Tuesday, November 23, 2010
PASTORAL SENSITIVITIES AND THE POPE; CAN GOD BRING GOOD FROM EVIL?
The brouhaha concerning Pope Benedict's statement on condoms when His Holiness said, "She (the Church) of course does not regard it (condoms) as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality," is based on the fact that he has spoken as a pastor would rather than a distant, aloof technician of correct teaching. All of us who are pastors know we live in an imperfect world and thus have to make some pastoral compromises on the human level while not compromising the doctrine and morals of the Church.
Let me give some other example. I firmly adhere to the Church's teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage. Yet in my parish there are those who are in second marriages after a divorce and these marriages are not valid in the eyes of the Church. Catholics in these situations are prohibited by moral and canon law from receiving Holy Communion.
Yet, for a good many of these civil unions, the partners are responsible. They are good parents, and they take care of one another in sickness and in health. In physically debilitating sickness and handicaps one partner is a "Godsend" for other.
Do I tell them they are going to hell for living together in a civil union? Do I tell them to separate? Certainly I tell them of the Church's teachings.
I know some priests who would tell them they are going to hell and that they should separate. I cannot for pastoral reasons. I do not (as some priests might) give them "permission" to receive Holy Communion either.
How does God bring good out or less than perfect situations? Here too, the Holy Father is perplexed by this reality in relation to the morally bankrupt and sociopath Father Marcial Maciel Degollado,, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The following is from Catholic News Service:
The pope said that in responding to sex abuse allegations against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the late Mexican Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, "unfortunately we addressed these things very slowly and late." The allegations were eventually substantiated and the order has been placed under Vatican leadership for a period of reform.
Pope Benedict said Father Maciel remains for him "a mysterious figure," one who lived an immoral and twisted life but who built up his religious order with dynamism -- a "false prophet" who nevertheless had a "positive effect." As for the future of the Legionaries, the pope said it was basically sound but needed corrections that do not destroy the enthusiasm of its members.
So we live in an imperfect world. We get mad at one another. We say uncharitable things and do uncharitable deeds. We speed, drink too much, and we curse. In these areas we cut each other slack, offer the sacrament of Penance but realize that sinners being sinners they'll slip back into less than perfect behavior and sometimes choose this behavior over the morally good option. Yet we are understanding.
But when it comes to sex, masturbation, condoms, passions running wild before marriage and the whole host of imperfections that accompany our sexuality, these seem to cause more moral alarm and obsessive consternation than the adult son who screams explicatives at his mother and storms out of the house in a fit of rage. Why is that?