Monday, May 06, 2013

FLASHBACK: Cardinal Ouellet Part of the Problem, Not Part of the Solution

In light of the same sex marriage debate raging in the USA at this time, and some fairly significant speculation about our own Cardinal Ouellet during the recent papal election process, a useful exercise might be to take a second look at a letter drafted in 2005—shortly after Canada’s legal recognition of same sex marriage—and forwarded to all media and posted online soon thereafter.

Be warned, this is a lengthy article but very instructive on a good many fronts in regard to failure by Canadian Bishops to deal with the moral challenge of same sex marriage specifically, and secularization in general, in our nation. 

It doesn't appear that the American Bishops will fare much better since they have compromised themselves so badly on the teaching of the intrinsic evil of contraception.


Cardinal Ouellet Part of the Problem, Not Part of the Solution

After reading a CP news item dated July 13, 2005 and entitled “Same Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Freedom, Says Cardinal,” it was quite clear to me that the Cardinal was the wrong man to comment on the same sex issue. Perhaps Bishop Henry of Calgary or some other fearless, faithful Canadian bishop (if there is another, I wish he would speak up a little louder) should have provided the authoritative Church response to questions posed about politicians supporting same sex ‘marriage’ and to the issue of homosexuality.

If the media story is correct, (and I assume the Cardinal was quoted correctly since I have not seen an apology, correction or retraction by the press) Cardinal Ouellet should have restricted his comments to the Senate to the CCCB’s formal brief, which was an excellent, logical and powerful argument against recognition of same sex “marriage.” Unfortunately, according to the CP story, the Cardinal made other comments to the Senate and possibly elsewhere, comments which not only muddied the waters, but caused further scandal to the Catholic community in Canada.

The story reports that Cardinal Ouellet also had a “message for clergy who want to excommunicate or refuse communion to proponents of same-sex marriage, abortion or any other violation of church doctrine.” His message was that “You do not lose your right to belong to a community because you do not vote in the right way,” further that “we are all sinners in one way or another so we have to be welcoming for all our members.” In making such a statement the Cardinal contradicted formal Church teaching and brought further confusion to the issue. A politician who supports same-sex marriage or abortion acts in a manner that is scandalous to the faithful, harmful to society, and gravely immoral.

In keeping with canon 223, “Ecclesiastical authority is entitled to regulate, in view of the common good, the exercise of rights which are proper to Christ’s faithful.” This includes the right to Holy Communion. For as canon 915 states: “Those [...] who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Consequently, by depriving the sinner of Holy Communion for a time, the Church seeks to impress upon the individual the gravity of his sin. At the same time, if the sin is publicly known, it demonstrates that certain acts are, beyond any doubt, inadmissible for everyone. In this way, the Church provides an absolutely unique means for the sinner to confront his sin, see his need for repentance and confession, and be restored to Christ and His Church. Charlie Angus, the NDP MP who was denied communion by his priest is now faced with just such an opportunity and the very means to keep his soul right before God.  It must be noted that the priest who denied the Holy Eucharist to Mr. Angus also had the support of his bishop and so the church discipline applied has received strong confirmation.

It is scandalous that Cardinal Ouelett would risk bringing condemnation and persecution on this priest and his bishop, both of whom have faithfully discharged their spiritual responsibilities in full accord with Church teaching. Furthermore the Cardinal brought a serious degree of confusion to the affair by suggesting that Mr. Angus, or other politicians in similar circumstances of grave sin, have lost their “right to belong to a community” by being denied communion. Isn’t it alarming that the Cardinal, the Primate of the Catholic Church in Canada, doesn’t seem to understand the concept of church discipline, and that its intended outcome is the reformation of the sinner’s ways, not expulsion from the community of faith?  Cardinal Ouellet actually implied that church discipline of this type meant that the politician involved was not welcome in the parish. This reveals quite a serious lack of judgment and spiritual insight on the Cardinal’s part. Would he say also that the parent who withholds some privilege or pleasure from his child in order to discourage bad behaviour and to improve the child’s character would be guilty of ostracizing his child, or not loving him, or not welcoming him?  Clearly a Cardinal who thinks this and who is responsible for the spiritual oversight and formation of many priests and bishops is not a part of any solution, but rather a part of the problem in the Canadian Catholic Church.

