Friday, April 3, 2015

War of the Worlds

"So proud of my nephew Scott and the dialogue he started. He was responding to a teacher he had at his high school who still believes that homosexuality is a learned behavior. High school is a tough time anyway ... students don't need teachers making it even more difficult." -Susan Sarandon
In 1972 Pope Paul VI remarked:

We have the impression that through some cracks in the wall the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God: it is doubt, uncertainty, questioning, dissatisfaction, confrontation. And how did this come about? We will confide to you the thought that may be, we ourselves admit in free discussion, that may be unfounded, and that is that there has been a power, an adversary power. Let us call him by his name: the devil. We thought that after the Council a day of sunshine would have dawned for the history of the Church. What dawned instead was a day of clouds and storms, of darkness, of searching and uncertainties.

It was after reading this that I, reflecting on my experience in over 30 years in Catholic educational circles, decided to write The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God, for I recognized the prophetic nature of Paul’s insight, never more obvious than the present day. Let us take the most obvious example of the doubt, uncertainty, questioning, dissatisfaction, and confrontation (signs of the diabolic) facing the Mystical Body of Christ, the People of God today- the happenings in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Op Ed from a San Francisco Chronicle columnist:

Supervisor Mark Farrell tried to be reasonable.

Maybe that’s where he went wrong.

At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Farrell introduced a resolution pretty much to urge San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to back off on the “morality clauses” he’s got his mind set on for local Catholic school teacher labor contracts and handbooks.

In a carefully worded statement, Farrell noted that he is a practicing Catholic who attended Catholic school. But he also said that he personally could not support the Archdiocese characterizing a list of practices as “gravely evil.” They included “homosexual relations” and “reproductive technology.” Nor, Farrell said, did he support changing the policy at Star of the Sea Church in the Inner Richmond to no longer allow young women to serve as altar girls.

The legislation doesn’t have any real teeth, of course, but it was a strong gesture. It passed the board unanimously.

So, finally, some adult discussion of the issues, right? Not so fast.

The day after the legislation was approved, the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights sent out a letter written by President Bill Donohue announcing, “The Board of Supervisors ... declares war on the Archdiocese of San Francisco.” Donohue asked his group’s membership to “contact the author of the resolution ... Mark Farrell” and included Farrell’s e-mail address.

Last week the e-mails began to arrive — from out of town.

“I have received e-mails from Minnesota, New Jersey and Canada,” Farrell said. “But not a single one from San Francisco.”
And now that Farrell has shared some of the e-mails, let’s go out on a limb and say they are unlikely to change the minds of San Franciscans. The worst of them range from extreme to borderline loony.

“Your actions against the Archdiocese ... prove that the devil is very active in modern society,” one said. “I am sorry for you that you have willfully chosen to be his agent.”
“I can understand your sentiments because the temple dedicated to Satan is a major part of the city of San Francisco,” another wrote. “Where is Zorro when you need him?”

Um, Zorro?

OK, so we’re not going to have a logical, thoughtful conversation. Too bad, because there are some sensible points to be made.

“We have nondiscrimination laws here in San Francisco that have been established for years, including protecting the LGBT community,” Farrell said. “And by mandating that teachers conduct their public and private lives in a manner contrary to our laws in San Francisco, it becomes a civic and legal issue.”

That seems pretty straightforward. Same-sex marriage, for instance, is legal in the state of California, and marriage licenses are handed out daily in San Francisco and other cities.

The church can express disapproval if it wishes, but requiring teachers (some of whom may be LGBT) to be against it, even if it is contrary to their beliefs, isn’t going to fly.

Although Archbishop Cordileone also unsuccessfully tried to change their designation to ministers, these people are teachers. They’re employees. A hot dog stand in Oakland can’t require its employees to become fans of the Raiders. (Given the team’s recent history, maybe no one can.) And the Catholic Church can’t control the thoughts and opinions of its paid employees.
In the world of law and logic, that makes sense. Unfortunately, we’re in a parallel universe of noise, accusations and posturing. In that world, these kind of wild accusations — if you disagree with us, you must be supporting Satan — have currency.

Donohue and his organization, which bills itself as the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization, clearly loves this attention. As its mission statement says: “When slanderous assaults are made against the Catholic Church, the Catholic League hits the newspapers, television and radio talk shows, defending the right of the church to promote its teachings ...”

Among Donohue’s most recent press releases were complaints about the Netflix series “House of Cards” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,”as well as a blog post headlined, “Obama panders to Muslim Americans.”

This is grandstanding on a national stage. Cordileone and the Catholic League aren’t trying to have a dialogue with San Franciscans. They’re throwing red meat to the vociferous conservatives who persist in thinking that they are just about to turn this whole LGBT thing around. Although the national momentum is going in the other direction — 37 states now permit same-sex marriage — they genuinely think they are making progress.

Good luck with that. I’ll keep my inbox open. Oh, and let me know if you hear from Zorro.

Zorro Replies:

 If the Catholic Church is to continue to teach timeless truths about the dignity of all human persons from conception to natural death, and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, then she needs to begin to seriously participate in the spiritual war that has already been declared against her by those who wish to destroy these teachings.

