Yesterday's Detroit Free Press featured a piece by Patricia Montemurri entitled, Archdiocese of Detroit bans Catholic gay rights speaker from parish. She begins this way:
The Archdiocese of Detroit has banned a support group for Catholic families with gay members from using a Detroit parish for a Saturday meeting because the scheduled speaker represents a pro-gay rights ministry censured by the Vatican.
This part is true. In fact, to the reporters credit, she later mentions a 1999 censuring of the founders of New Ways Ministry, the organization whom the speaker, Francis DeBernardo, represents. I'll offer a little more background here. This organization was founded by Sr. Jeanne Grammick, SSND and Fr. Robert Nugent, SDS - two individuals who were the subject of a notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the pontificate of Saint Pope John Paul II over what they taught, and neglected to teach, in their ministry to people with same sex attraction (SSA). The end of that document states (emphasis mine in bold):
Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have often stated that they seek, in keeping with the Church's teaching, to treat homosexual persons “with respect, compassion and sensitivity”. However, the promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion: persons who are struggling with homosexuality no less than any others have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them. The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church. For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.
New Ways Ministry was also the subject of a statement by the USCCB in 2010, which states:
No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination. Accordingly, I wish to make it clear that, like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.
Bill Donohue at the Catholic League released a rap sheet on NWM.
Getting back to the Detroit Free Press article, Montemurri writes:
I don't recall Pope Francis saying anything of this sort at the recent Synod, but many in the secular media and in the dissenting wing of the Church seem to know what he thinks. As Robert Royal, who was in Rome covering the Synod, recently wrote at The Catholic Thing:
It comes a month after Catholic bishops publicly feuded at a Vatican meeting over Pope Francis' more welcoming words and outreach to gay Catholics and their families.
"The pope’s own views have been impossible to detect – though many reporters pressed – because he said nothing at all this week. Presumably, he does desire some pastoral developments. He did invite, after all, Cardinal Kasper to give the keynote at the February consistory that got that whole controversy going. But to identify him with the most radical language in some garbled documents does him an injustice."
I want to return to that word, "welcoming," used by Montemurri, which has become popular today. In a nutshell, it is ambiguous and that is what some like. "Welcoming," in what way? Should people be welcomed in a way that acknowledges the SSA and supports them in living out their lives in harmony with God's ways; or, should they be welcomed in a way that affirms, or seems to affirm, people in behaviors that are objectively grave in their sinfulness? It's hard to pin-point what people mean by "welcoming." The latter lacks mercy in that it considers only the temporal without regard for eternal salvation. I really hope the bishops will define what it means to be "welcoming" in the 2015 Synod, if that word has to be used at all, knowing how it is exploited.
This is probably one of the greatest misunderstandings people have today. The world believes God wants us to be happy, even unto stretching the truth in ways that puts our eternal salvation at risk. Everything is interpreted through the lens of the "here and now" while disregarding the lens of eternity. Jesus Himself would not be considered "welcoming" today by telling followers as he did: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mt 7:13-14) This conflicts with the gospel of comfort, which avoids any reflection on what it means to take up our crosses daily.
The Free Press report continues:
Joe Kohn, a spokesman for Archbishop Vigneron, said New Ways Ministry is not an approved organization to address Catholic teachings on homosexuality.
"It was brought to the archdiocese's attention a few weeks back that New Ways Ministry had been scheduled to speak at Christ the King Church," Kohn said in a statement. "Because New Ways Ministry had been identified as a group that might cause confusion in regards to Catholic church teaching, the archdiocese did clarify that a presentation by New Ways Ministry should not be hosted on church property."
And that's why the group hosting New Ways Ministry, moved the Saturday talk offsite. No further statement is really needed by Archbishop Vigneron or the Archdiocese of Detroit. Any time a bishop prohibits an event from happening on Church property, people need to act on prudence. Such action speaks volumes.
Patricia Montemurri, discussing the thoughts of the the man who was to speak at Christ the King Parish, writes:
New Ways' DeBernardo, who was in Rome attending gay rights events during the bishops' meeting, said the Detroit archdiocese's actions run counter to Pope Francis' more sympathetic posture toward gay Catholics.
First, "gay rights" is synonymous these days with affirming the lifestyle now casually referred to as, "gay." In Catholic circles where groups like New Ways Ministry is welcomed it is often code for affirming people in their sexual relations outside of sacramental marriage while making them feel it is okay to receive Communion.
