Wednesday, November 29, 2006
They [Americans] equally detest the pageantry of a king, and the supercilious hypocrisy of a bishop.
— The Letters of Junius (1769)
It may have been a way of saving money. That would make sense given the amount of money the Catholic Church has had to pay in settling lawsuits arising out of the sexual abuse of children by priests. Although it is impossible to get exact numbers, one recent study suggests that the U.S. Roman Catholic church may ultimately pay as much as $1 billion to those abused by priests over the last 50 years in the United States alone.
The money savings idea came from the recent conference of Bishops that took place in Baltimore, Md. Here is the plan the bishops have for saving money. They reduced the amount of money that will have to be spent on communion wine in parishes all over the United States.
It was a brilliant strategy and a tribute to the ingenuity of the Bishops who in other parts of the declaration from that conference gave the impression that what passes for enlightened thinking in 2006 evokes memories of enlightened thinking when Joan of Arc was being ministered to by the Holy Fathers.
According to reports of the conference the Bishops acknowledge that 96% of married Catholics use birth control to avoid overpopulating the world. The Church does not like birth control. It prefers an overpopulated world with all its untoward consequences. (In fairness it should be noted that those unfortunate enough to live in overpopulated parts of the world where there is insufficient food to feed all can at least take comfort in that fact that the sadness that may otherwise accompany the act of dying young from starvation is offset by the prospect of an earlier reunion with the Heavenly Father than the well fed can anticipate.)
The bishops concluded that Catholics who use birth control should be denied communion. That means the only folks at the communion rail will be the celibate, older married couples who no longer need to use birth control, the young folk who have discovered alternatives to the traditional ways of enjoying the pleasures of the flesh without the possibility of procreation and the homosexuals who have no need to use birth control. The latter group, however, will also not be heavy consumers of communion wine.
In addition to the bishops’ learned declarations that sex is exclusively procreational and not recreational, they took a strong stand against the evils of homosexuality, solemnly proclaiming it a sin. The need for such a proclamation was deemed important because of the Massachusetts legislation that permits gays to marry, a law that could be construed to mean that society thinks homosexuality is OK. The Bishop whose sexual urges were long ago sublimated (except for the occasional predator) wanted to clear up any misunderstanding to which such legislation might give rise.
The Bishops’ work product dealing with homosexuality is called “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care.” The document is not completely intolerant. It says gays should be welcome in churches but says the church has a right to deny roles of service to those whose behavior violates her teaching because “such service might be an occasion of scandal and appear as condoning immoral lifestyles.” It reaffirms the notion that “homosexual acts are immoral” and states that “the homsexual inclination is objectively disordered.” It also reaffirms its opposition to same sex marriage and adoption of children by gay couples, (life in the orphanage apparently being preferable for the child to being exposed to the evils of the homosexual life style.) The foregoing notwithstanding, it says there should be no hatred or discrimination against gays, (except when it comes to the sacraments).Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, vice president of the conference said that to be a good Catholic when gay meant living a life of celibacy. Exalting the virtues of celibacy above any intrinsic value it would otherwise have he said of celibate homosexuals: “They are not only striving to be chaste they are striving to be saints.” (A clear advantage to heterosexuality, it would seem, is the ability to achieve sainthood through good works rather than chastity, chastity being a virtue that has little to recommend it and benefits no one but the chaste who becomes saint.) Commenting on the reference in the title of the document prepared by the conference referring to homosexual “inclinations”, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a group for gay Catholics observed that sex preferences are not “inclinations”, they are “orientations” and said: “If the bishops do not understand this basic reality of sexuality, how can they offer any advice for ministry to real people?” A non-catholic contemplating the work product of the conference would have a simple answer-they can’t and they don’t. Pass the wine.