Tuesday, July 30, 2013
DOCTRINALLY CONSERVATIVE, PASTORALLY LIBERAL,
There are prudential judgments we must make about judging people. We judge people all the time, especially when they are on trial. We've had some spectacular public trials in this regard and very recently.
When it comes to the Church, we must judge ourselves in terms of our worthiness to receive Holy Communion. Am I in a state of mortal sin? I have to examine my conscience and if I am, I must go to confession prior to receiving Holy Communion.
We are to continue attending Mass and participating as prayerfully and liturgically as possible, even if we are in a state of mortal sin, or a public sinner. Most of the time our parish family does not know the state of our soul, only we do. So if I receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, usually that is known only to me. We are not to judge those who receive Holy Communion.
But a pastor or priest who knows someone is a public sinner and is receiving Holy Communion as a kind of political statement that they disagree with the Church's moral teachings in their regard, then, a priest must judge that person and deny him/her Holy Communion but hopefully this is done in a pastoral counseling situation. This is true of those in marriages not recognized by the Church. It is also true of those who belong to the KKK, work for abortion clinics and are quite public in their pro-choice politics. But depending on the priest or the bishop, the pastoral judgments might differ.
For example, how many would be opposed to a priest refusing Holy Communion to a couple in an adulterous relationship and that man's wife (there is no legal divorce) is present at the Mass too? Do you think that is far fetched? Think again!
With Pope Francis, we have a major shift in emphasis in his papacy. He is intelligent, but he is not an academic. He is not a professor. He is a pastor. He is a people person. He is an extravert. I say he is an extravert because he seems to be energized by the experience he had in Rio and his public audiences in Rome. He doesn't want to live alone in the papal apartments but in a hotel where he can be around people all of the time. If he were an introvert, he would want that papal apartment to retreat, but he doesn't.
Pope Francis communicates in a pastoral style and is inclusive in this regard. He wants as many people as possible to be a part of the Church although we all know that people's commitment to the Church varies from person to person, always has, always will.
Let's face it some Catholic parents of the past have been too quick to disinherit their children, stop talking to them and exclude them when they did something that the parent thought was shameful. Isn't it better to remain in dialogue with them and to love them unconditionally? That doesn't mean that we love the wrong they are doing, but we love them, and accept them and even visit them in prison if they murder someone. We pray for their conversion and try to be an instrument of God's grace in this regard.
So Pope Francis washes the feet of prisoners at a Holy Thursday Mass, some of whom are not even Catholic, some of whom are women. He is telling bishops, priests and the laity to care for people, minister to them no matter who they are. He is changing the meaning of a "optional sacramental" during the Holy Thursday Mass, from a literalism in terms of the 12 apostles to the Church that Jesus is founding through them and by the Holy Spirit to go to the whole world with the Good News and baptize them!
So Pope Francis makes comments about "gay" priests. I am not sure that "gay" in Italian has the same meaning as in English, although Italians now use this English term. In English, I think it has political ramifications and means an active lifestyle in terms of actually having sex with a variety of partners and promoting this as a political and moral equivalent to heterosexuality. I'm not sure that is what Pope Francis meant when he used it in Italian. I think he used it as another word for homosexual or same sex attraction. "Gay lobby" though means a political activism that is opposed to the Church's moral teachings. So a homosexual priest who is gay, meaning, he is having same sex sex and thus breaking his vow or promise of celibacy/chastity, we can judge that priest, suspend him, fire him, "defrock" him. And is a candidate for the priesthood is "gay" meaning a part of the gay lobby and using his desire to be a priest to promote the gay lifestyle in the Church, he can and should, in fact must be excluded from the seminary and ultimately the priesthood.
I know of many people who have same sex attractions, but are married and faithful to their opposite sex spouse and function well in the bedroom. I know of many confirmed homosexuals who are heroic in living chaste lives. I am not sure that in English we should refer to these categories of people as "gay."
So the Holy Father lets the not so secret fact that there are "gay" priests. He still expects them to be chaste and many are, not all. The same is true of heterosexual priests too, by the way.
Would the Holy Father tell us that homosexuality and heterosexuality are on the same level? He'll have to tell you. But he knows that homosexuals can't be married, are called to live-long chastity given their orientation and must rely upon God and the support of the Church and her sacraments to achieve this and through a free, conscious decision of the will to unite themselves to Christ and the chastity He desire for them.
This is not true of heterosexuals who have the option of natural sex within marriage and fidelity to their spouse. So there is a discrimination and judgement made in the light of natural law, Scripture and Tradition.
But let me say this as a priest. I hope that sinners feel welcome in my parish. I have had murderers, adulterers, KKK, abortionists and the like attending Mass and some of whom are registered. I am glad they attend Mass and I pray they are seeking God's grace and I know that God is seeking them and offering them His grace for conversion and salvation.
Why exclude those most in need of God salvation. Remember the Fatima Prayer in this regard:
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.