Pope will make mark on US church through Chicago

When he turned 75, Cardinal Francis George did what the Roman Catholic Church expects of its bishops. He submitted his resignation so the pope could decide how much longer the cardinal would serve.

George said he hoped Pope Benedict XVI would keep him on as Chicago archbishop for two or three more years. “But, it’s up to him, finally,” George told WLS-TV in Chicago.

cardinalgeorgeTwo years and one surprise papal retirement later, the decision now belongs to Pope Francis. The pontiff’s choice will be closely watched as his first major appointment in the U.S., and the clearest indication yet of the direction he will steer American church leaders.

“Many signals for this relationship between the pontificate and the U.S. church will come from Chicago,” said Massimo Faggioli, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who studies the Vatican and the papacy. “I think this is going to be the most important decision by Pope Francis for the U.S. church.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago serves 2.2 million parishioners and is the third-largest diocese in the country. The Chicago church has long been considered a flagship of American Catholicism, sparking lay movements of national influence and producing archbishops who shape national debate. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin remains a hero to Catholics who place equal importance on issues such as abortion and poverty. George, who succeeded Bernadin in 1997, is especially admired in the church’s conservative wing as an intellectual who helped lead the bishops’ fight against the Obama administration’s health care overhaul.

Whoever Francis appoints as archbishop is expected to become a cardinal and therefore eligible to vote for the next pope.

George celebrated 50 years as a priest last December with a Mass at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral that drew bishops from across the country. In January, he turned 77, having recently been treated for a second bout with cancer. But the process of choosing his successor is confidential, so it’s not known how much longer he’ll serve. George’s spokeswoman, Colleen Dolan, said in an email “it could be six months to a year before a change is announced.”

Last week, church records released in a settlement with victims raised new questions about how George responded to some abuse cases even after U.S. bishops pledged to keep all guilty clergy out of ministry. The revelations will intensify public scrutiny of the child protection record of George’s successor. But it’s unclear whether the disclosures would have any impact on the Vatican timeline to replace the archbishop.

With a few exceptions, American bishops who failed to quickly remove accused clergy have remained in office well after details became public. The only U.S. bishop ever convicted for mishandling a case, Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., remains on the job.

“It will increase the number of people who will ask that it be sooner rather than later,” Dennis Doyle, a University of Dayton theologian, said of the Chicago documents and George’s retirement. “Maybe this will hurry it along a little bit, but I don’t think by much.”

While Francis has been famously breaking protocol since the night he was elected, there are some limits to how unconventional he can be with the Chicago assignment. He’ll be choosing among bishops elevated by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI as lieutenants in their campaign to restore orthodoxy. Since his election last March, Francis has argued that the church has been driving away the faithful by emphasizing divisive social issues over compassion and mercy.

Still, in temperament and outlook, the current bishops are hardly carbon copies of the former popes or each other, giving Francis a broader field of candidates than their histories suggest, Doyle said.

“There’s quite a bit of diversity,” Doyle said. “I think they’ve done a very good job not displaying that. I think they decided they’d show a unified face in public.”

These differences came into view last December, when Francis changed the makeup of the Congregation for Bishops, the Vatican office that evaluates and nominates candidates for bishop worldwide. Francis added Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who is considered a moderate, while letting go Cardinal Raymond Burke, the outspoken conservative and former St. Louis archbishop. Burke had banned Communion for Catholic politicians who back abortion rights, and said the Democrats risked becoming a “party of death.” He is head of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest Vatican court, but his seat on the Congregation for Bishops was what gave him direct influence on appointments.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, author of “Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church,” categorizes the 260 or so active bishops this way: very few liberals, about 30 moderates, and the rest conservatives. Yet, he splits conservatives into two groups: ideological conservatives, who he argues would be unlikely to adopt Francis’ gentler tone, and pastoral conservatives.

“Pastoral conservatives are churchmen in the good sense of the word. They’re loyal. They grew up in conservative families. They had a conservative education in the seminary. They’re trained to be loyal to the pope. Now we’ve got a new pope,” said Reese, an analyst with the National Catholic Reporter. “I think these people will eventually come over to Francis and his way of approaching things.”

The vetting will begin, unannounced and behind closed doors, from Washington, as the pope’s U.S. ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, consults with U.S. cardinals and archbishops to choose three nominees. Vigano will write a dossier on each candidate, rank them, then submit the names to the Congregation for Bishops. If the congregation approves, the names will be forwarded to the pope, who can choose from among the three men — or appoint someone else entirely.