Turning to the question of proper discipline for Mr. Comartin, what possible reason could there be to deny reception of the Eucharist to Charlie Angus but not to Mr. Comartin, since they have both committed the same offense, specifically the commission of grave (mortal) sin? Bishop Fabbro, Mr. Comartin’s bishop, has done well to restrict Mr. Comartin’s leadership in Church activities but has not gone as far as the Church has instructed and empowered him to go in order to allow Mr. Comartin to come to terms with his rebellious ways. Cardinal Ouelett maintains that Bishop Fabbro has followed precisely the correct form and degree of discipline, but in doing so he is once again confusing and misleading Catholics as well as other Canadians. According to Catholic teaching, if the Cardinal desires to be a wise and conscientious bishop he should rather be encouraging Bishop Fabbro to extend his discipline of Mr. Comartin to include denial of the Eucharist since those who commit mortal sin and then present themselves for Holy Communion bring further condemnation on themselves.

Furthermore, compare the Cardinal’s recent comments, as quoted by the press, with a statement by the Vatican issued in July 2003.  Cardinal Ouellet was quoted as saying, “politicians must take their own beliefs, and those of their church, into account when they make legislative decisions but they must also have the freedom to act on behalf of their constituents.” In the document from the Vatican entitled “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons,” the Church presents its clear and well-reasoned truth on the issue of homosexuality and homosexual unions. In particular, it states it is "intended to give direction to Catholic politicians by indicating the approaches to proposed legislation in this area which would be consistent with Christian conscience." The document makes it totally clear that no Catholic politician can possibly support legal recognition of homosexual unions and still consider himself to be a moral Catholic. The document says, "…the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral."  Here again, the Catholic is reminded that a failure to oppose such law is mortal sin. Nowhere in this document was there any indication whatsoever that a Catholic politician had any other option but to vote against such laws. Perhaps the Cardinal is speaking of his own personal preferences, but again he is very wrong. There is absolutely no freedom provided to do as the Cardinal suggests, i.e. “they must also have the freedom to act on behalf of their constituents.” Presumably then the duty of a Catholic politician to uphold Church teaching supersedes any other consideration or obligation, even if it means stepping down.

Likewise on the matter of excommunication, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has repeatedly and definitively taught that abortion is always gravely immoral. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2270 to 2275)  The Holy See instructs bishops and priests to deny the Eucharist to all Catholic politicians who support or encourage abortion, whether “personally opposed” or not. In addition, those Catholics (including Catholic politicians) who publicly announce their denial that abortion is always gravely immoral, or who publicly promote abortion, or who publicly argue in favor of legalized abortion, also commit a mortal sin and also incur a sentence of automatic excommunication. (Canons 751 and 1364). (Incidentally, what does this reveal with respect to our adamant pro-abortion Catholic Prime Minister Paul Martin?) Once again, the Church has spoken, and rather than promote personal sentiments, if the Cardinal is to be a faithful Catholic, he ought to defer to authoritative teaching. 

