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Monday, August 23, 2010

Spineless

Father Michael Rodriguez of El Paso has recently written several newspaper columns and made a television appearance at a local news station in order to make clear the Catholic teaching on homosexuality: while we must recognize the homosexual as a human being deserving of dignity, we can do nothing but condemn the sexual sins that an active homosexual undertakes. He wrote these letters and made this appearance in response to heretical teaching by another priest in the diocese, and in response to public events occurring in El Paso right now.

In response, his bishop, Bishop Ochoa, wrote a pastoral letter which seemed to rebuke Father Rodriguez for his teaching. It says in part:

As Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso and chief teacher of our local church, I would like to share some pastoral reflections on certain issues that are important for the well-being of all God's people.

First of all, I would like to state that previous columns claiming to speak for Catholic Doctrine were the personal opinions of individuals and do not necessarily express the belief of the Catholic Church.

Now, was the bishop correcting the priest who wrote in favor of homosexuality? Or the one who wrote and spoke against it? Or both?

It's hard to say.

One thing is certain: Bishop Ochoa's letter is a nearly perfect example of why no one pays attention to bishops anymore.

Read through his letter carefully. Exactly what does it say? Apart from a rather nebulous idea that God is really nice and loves everyone, it is empty.

There is no mention of sin, no mention of grace, nothing about salvation. Catholic teaching is only interested in "promoting the good of society", not saving anyone.

"We believe Christ offers meaning" but if you believe differently... well....

"Every child has a right to life." Well, yes, and everyone loves baseball. But when does a child's life begin, Bishop? Give us a definition, tell us what we are defending!

"The Church is a supporter of the sanctity of a marriage between a man and a woman." Indeed, Bishop! But what about the attempted marriage between a man and a man, a woman and a woman, or a man and a dog? Is the Church silent on these issues? Would a priest who said these latter attempts are intrinsically evil, would he be expressing "his personal opinion" or the views of the Church?

Newsflash - it can be both. But would the Bishop tell you?

"God's first and primary law is love." Ah! The heart flutters!

But what is love, Bishop? Seems to me it involved a lot of suffering - scourging, cross, death, that kind of thing. And I'm not just talking the scourging of Christ, I'm pointing out that the loving and loveable Christ scourged the money changers in the Temple, and called quite a lot of people "Blind guides, fools, hypocrites... you make your disciples TWICE the sons of perdition that you are!"

That's love for ya'. Does the Bishop mention any of this? Is the Bishop even AWARE of any of this?

He uses Scripture only once, and that one reference is wrong in essential details.

He throws around words like "love" and "marriage" without stringently defining either. Thus, he ends with what are meant to be stirring words,

I urge all of our pastoral agents to reach out to individuals with a homosexual orientation and their families with compassion. This can be done without compromising Church teaching in any way because our pastoral care demands no less from us.

Those words mean nothing, because he hasn't actually taught us anything we didn't learn in third grade. "God is soft and fuzzy! Hug Him! Isn't He a nice friend?"

If this is the best teaching a bishop can provide, then maybe that bishop should consider early retirement, and a long rest under a cool shade tree.

Adults want content and direction.

Adults expect backbone.

If you don't have the spine to say what you think - or what you are supposed to think - then you aren't worth following at all.

There is absolutely nothing in this episcopal letter that is memorable or even particularly Catholic. It could as easily have been written by a liberal Muslim, a standard-issue Hindu, or a any Buddhist as by a Catholic bishop.

Why did Bishop Ochoa waste the ink?


UPDATE:

I failed to mention that Fr. Rodriguez' letter was actually the second in a series, responding not only to events in El Paso, but to a very negative public newspaper response from a fellow priest, Fr. Ed Rodan-Lucero.

Church opposes redefinition of morality (Fr. Rodriguez)

It behooves me to emphasize the following truths to all the Catholic faithful of our diocese: Every single Catholic has the absolute duty to oppose the murder of unborn babies; every single Catholic has the absolute duty to oppose any government attempt to legalize homosexual unions.

The Holy Catholic Church has the power, given to her by Jesus Christ himself, to teach infallibly in the areas of faith and morals. Basing herself on sacred tradition and sacred Scripture, and in virtue of what…


Catholic church must keep arms open to all (Rev. Ed Roden-Lucero)

For the benefit of all people of good will regardless of faith, race or orientation, I write to offer a broader pastoral, scriptural and ecclesial perspective compared to that offered by Rev. Michael Rodriguez, (Church Opposes Redefinition of Morality, March 21).

An appropriate starting point is a question proposed to Jesus in the gospel and his response to it. When asked which commandment is the most important, Jesus replies first with the well-known commandment to love God “...

Catholics must show true faith (Fr. Rodriguez) (Hat-tip, Jerry at WDTPRS).

So, Bishop is putting a pox on both priests. But that hardly solves our problem.

Pope Honorius was declared a heretic by the Church for silencing both sides on an important theological issue of the day. Instead of pointing out that one side was correct and the other not correct, he simply told both to shut up - that silence got him branded a heretic.

This conflict is not an unresolvable conflict, but one that has already been settled by the Church along the lines Fr. Rodriguez describes. If the Church has already chosen sides in this debate - and She has - then Bishop Ochoa must do so as well.

4 comments:

pillsburykem said...

Steve,
Another great post. I appreciate your time and effort in your blogs. As a new convert to the Catholic faith (2 years), it's disheartening to read comments from priests that seem to acquiesce to the political correctness of the media. I actually met you during my R.C.I.A. at one of your talks on history of the Catholic Church. Ever since then I have admired that you say it how is it. Thanks again for your insightful blogs!

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Thanks for the kind words. The bishop is the primary teacher in every diocese, the priest is the primary teacher in every parish, but when neither actually does what they are ordained to do, it can be quite disheartening.

On the bright side, the problem isn't a new one, and the Church has dealt with it before. As lay Catholic faithful, we need only to follow what the Church has always taught, and pray for our leaders, that they may one day do the same.

NMMCG said...

Jesus declared (John 10:27), "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

Steve, I heard Christ's voice in Fr. Rodriguez's defense of Church teaching on homosexuality. The bishop could not have improved on Father's witness. He, the bishop, sounded like a pompous ass, with elbows out, asserting his hierarchical authority. "Hey, I'm in charge here." With humility he could have acknowledged and thanked the good priest for speaking out so well on behalf of Christ and mother Church.

Thanks for your posting on this subject, Steve. Well said.

Phil
Rio Rancho, NM

NMMCG said...

Jesus declared (John 10:27), "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

Steve, I heard Christ's voice in Fr. Rodriguez's defense of Church teaching on homosexuality. The bishop could not have improved on Father's witness. He, the bishop, sounded like a pompous ass, with elbows out, asserting his hierarchical authority. "Hey, I'm in charge here." With humility he could have acknowledged and thanked the good priest for speaking out so well on behalf of Christ and mother Church.

Thanks for your posting on this subject, Steve. Well said.

Phil
Rio Rancho, NM