Since Francis is less familiar with the U.S. compared to many other nations, he will likely rely more heavily on the advice of U.S. cardinals and others, Faggioli said. Francis is also aware he must tread carefully because of polarization in the U.S. church, Faggioli said. Some U.S. Catholics who had embraced the focus on doctrine under John Paul and Benedict have been alarmed by Francis’ criticism that the church is obsessed with “small-minded rules.”

Still, Francis has shown little hesitation so far to go his own way.

“Everybody is going to look and know that this is Francis’ guy,” Reese said. “This is Francis’ choice.”

Complete Article HERE!

Book Review by John Minck

Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex in the Catholic Church — Book Report
Rev. Richard Wagner, PhD, ACS

This is a tough book to read. It covers a complex and detailed, 13-year-long administrative action to dismiss a Catholic priest from his Oblate Community. That’s the hard reading part, because the investigation and the proceedings were so convoluted, and there were hidden agenda on the part of his superiors. The priest is Father Richard Wagner, PhD, ACS, ordained in Oakland in 1975, and a self identified gay priest. The interesting part is the second half which is a verbatim printing of his PhD dissertation of 1981, Gay Catholic Priests, A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance.

Richard Wagner is a psychotherapist, a clinical sexologist in private practice for over 30 years and the only Catholic priest in the world with a doctorate in Human Sexuality. His practice includes a special outreach to survivors of clergy sex abuse as well as clergy offenders. Wagner technically remains a Catholic priest, his “priestly faculties” have been removed and he is expelled from his religious order, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

It could be assumed that this kind of research work by a practicing priest would not endear himself to the Catholic Hierarchy or to the Vatican, who never cease to proclaim that ANY homosexual activity is sinful. They have a BRAND to protect. They try to contend that the Church loves the homosexual as a person, but condemns any active sexual behavior. And yet, Wagner proposed his thesis project to his Oblate Provincial Superior and it was approved, probably even to the next higher level of General Superior located in Rome.small_front

The dissertation was undertaken during his study at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, where he was getting his PhD. It was a 3-year project, ending in 1981, when the dissertation was accepted. Just before that in 1980, he published an article in the liberal National Catholic Reporter (NCR) newspaper, Being Gay and Celibate–Another View. At that time, with the Church defending its strict views on sexuality across the board, the subject of the priesthood containing gay priests was not a subject that was encouraged. The early 1980s were also the time that the Bishop’s Club, USCCB, was becoming keenly aware that a serious child sexual abuse scandal was brewing, but so far they had been able to keep a lid on it. The stressful lives that homosexual priests led in the Catholic Church was an important subject to examine, not in the least, because there were a lot of them. And there were indications that many of them were ignoring the celibacy oath and engaging in forbidden sexual behavior.

Remember that the key Catholic ritual is the Mass and the Eucharist. The Eucharist requires regular Confession, and in the priesthood, one priest hears another’s confession. As a homosexual priest confesses his sins against his celibacy oath, other priests would be aware of what is going on. This is not to say that ANY priest confessor EVER revealed the secrets inside the confessional. Yet, the broad awareness of an active sexual culture was pretty commonplace.

As the 1962 Vatican II Council teachings swept over the global Church, they taught that the Church was more than the “Monarchial” Rome and the Hierarchical “Nobility.” In fact the term “People of God” was promulgated to mean that a big component of THE CHURCH was all of the people members. One outcome was that 125,000 priests globally left to get married or to lead civilian lives. To find enough recruits to re-fill the ranks, restrictions were relaxed to accept homosexual young men, who were already “out” and those who were still in the closet emotionally. These gay men were reaching their times of ordination in the late 1970s and early 80s. So the issue of gay priests in Wagner’s mind was of primary importance, as they struggled with a Church that was schizophrenic about this large cohort of new priests.

The panic among Church leaders of that time to Wagner’s research, stands in stark contrast to their apathetic response to the endemic child sexual abuse that has engulfed them, now for over thirty years. The tragic reason for their panic? The Church always uses the specter of gay priests as a scapegoat for ecclesiastical malfeasance to manipulate the faithful by bogus scandals involving homosexuality. The hierarchy just can’t seem to understand that gay people, both priests and society at large can experience a happy, healthy, life with integrated same-sex relationships. For the hierarchy, it’s all mixed in with pedophilia, making an outrageous and immensely destructive lie, to be fed to their doctrinaire disciples for the masses.

