly-coin a phrase, affirm us in our okayness. I honestly don't think the Church should chase people away. But it is false welcome to deny that following Christ means the Cross. Here is Cardinal Ratzinger again (Section 12):
What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. ... While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian's suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ.
It is, in effect, none other than the teaching of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians when he says ... "You cannot belong to Christ unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires." ...
To celebrate the Paschal Mystery, it is necessary to let that Mystery become imprinted in the fabric of daily life. To refuse to sacrifice one's own will in obedience to the will of the Lord is effectively to prevent salvation. Just as the Cross was central to the expression of God's redemptive love for us in Jesus, so the conformity of the self-denial of homosexual men and women with the sacrifice of the Lord will constitute for them a source of self-giving which will save them from a way of life which constantly threatens to destroy them.
It's obviously essential to be "gay-friendly" in a certain sense. Check. But when a priest or parish or ministry neglects what we might as well call the "gay-unfriendly" bits of the Church teaching, when they do not do what Cardinal Ratzinger called "bring[ing] the teaching of the Church in its integrity" ... their efforts are, objectively speaking, counter-ministry and counter-witness that encourage people to eat and drink their own damnation.
The Rev. Bussen said there's no conflict with Catholic teachings to hold a Mass that "says it's OK to be gay."
"Whether they are sinners or not — probably, the answer is yes," he said. "Like the rest of the people who come into the church."
Yes, every Mass, by definition, has nothing but sinners present. I get that. I really do. Lord knows I am quite aware of my own faults in this field. Church is like a hospital for sinners, and only there are only sick people in hospitals. But that simply doesn't speak about those who say that some sin they have committed is not a sin. To continue the metaphor, hospitals might be full of cancer patients (sinners) needing cures (the sacraments). But what good are cures to those who say they are not ill? Who live openly with their homosexual lovers and say "it's OK to be gay" (have cancer). Who deny their faults are faults.

Orthodoxy in notional belief is obviously not everything or even the most-important thing. But it is indispensable. And we are talking about people, with the support of the regnant secular culture, who frankly state that they have no intention of firmly resolving with the help of Thy grace, to do penance, amend their life and sin no more. And who deny that their repeated publicly-acknowledged behavior is wrong, and that the Church is wrong when She teaches otherwise. They ... and by reason of that last clause, not their homosexual attractions ... have no (current) place in the Church. And Masses to pander to them (and that is clearly what is happening here) are merely one step short of an Aleister Crowley Black Mass.


Dad29 said...

I know that to some extent I'm preaching to the choir here...but 'willingly assuming [and] living with the sufferings and frustrations...' is something that married folk do, too.

It's not exactly like it's depicted on TV, with a nubile and oh-so-willing wife flashing nipples every evening...NOR a virile, athletic, and roses-gifting Adonis/husband/money source. (I can speak very authoritatively about my lack of ANY of those husbandly "virtues.")

But you knew that.

CourageMan said...

Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute ... how did you get to be a Dad to Nine, then? Adoption?

More seriously ... the last here-cited quote from then-Cardinal Ratzinger makes exactly that point ... "it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ."

There is undoubtedly a tendency for those of us who struggle against homosexual attractions to think "all would be fine if I could marry/were attracted to the opposite sex." Grass, greener, fence sides, etc.

What the cardinal was addressing, I believe, is the refusal of those who practice the gay lifestyle to even imagine that they could ever be called to sacrifice.

Dad29 said...

Yes...and actually, I'm dad to 10, with one who was a Saint within 12 hours of birth...

In jest, I've often offered priests to "swap" living arrangements for a couple of weeks.

Now and then, having hot water available for a shower whenever I damn well please would be kinda neat.

melancholy said...

Wow, That is a good story. I admire your faithfullness to God's truths especially when a priest is trying to make things easier for you. I also admire your honesty.

Being a convert, given to years of self-indulgence, I also struggle with the great difficulty to conform to God's ways. I was attracted to the Catholic Church because I know I am a sinner--who is trying hard not to be. I am a sex addict. I struggle with temptation daily. At first, the struggle seemed impossible, but as time passes--it's getting easier. It feels good to do it His way--not mine.

I want the priest to tell me a sin is a sin--I don't want him to be nice to me and let me burn in Hell.
Thanks for the story--it's nice to know one can struggle, and overcome.

Mary said...

wow... first time here I enjoyed it a lot....i think i will come back and see ya ..... thanks and God Bless you.