The Cardinal was quoted as summarizing the Catholic view on homosexuality in this way: “It’s okay to be gay, but it’s not okay to act on it,” and his remark to the Senate, “It’s not a sin to be a gay. But it may be a sin to perform homosexual acts.”  These remarks are shocking and tragic to put it mildly. After all, here are the words of a “Cardinal who had been considered a possible successor to Pope John Paul,” not your average Catholic, not even your average Catholic priest, but a Cardinal! Could he have been more careless in his remarks? Could his words have caused more confusion and dismay to the faithful? He is guilty of an offense that even Paul Martin, in all his stubbornness and delusion about same sex rights, is not guilty of. The Cardinal is a successor of the apostles, a teacher of the people of God, one who speaks in the name of Christ in matters of faith and morals. Could we imagine the apostle Paul or Peter saying such a thing as: “…it m-a-y (emphasis mine) be a sin to perform homosexual acts” My guess is the first thing the apostles might do to help the Cardinal would be to refer him to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which affirms: “Basing itself on sacred Scripture, which present homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity [Gen. 19:1-29, Rom. 1:24-27, 1 Cor. 6:10, 1Tim. 1:10], tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered [Persona Humana 8]. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” — #2357 Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In ordinary language this means that e-v-e-r-y homosexual act, willfully and freely committed, is a mortal sin. There is no possibility that it “m-a-y be a sin to perform homosexual acts,” as the Cardinal is quoted as saying. Mortal sins cut a person off from the life giving grace of God (“destroy charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law”— #1855 Catechism of the Catholic Church.) It should be abundantly evident that false teaching on so important a subject will endanger the souls of very many persons, and the Cardinal will bear his share of responsibility for more lost or damaged souls.
As a further consequence, the Cardinal also lost any ground he might have gained by way of the CCCB brief. If the commission of a homosexual act is not absolutely and objectively a problem (a sin) in the eyes of God, why all the fuss?  Who was the Cardinal trying to pacify by denying the clear teaching of the Church and thereby scandalizing every faithful Catholic? Certainly he will gain no points with the gay community because they are only too well aware that there are still some Catholic clergy and our beloved Benedict XVI who speak the unvarnished truth about homosexuality. Perhaps he didn’t want to sound too judgmental to the Senate, but let’s face it, if a Cardinal finds the truth of the Church too unpalatable, what can we expect from the street Catholic? 

Furthermore, how disappointing were his other remarks. “It’s ok to be gay,” says the Cardinal, “but it’s not ok to act on it.” Surely there was a more helpful, instructive way than this to summarize church teaching on homosexuality. Better to say nothing than to make it sound so innocuous and petty. Church teaching makes it plain that the gay person is an objectively disordered individual whether actively practicing homosexual acts or not. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith Letter to Bishops 1986 says the condition of the person which is often associated with these intrinsically evil acts is itself “objectively disordered.” In addition, according to the CDF again in 1992, the person must strive to overcome this particular inclination while it should evoke the moral and pastoral concern of others, “lest the person is led to believe that living out this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.”  Individuals with homosexual inclinations have a rare and difficult calling, that of chastity, according to the Church. They are called to live a life of Christian purity and chastity for the greater love of Christ. Is therefore the Cardinal’s statement, “it’s ok to be gay” a useful summary of the aforementioned teaching to the listening world? Given the timing and seriousness of the Cardinal’s address to the Senate, it seems ludicrous that he should offer such superficial analysis. Would it have been too much to expect a Cardinal to insist on a few more sentences in print in order to entirely dispel doubt and misunderstanding?

The cardinal said “priests no longer feel comfortable preaching the morality of their own church for fear of being branded homophobes.” He goes on to say, “Even in the pulpit we feel threatened in teaching the church’s sexual morality.”  My question is, “Since when have Catholic priests in Canada been preaching the morality of their own church?” The answer sadly is that for the past forty years or more, very few priests or bishops preach or teach the genuine morality of the church and if morality is in fact taught or preached the record shows it is likely to be some watered down and dissenting version of the truth of the catechism. Ask the following question to the average Catholic and you’ll get a telling answer: When is the last time that you heard a homily reinforcing Rome’s ban on contraception? The Cardinal need not be so surprised by the alarming breakdown of the family in Canada, considering the clergy are practically silent, misrepresentative, or plainly in error on many crucial moral issues including contraception, divorce, abortion, and homosexuality, issues clearly and fully addressed by official Church teaching.

In his apostolic letter “Ecclesia in America” in January 1999 Pope John Paul II called bishops and priests of America back to a conversion of their hearts to the person of Jesus Christ, “with all the theological and moral implications taught by the Magisterium (the official body of teachings) of the Church.” He said that by setting forth the Church's teaching in fidelity to the Magisterium, the bishops and other teachers of the faith cooperate directly in the correct formation of the consciences of the faithful.  This is a message that Cardinal Ouellet needs to ponder more seriously, or else face a continuing devastation in the Canadian Church and society at large caused by widespread infidelity to the authoritative voice of the Church.

Written by Eric Alcock

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