Saturday, October 4, 2014

Of Obsessions

WOULD Pope Francis Sign the New Catholic Teacher Contract?”  Frank Bruni of the Times has noted this question  posted on a dozen billboards around Cincinnati recently, presumably because of the Diaz case. This case and others, and the way the involved institutions handle them, are interpreted by Mr. Bruni as the Church vacillating between a message of greater tolerance and the traditional practice of intolerance, and "between the direction in which the Catholic Church needs to move and the matters of sexual morality on which it keeps getting stuck."  Who determines the direction in which the Catholic Church needs to move? The New York Times Editorial page? No, it's founder, Jesus Christ, who has already, through his life, teaching, passion, death and resurrection determined the direction His Church is moving and will continue to move, in spite of all attempt by the gates of hell to prevail against her. Bruni opines, "The more things change, the more they remain mired in libido and loins." Here it would be pastoral to reflect on the teaching of Pope Paul VI, that human libido is one crack through which the Tempter enters the Church, wreaking havoc on souls. Read my book for examples of this, which are legion, and grow worse as we journey to the end times.

Bruni complains that diocesan Cincinnati teachers are being given a detailed prescriptive list of violations of  Church teaching that could result in termination. I applaud this corrective, which is responsible episcopal oversight sadly not employed by all shepherds of the flock. The bishops as chief catechists in their dioceses are charged by Vatican II with the safeguarding of the Deposit of the Faith (which, by the way, Francis has no authority to change). The Cincinnati agreement rightly forbids a “homosexual lifestyle” (nothing said on "orientation") and any “public support” of one, interpreted to mean that an employee by his or her actions, not personal philosophy, violates the teachings of Jesus Christ. Bruni retorts that the agreement "says nothing about public support of the death penalty, something else that the church opposes. Here Bruni reveals a fundamental ignorance of Catholic teaching, set down in the Catechism:

2267  Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against an unjust aggressor.

As a catechist in a Catholic school, I always speak out publicly in opposition to the death penalty, but do not fail to give the full teaching of the Church.

The contract prohibits any use or advocacy of abortion rights, surrogacy, even in vitro fertilization. Rightly so. Bruni points out that it "doesn’t address possible advocacy of the sorts of bloody military engagements that the church often condemns." Again, Mr. Bruni should engage in a close reading of Catholic teaching on just war theory. Surely he is aware of the present day "cafeteria" brand of  practice by Catholics, choosing to support men who have sex with men, and women who have sex with women, but condemning those who support "bloody military engagements." Should a man have sex with a man, and advocate a military engagement which does not meet just war criteria, the Church is bound to admonish him on both counts, and does in her teaching.

The new contract also forbids cohabitation and fornication, and any public endorsement of either. However, it must be said that Bruni notes, incorrectly, that there is "no reference to concern for the downtrodden, to the spirit of giving, to charity." Any Catholic institution by virtue of its Catholic identity is centered around charity, and Bruni is off the mark in intimating that those employed in her schools by the Cincinnati archdiocese are remiss in carrying out its mission, which reads:

"Vital to the evangelizing and educational mission of the Catholic Church, we are Christ-centered communities dedicated to the faith formationacademic excellence, and individual growth of our students, all rooted in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ."

To be rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the full Gospel, is to be caritas-centered.

What I find most disingenuous in Bruni's op-ed is his reference "to what Pope Francis said last year." Intellectual honesty requires that one read the full interview with Pope Francis, posted at America Magazine. In that translation here is the aforementioned passage:

 “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

So we see the word “obsessed” in there, but employed not quite in the same way the Times (and other progressive enthusiasts) see it. 

That Bruni knows not of the institution of which he is writing is best seen in the following:

"Faithful Catholicism has never been a condition of employment in most Catholic schools, which have Protestant teachers, Jewish teachers, teachers of no discernible religion. They know to be respectful. They know to be discreet. But they’re there to decipher the mysteries of algebra, to eradicate the evils of dangling prepositions. They’re not priests."

Let's be clear: bishops are charged with seeing that faithful Catholicism be a condition of employment, or, failing that, that non Catholics employed by Catholic schools  conduct themselves in accord with Catholic teaching. If 37 years of teaching in Catholic schools has taught me anything, it is that since Vatican II certain Catholics and non-Catholics alike, heterosexual and homosexual male and female employees in Catholic schools have often failed in this regard. Bruni suggests as much in his piece: "Can a teacher be canned for attending a rally for a candidate who’s pro-choice?" What message would attendance at such convey to impressionable students' minds in view of Pope Francis' statements on abortion? To cite only one such sttement: "Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord, who even before his birth, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world....") 

It is the responsibility of the bishop to see that faithful Catholicism be a condition of employment, and that all employees, Catholic and non-Catholic both, conduct themselves in accord with Catholic teaching. This charge not a few bishops have only very recently found the courage to accept, as I document in my book. So the Church moves in the direction that the Holy Spirit wills, the efforts of those who walk in darkness notwithstanding. Our Lord has promised she will, as He will be with her until the end of the age. Let us pray that the Lord continue to shine His light on those who dwell in darkness...