But living the life of a gay priest within the Catholic teachings in those years was lonely and scary and fraught with continuous misgivings. The Church had defined homosexuality as “Intrinsically Disordered,” while still proclaiming that gays were human beings and welcome into the community. And yet that welcome did NOT include homosexual behavior, meaning that there was to be NO genital sex. That would be the definition of celibacy, which ALL priests swear an oath to. BTW, I’m using the term HE and male throughout, but of course there are Lesbian nuns too, maybe a lot of them. Technically, celibacy applies to both heterosexuals and homosexuals, so it should not be any more repressive to one than the other. But in those years, being identified as homosexual was bad in both civilian life as in the life of the priesthood.

Wagner’s 1981 article in NCR was essentially his decision to reveal his homosexuality. Interestingly, he had previously revealed it during his acceptance interviews when he was applying for the seminary more than a decade before. His NCR declaration hit Rome and immediately there was kickback from the top command of the Oblates. In spite of the fact that he had already been “out” to his immediate superiors the wider publicity triggered a top down order to start proceedings for his dismissal from his priesthood. A part of the problem was that in editing his article some crucial content was deleted, somewhat changing his recommendations of how the Church should manage their considerable ranks of gay priests.

Worse was to come, because he had also agreed to an interview with a San Francisco Bay Scene 7 TV news program, done in a 2-hour session. While Wagner was very careful to ask the interviewer to restrict certain questions, he was also serious about not letting the content to be sensational. Unfortunately he was completely naive on protocol, and even with assurances with a member of the TV production team, the final cut trimmed the whole interview to a mere 15 minutes, and the questions preserved did in fact sensationalize the program. Instead of allowing any modifications, the producer brought in Fr. Gerald Coleman, an instructor in moral theology at the Catholic Major Seminary in Menlo Park, to add on a 5-minute rebuttal. So the combination was a disaster.

I remember Coleman, because our monthly diocesan newspaper, Valley Catholic, has a regular column by Coleman. His subject matter usually dealt with current media events, which had theological elements involved. I have always dismissed his writings because virtually every subject that he undertook got the most RIGID formulation of Church authority. So I can just imagine what the Coleman rebuttal did to Wagner’s position, which was already tenuous.

Dissertation. For the survey research, Wagner recruited 50 self-professed gay priests. It is not surprising that getting the right demographic sample was not just important, but quite difficult to achieve. He worked for a national distribution as even as he could, and winnowed an early 73 candidates down to 50. Candidate’s ages ranged from 27 to 58, with a median of 35. Among the potential candidates, there was a natural fear of reprisals and feelings of guilt. His search for candidates was aided by an existing informal network of gay priests, who supported each other in their lonely lives in a cold Church. Obviously, many of them in their vocations had to overcome what Wagner termed cognitive and affective dissonance. Recall also, that a very important part of Catholic life is the ritual Sacrament of Confession. Priests go to confession to other priests, so a gay priest, if he was sexually tempted or actually active, would be confessing those sins to another priest regularly.

The survey construction was modeled to a good extent by the well-known Kinsey sex behavior study of the early 1950s. The 34 survey questions were remarkably detailed to gain an understanding on the sexual awakening of the interviewee, and then on the practices of his present sexual behavior, along with considerable attitude discovery.

Dissertation Summary. The following is the verbatim summary section of the thesis, which is about 1/2 of the book :

1. The composite picture of the sexual behaviors of this sample of fifty gay priests reveals them to be sexually active. Forty-nine respondents are masturbating at a mean frequency nearly three times that reported by Kinsey in Sexual Behavior in The Human Male.

2. Fourteen respondents report a history of heterosexual coitus. Eight respondents report that this contact occurred after ordination; no one reports an occurrence within the past year.

3. Forty-eight respondents report a twice-a-week mean frequency of same-sex contact. The remaining two respondents are currently abstaining from same-sex contact. Interestingly enough, this sample has nearly five times the number of respondents reporting 500 or more total partners than Kinsey’s sample.

4. Overall, the respondents report enjoying their sexual activity while experiencing a minimum of sex-related guilt.

5. It was learned that 50% of the respondents had their first post-pubertal same-sex contact before entering the seminary; another 26% had their first experience during their seminary years.

6. The majority of the respondents, 62%, self-identified as gay before they were ordained, but only 46% had shared that identity with another person by that same time.

7. The respondents were almost unanimous in their rejection of official church positions regarding homosexuality and mandatory celibacy for priests. At the same time, nearly half of the respondents still experience some guilt because their lives do not reflect ecclesiastical expectations.

8. All but six report being unfulfilled in terms of intimacy needs by their priestly or religious lifestyle. Coupled with this is the recurring theme, appearing throughout the responses, of a desire for a lover by the majority of those who are currently without one. Only thirteen respondents report having a lover at this time.