Lets be clear: Someone with SSA is welcome to receive Holy Communion like any one else, if they are striving for chastity just like any heterosexual would strive for this. There are many single, heterosexual people, who desire marriage, but have not found a spouse. They are not free to engage in sexual relations outside of Sacramental Marriage and receive Holy Communion. Many do, but that's something our priests and bishops need to start addressing and maybe it would carry more weight when discussing homosexual relations. Homosexual inclinations are not sinful; acting on them is (CCC 2357-2359). People of either sexual orientation fall into sin and that is why there is Sacramental Confession, but this takes acknowledging a wrong and striving to, "go and sin no more." (Jn 8:11). As the saying goes, "the Catholic Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners." But, we sinners have to want to live in a way that is faithful to God's Commandments. Contrary to low-information belief, Jesus did not, "do away," with the 10 Commandments.
What kind of parent gives wheat to a child with celiac disease, just to avoid the appearance of being mean, or not wanting the child to feel different from other children, or to be happy? Humans are not incapable of eating wheat gluten, but the bodies of some individuals react in a way that damages the colon. Eating wheat can eventually be deadly. In a like manner, a pastor or bishop who permits people to believe they can have sexual relations outside of Sacramental Marriage, or turn marriage into something other than the joining of one man and one woman, engages in false mercy. Personally, I think heterosexual cohabitation is one of the most neglected topics in the Church today.
Perhaps Patricia Montemurri and other reporters would do a story on the Church approved apostolate, Courage and EnCourage. Courage supports people with SSA to live out their lives in harmony with Church teaching. EnCourage is a branch of the apostolate which provides support to family members of those with SSA. Here in Detroit, Msgr. Michael Bugarin is heading up that apostolate. I look forward to Montemurri's report on it.
The article continues…
The Rev. Victor Clore, pastor of Christ the King parish, said he was notified last week by an archdiocese official that the parish could not host the meeting. Clore said the archdiocese's position was discouraging.
"I'll give you a quote from one of my parishioners, who said: 'It amazes me how Pope Francis eagerly and happily engages those who openly deny the divinity of Christ, yet (New Ways) DeBernardo is deemed unworthy to enter our church,' " Clore stated.
"That's pretty much my feeling, too," said Clore. "It's treating people as if they were children."
Childlikeness is a virtue, especially when it comes to docility. Also, when children want to touch a hot stove they get told, "no." That is what Archbishop Vigneron is doing here and he would be guilty of omission if he did not do so. And, where is Pope Francis giving a platform to a speaker who openly denies the Divinity of Christ? It's a straw-man argument. It's one thing to meet with people and talk to them; it's quite another to give them a platform on Church property to spread error, or to say it is okay for them to receive Holy Communion while freely placing themselves in a state of grave sin.
Here's something interesting. The Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) stated that one of three reasons for initiating the assessment was this:
Policies of Corporate Dissent. The Cardinal spoke of this issue in reference to letters the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them LCWR Officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences. The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.
Lest there be any doubt, Pope Francis reaffirmed the Vatican's desire to reform the LCWR. But there it is again, from the Vatican website, clearly showing New Ways Ministry might minister to people with SSA, but not in a Catholic way.
Karle-Nelson said she fears interested Catholics might be confused by the change of location. Last year's meeting drew about 40 participants, with some walk-ins. She said 22 people are registered for Saturday's gathering so far.
"It's really been a problem trying to get the information out to people who have registered and those who might want to walk in," said Karle-Nelson.
"The reason we invited Frank DeBernardo, is he just returned from Rome and the Synod on the family, and he was going to share his perspective and where do we go from here," said Karle-Nelson. "The pope has asked for reactions and to weigh in."
I'd be more concerned about the confusion DeBernardo will sow about what the Church teaches on human sexuality with regards to SSA than with confusion about a change in location. Where do we go from here? Look to the very good shepherd we have here in Detroit and follow through with the Church approved apostolates.
New Ways Ministry doesn't have any links to Courage and Encourage. I think we know why.
A final word on how groups like NWM use polls, and how media types tend to use that information, treating the Church as if it is a political class. Catholic understanding of Sacred Scripture is not based on opinion polls. Keep in mind, Jesus had a high unfavorable rating in the opinion poll that put him on the Cross (Mt 15:13-15). Opinion ≠ Truth. Here's a good summary from Cardinal Napier on Twitter.
Moral wrong, moral evil, moral falsehood & moral injustice have never had & can never have any moral rights whatsoever. Only good can!
— Cardinal Napier (@CardinalNapier) November 13, 2014
Pray for all involved.
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