In addition to the aforementioned San Francisco Board of Supervisors resolution,  Sam Singer, the head of a high priced Public Relations firm, was hired to wage war on Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone because of the archbishop’s strong defense of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

In the Diocese of Scranton a fight began last week against a priest who alllowed a pro-life film, To Be Born, be shown a sixth grade CCD class. Described in the local newspaper as holding “rabid anti-abortion views,” the priest—a pastor who is beloved and greatly respected by his faithful parishioners at St. Monica’s Catholic Church—was labeled the PC intolerable— a “bully,” and has since said that he “showed poor judgment” in allowing the film to be shown. The teacher who presented the pro-life film has resigned,  under attack from parents because she had the temerity to disclose to her students that “not everyone goes to Heaven.”

I think the priest’s failure to engage in the battle, as has Archbishop Cordileone wonderfully in San Francisco, makes things harder for those of us on the front lines in the ongoing war on Catholic moral and social teaching.

When the media favors those who attack the Church, it makes the fight tougher; thus my support for the San Francisco shepherd. Archbishop Cordileone has been under siege since he arrived in San Francisco—but he has been courageously fighting a noble fight against an overwhelmingly greater force that wants the Church to just stay out of the conflict over same-sex “marriage.”

We go on. Recently I saw on Facebook that Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Immaculata High School in the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ posted a statement supporting traditional marriage on her personal Facebook page. Angry same-sex “marriage” supporters, some of them Immaculata alumni, demanded that she be removed from her teaching position, and that the school address the “homophobic undertones in the school.” Creating a petition called “Stop the Public Hate Speech of Teachers” alumnus Tom Robinson (class of 2001) posted: “I know that many of you want to see Mrs. Jannuzzi fired, but addressing the systemic problem of homophobic undertones in the school and publicly posted on social media is much more important than one person keeping her job.” So much for tolerance. For this gentleman, anyone—including a religion teaching at a Catholic high school—who refuses to support the goodness of homosexual acts is an enemy that must be destroyed.

I have prayed for this teacher who is indeed under seige. Much of the media—including the local newspapers—have described her Facebook post as a “rant.” She wrote: “We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity!” and that “(gay activists) want to reengineer western civilization into a slow extinction.” In place of defending Jannuzzi for her willingness to defend Catholic teachings, the principal and the pastor of her school suspended her—sending a letter to alumni, parents and students apologizing for “any hurt this has  caused to any individuals and the negative light in which it has cast our school.”

What of the chief catechist and shepherd of the diocese? Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski  appeared to concur with these steps, saying that “the teacher’s comments were disturbing and do not reflect the Church’s teachings on acceptance…. Pope Francis reminds us that we are to accept all of our brethren. We must ensure that our educators steer away from harsh and judgmental statements that can alienate and divide us.”

What those who disagree with Januzzi want is for the Immaculata High School to stop teaching what the Church teaches about same sex behavior because they mistakenly view it as hateful. Remember, the devil is far more clever than the brightest human, except for the one to whom the keys have ben given, for, contrary to what Bishop Bootkoski says, in 2010, Pope Francis referred to the trend towards same-sex “marriage” as a movement that begins with the devil, cautioning us to “not be na├»ve: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a move of the father of lies who seeks to confuse (emaphasis mine) and deceive the children of God.” Indeed one wonders, would the Holy Father be permitted to tech at Immaculata High? Pope Francis is on record as viewing same-sex “marriage” an “ideological colonization that we have to be careful about that is trying to destroy the family.” Pope Benedict XVI warned in 2012 that the policies which “undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.” Jannuzzi on Facebook heroically resounded B16, who knew that this was a war not to be refused.

How to fight this battle of the war? Robert George advises parents of students at Immaculata High School to boycott the school until Mrs. Jannuzzi is fully reinstated. The suspension of a teacher who was recognized as deserving of the Regina Nostra medal by the diocesan bishop for her “love and devotion” to Immaculata High School and the parish—is proof that Immaculata High School is “not a fit place for your children.” Professor George has requested that others join this fight. I alredy have.  As of now Jannuzzi’s contract will not be renewed in the coming school year.

Catholic teaching precludes that there can ever be common ground on issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage,” and the Catholic Church has never existed in isolation from cultural conflicts. This doesn’t that the Church must be filled with hostility or resistant to all change. Just that she may never be guided by the changing values of a secular culture, the world that Our Lord has overcome. The Church cannot change her infallible teachings—the teachings of the Magisterium—including the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of the family. Thus, to the extent that secular forces engage the Church in combat, the culture wars will continue. Let us as Catholics be not conformed to this culture, but engage to transform it. Pope Francis warned us to be wary of “popular opinion” in an address to the members of the International Theological Commission. He said that while the Church must pay attention to the sensus fidelium, the Church should never confuse it with popular opinion on matters of faith, for, contrary what many heterodox argue, the sensus fidelium does not mean “majority opinion.” Francis knows, as his predecessors knew, that we are at war with a movement that began with the Fall of Man in the Garden, and will continue until the end of time. It is a war without end—but we are emboldened in the battles as long as we remember to give thanks to God who leads us in triumph in Christ Jesus.