9. The questions dealing with aspects of the priests’ dual identity were particularly revealing of the dissonance in their lives. The amount of discrimination experienced by the respondents for being gay in the church or for being a priest in the gay community is in direct proportion to the degree the priests are “out” to either group. Thus, when the majority of respondents report that they have not experienced hostility or oppression from either the gay community or the church, it is usually because they are still “closeted.” The path most frequently taken by the respondents in this regard is not to identify as gay in the church or as a priest in the gay community. This conflict is the source of much personal anguish and disappointment for the respondents.

This study reveals a group of highly motivated men, both professionally and sexually. The respondents seek integration and fulfillment in their personal lives as well as in their work, but they are often frustrated by what they report to be stifling role expectations put upon them by both the church and the gay community. While they are quick to criticize the shortcomings of both the church and the gay community, they report a sense of loyalty to and affection for both. It is as if both communities demand an exclusive commitment, one that would have them disown an integral part of their identity. This dissonance is reinforced by the respondents’ refusal to abdicate to either demand.

They are engaged in a process of questioning moral theology as well as reinterpreting traditional expectations of the celibate lifestyle in an effort to minimize the dissonance. Unfortunately, this process has been going on in secret. The fear of disclosure and possible reprisals has made this struggle a lonely one.

Impressions. For me there are two main impressions of this book:

1. Remembering that Wagner’s inquisition started in 1981, with the acceptance of his PhD dissertation, and the television interview, and ended in May, 1994, with the document that expelled him, his recall of the details of those 13 years is exception. He describes conversations with a presence that puts you right there, and augments those details with many letters and documents. I have to infer that he must have kept a diary of that difficult period.

Wagner uses abundant source material to detail how he, as a young Catholic priest, weathered a blistering 13-year battle with his religious community; only to be destroyed by the very Church he so loyally served. He is almost overly kind and tolerant, and forgiving of the mean-spirited bureaucrats of his own order as well as with the Church Hierarchy. His experience is remarkably similar to the treatment endured by lay Catholics going through the struggle of their lives, in the decades of child sexual abuse.

During those 13 years, there were many silent delays of years, then new alternatives would be proposed, including being subject to a process called an “obedience,” whereby Wagner would be ordered into a monastery for “prayer” and contemplation, and isolation. Wagner had to constantly weigh his options, whether he was going to do the right thing or do the thing that would protect his interests. And yet, at every step of the way, knowing his faith in the Church was implacable, he choose to do the right thing and paid the highest price of all for it.

The letters he includes present his side of the case of Inquisition, and they reveal the depth of the stone-cold prosecutions by the Church, which include some sideline proposals from Rome too. His immediate superior was his friend for years, they shared much comradeship, including the fact that his superior KNEW of his homosexuality for years. As the inquiry started, that superior was his enemy, no longer even open to reason. He includes a ‘swan song” letter he wrote to all of his comrades in the entire Oblate community.

2. The dissertation itself shocked me with its raw approach to the survey questions. There are sections on attitudinal and personal historical data, when the subject discerned he was gay, parent’s attitudes and behavior, and events that led to a call to the priesthood. The extent of the probing into sexual behavior is QUITE detailed, how often he masturbated, elements causing sexual arousal, first Fex contacts, intimate details on sex techniques (and I mean intimate), first times, and later frequencies. He makes tabular comparisons to the earlier Kinsey sex research for civilians.

Then he asked questions to develop the candidates’ present sexual activities, lovers? monogamy? how long relationships? what kinds of gay social procedures did he use, gay bars, out of town? anxiety of being found out? One survey answer mentioned that the gay priest was in an adjacent town at a gay bar, and ran into a Monsignor from his own diocese staff.

Considerable space was spent on compiling the interviewee’s attitudes on their life satisfaction, how they rationalized the Church’s strict rules with their lives. There were all manner of thought processes. for example, the Church Canon is absolute celibacy, yet some gay priests noted that that means “do not marry.” So, since they interpreted that it didn’t say, “no sex,” that they would just have sex.

I can just picture the bureaucrat in the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, in around 1982, actually READING Wagner’s dissertation, and the survey results. Once he realized that this document was being reviewed by public media in the United States, he would be running down the hallway to the new Prefect of the Congregation, just installed in 1981. This was Eminence Ratzinger, the reactionary leader of the efforts of the Vatican Curia to reverse some of the liberating visions of the 1962 Vatican II Council. That vision certainly could NOT be allowed to include gay priests who were active socially. Father Wagner would ultimately pay the price of his revelation of reality.

