Friday, December 12, 2008

The American Papist had this item last week, regarding the L.A. Catholic Bishops' pastoral letter to homosexuals. AmP calls it a case of "unteaching" and files it under the category "stupidity". I frankly do not see how it is either. I am no fan of Cardinal Mahoney, and I think the LA bishops' letter is problematic: its use, e.g., of the UN Declaration on Human Rights is unnecessary and distracting, at best.

Below is the excerpt the AmP gives of the CNA story:

The bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, led by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, issued a letter to homosexual Catholics on Friday seeking to ensure them that the Church’s support for Proposition 8 was not meant to diminish their dignity or their membership in the Church. The true aim of the Church’s support, the bishops write, was to “preserve the ordered relationship between man and woman created by God.”

The pastoral letter, which was printed in the archdiocesan paper The Tidings, is written to all homosexual members of the Church as well as the rest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. According to the bishops, its purpose is to offer reassurance to gays amidst the fallout surrounding Prop. 8’s success that they are “cherished members of the Catholic Church, and that we value you as equal and active members of the Body of Christ.” (CNA)

Peters' further labeling of this blog post under "Mahoney" and "homosexual lobby" is an exercise in poor judgment. The bishops successfully supported Prop 8 in California, and moved to rebuild bridges with the Catholics who belong to the group arguably most interested in seeing 8 defeated. This is laudable.

I do not think Mr. Peters hates homosexuals, and I am certain he would not see the poor souls who suffer serious perversions of their sexual inclination expelled from the Church. I do think he acted hastily, and failed to operate a basic and practically crucial distinction, namely, the distinction between a homosexual inclination and a gay lifestyle. The LA bishops' attempt to reach out to Catholics in the former does not suggest, let alone imply or otherwise provide grounds for inference that they approve or applaud of the latter.

Any effort to help people struggle with the Church against their perversions - whatever they are - is a good thing. In fact, failure to do so often drives people to struggle with their perversions against the Church.

Further laudable in the LA Bishops' letter is their avoidance of the silly semantics of "values" (except in its unexceptionable acception under which it is a synonym of "worth"), in favor of a semantics of order. In their letter, the LA bishops also clarify that their support for 8 was rooted in their concern that, "[T]he ordered relationship between man and woman created by God," to quote the letter, be protected in law. Law expresses and preserves order in society - the wisdom of many laws is proved by the disorder that attends their repeal or reversal.

In sum, the American Papist is a good blogger (I voted for him in the recent scholarship contest) who exercised poor judgment in the present case.


Clayton said...

I would agree with you.

At the same time, I'll tell you that I haven't spoken with anyone yet in Los Angeles who is satisfied with this statement, primarily, I think, because of the context out of which this letter arises.

For a number of years, the Courage apostolate was not allowed in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, because one of the Cardinal's administrators, a Carmelite priest, was committed to the vision of Dignity and was not supportive of Courage's approach.

There have also been occasions when archdiocesan officials claimed that Courage was guilty of association with / promotion of methods of reparative therapy. I was present at one such conference.

On another occasion, the Cardinal ordained an openly gay activist as a permanent deacon for the LA archdiocese.

And one year, the Cardinal actually wrote a letter welcoming the Rainbow Sash protestors to the cathedral at Pentecost. While it was a politically savvy move -- if the protestors showed at all, they did so without sashes -- it upset a number of people because of the ambiguous message it sent to dissenters.

So, in summary, it feels a bit to some like the squeaky wheel is always getting the grease... that all of the official statements have been aimed at restoring harmony with angry dissenters and no public statements have been issued to encourage those trying to live by the Church's teaching / those who might be involved with Courage, etc.

There have been some more promising trends recently: One priest in the archdiocese of Los Angeles started a Courage chapter anyway in 2004, without notifying the archdiocese. Eventually the archdiocesan liaison on GLBT ministry found out and wrote the Cardinal a letter complaining about the fact that a priest had established a Courage group. The archdiocese wrote the priest and asked for details about what happened at the Courage meetings. When the priest wrote back and explained the meetings and how the 5 goals of Courage were the foundation for the meetings, the Cardinal wrote back a personal letter to the priest extending his blessing for the work, and expressing the sentiment that other chapters of Courage would be established in the archdiocese.

Lazy Disciple said...

Dear Clayton,

Thanks for the background/back story to this.

I am not happy with the letter, either, though I am not a Catholic of the LA diocese, and so do not really have a dog in the fight.

I was really concerned with the American Papist's treatment of the story, and especially of Cardinal Mahoney.

Filing the story under "stupidity" and "homosexual lobby" strikes me as myopic (not to say "bigoted") and borderline slanderous.

Regarding Courage, I can only say that I am not surprised at the leveling of such accusations, and am sorry a group should have to endure what sometimes seems to be endless misunderstanding and even systematic calumny.

More later...