Saturday, October 6, 2012
Over the past several days, influential journals of opinion and web newsites [here, here, here, here, here, here, and here] have taken to task the Catholic Church, particularly members of the hierarchy, for doing what she, the Church, must do: teach the truth of God and the Church. Some of these journals of opinion and boggers have argued that the Church’s presentations have been inflammatory, not because of the rhetoric but because of the positions taken and advanced. However, when one actually reads the Church texts that are cited or watches the video of their presentation, the modifier “inflammatory” does not come to mind, but reasoned discourse does. If one is interested in seeing “inflammatory” language, a better source to satisfy the appetite may be to see how these journals themselves present their perspective on the news. If one searches further, you will find that many journals of opinion and bloggers today refer unforgivingly to those with whom they disagree. It is difficult to comprehend why do some of these journals and bloggers castigate officials of the Church and those who agree with Church teachings when they express respectful disagreement with words and deeds that are contrary to Church teachings and the natural moral law? It may be in part because the critics find these words, as Gospel (John 6:60) reminds us, hard to accept.
Of course, it is clear that some members of our society disagree with the content or at least elements of the Church’s teachings. That is their prerogative; however, this prerogative does not make them or their opinions correct. By the same token, the Church has the same right to speak and teach her Teachings that are protected by the same rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Over the last several years, some opponents of the Church’s teachings (including some folks who identify themselves as Catholics) have argued that the Church has overstepped boundaries in what is permissible for the Church (and voices that agree with her) to do in the public square and what is not.
A common theme of many the critical opinions is that the Church’s teachings can be divisive; therefore, they ought not to be conveyed so as to minimize division. I doubt that the intention of the Church is to spread division. But I am confident that the intention is to propose God’s truth to the faithful and other people of good will. This is something which rubs against some elements of American and other western societies today. It is clear that the journals of opinion and bloggers that I have cited above (a modest sampling) treasure their right to speak. And they must be protected in their right. But at the same time, so must the Church’s voice be protected. Moreover, anyone who disagrees can express his or her or its opinion, but theirs is not the right to silence the voice with which they disagree.
As the only resident cleric of the Mirror of Justice community, I will be celebrating the Eucharist this coming weekend at a Chicago area parish where I regularly assist. If you check the readings for this Sunday, the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (cycle B), you will see that the Old Testament and Gospel texts are about marriage. I intend to preach about marriage and the vital role it exercises in the Church and in civil society. I will principally address the nature of the human person and the complementarity of the sexes acknowledged by the scripture. I suppose there may be some who will accuse me of mixing politics with religion. Really? But I have a reply to any criticism arguing that I am doing something from the pulpit that is “divisive.”
There is a part of my response which focuses on the First Amendment protections to point out something that an objective understanding of human nature concurs with the complementarity of the sexes argument mentioned in the Old and New Testament readings. Another part of my response is in the form of a question about why should there be inequity of treatment of what can be presented in a public forum between the views of the Church and those voices which disagree with the Church’s teachings? A recent illustration comes to mind.
Two weeks ago I had the occasion to be in the Twin Cities to deliver a paper at the St. Thomas University conference on Vatican II. As I stayed at the Midwest Jesuit novitiate nearby, I walked to the conference venue as it was a pleasant early fall day. On my journey, I passed a number of houses of worship which displayed a version of the poster “Vote No: Don’t Limit the Freedom to Marry” which has been displayed by folks and institutions that do not want to limit legal marriage in Minnesota to a union of one man and one woman. As you may recall, Minnesota has a state referendum concerning the definition of marriage. During my walk, I noticed that several houses of worship had the sign “Vote No” but added to the standard poster “People of Faith Vote No: Don’t Limit the Freedom to Marry.” Some other houses of worship did not display this sign. I wondered if they might have a congregation which largely holds the view that one should vote “yes” on the marriage amendment, but for some reason they did not think that they should express their view on this important public and moral issue. If they did have a reason for refraining from having a “Vote Yes” sign placed on their house of worship, I further wondered if it might emerge from a fear about offering a contrasting view on a matter of public policy where there is great and deep division on the question of the definition and meaning of marriage.
On Sunday, I shall preach on the scripture readings from Genesis and Saint Mark’s Gospel and relate them to the Church’s teachings. I shall also touch upon the role of the faithful as disciples of Christ who are also citizens of the City of Man and who have a voice in public policy debates. Will I receive complaints about what I may say from the pulpit? Will I be accused of doing something “divisive” by preaching in concert with the Church’s teachings as revealed in sacred scripture?
Totalitarian regimes have tried to snuff out the truth from the pulpit, but surely it would be unbecoming of and antithetical for a democracy to do the same.