–John Minck
Palo Alto, CA
June, 2013

Five Catholic religious orders release files on L.A. clergy abuse

By Victoria Kim and Harriet Ryan

Confidential personnel records from five Catholic religious orders were turned over to victims of sexual abuse Wednesday in the first wave of a court-ordered public disclosure expected to shed light on the role the groups, operating independently of the L.A. Archdiocese, played in the region’s clergy molestation scandal.

The documents pertain to a dozen priests, brothers and nuns accused of sexual misconduct in the landmark 2007 settlement with hundreds of people who filed abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles. An additional 45 religious orders will release the personnel files of their accused clergy by this fall, completing what is believed to be the fullest accounting yet of the abuse crisis anywhere in the Catholic Church.omi_crucifix-fixed

The 1,700 pages released by the religious orders differ markedly from those disclosed in January by the Los Angeles Archdiocese to comply with the terms of its settlement with all victims abused within its three-county jurisdiction. The archdiocese handed over materials reflecting Cardinal Roger M. Mahony’s meticulous record-keeping of molestation claims and treatment of accused offenders.

By contrast, the order files are a hodgepodge of seminary report cards, vacation requests, baptismal certificates and breezy dispatches in which priests update their higher-ups on parish projects. For the most part, the files have little or no reference to abuse allegations that surfaced in lawsuits a decade ago, suggesting the orders were either unaware of molestation claims or opted not to document them.

When matters of abuse were referenced, officials sometimes seemed reluctant to commit the ugly details to paper. In the case of Benedictine priest Mathias Faue, one supervisor wrote vaguely of “his problem” or “difficulty.” In the file of Oblate Father Ruben Martinez, an order official repeatedly switched to Japanese characters to note sensitive subjects, including his admissions of “homosexuality” and “relations with boys.”

Although the archdiocese took the lead in the litigation, about half of the alleged perpetrators belonged to religious orders, such as the Jesuits, Salesians and Vincentians, and answered to those orders rather than the local archbishop.

Wednesday’s release also covers the Marianists, the Benedictines, the Oblates and two orders of nuns. The disclosures by the Cabrini Sisters and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet mark the first time in the L.A. litigation the files of women have been made public. The two nuns, who are deceased, were accused in lawsuits of sexually abusing students decades ago. Their files contained no information on misconduct allegations.

The files that do detail abuse allegations show superiors at order headquarters in Shawnee, Okla., Washington D.C., and other far-flung locales struggling to keep tabs on repeat molesters working in Southern California.

In the decades before email and cheap air travel, their efforts to track problem priests often relied on the U.S. Postal Service. In a 1985 letter to Faue, his supervisor in Oklahoma wrote that he’d heard of misconduct around the globe but knew little for sure.

“I never found out [the] exact circumstances in Prague. There are rumors that float in the community about some difficulty you had years ago in Montebello and in Anadarko,” the supervisor wrote. Faue died in 1989 while working at the Montebello parish.

In the case of Martinez, order officials in Oakland and Washington, D.C., began trying to deal with his abuse of boys in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, but didn’t realize the full scope of his misdeeds until 2005 when he admitted his victims could number as many as a hundred.

Paul NourieAt 521 pages, Martinez’s file is the longest and chronicles decades of molestation that began soon after his 1968 ordination. In the 1980s, at churches in Pacoima and Wilmington, two mothers raised concerns about Martinez’s behavior with altar boys. But it was several years later, when Martinez himself complained of fatigue and burnout from parish work, that he was sent to therapy at a New Mexico center for troubled clergy.

After completing the treatment in 1991, he was allowed back into ministry by Father Paul Nourie, a newly appointed head of the order, even though Nourie wrote that he had “every reason” to believe the veracity of complaints of Martinez’s “alleged misbehavior with younger males.” Calling him “blessed and gifted,” Nourie sent Martinez to an Imperial Valley church, where he was soon working with youth.

“Today we had first Holy Communions. We had about 30 children,” Martinez wrote to a superior in May 1992.

In 1993, a 25-year-old man came forward with another allegation, saying Martinez had abused him as a teenager some years back. The man asked that the authorities be notified, and said he wanted to make sure no other children were hurt. Officials took Martinez out of ministry and sent him for another evaluation, but told the man they were limited in what they could do.

“I indicated … that the Oblates could not really tie a person down, but that we could provide treatment, a healthy environment, and continued supervision,” Nourie wrote. There is no indication in the file that authorities were alerted.

By 2003, with the sexual abuse crisis making international headlines, the Oblates had a drastically different response to any whiff of scandal. Complaints that Martinez had made “off-color jokes” at a California retreat were met with a stern letter telling him the behavior would not be tolerated and threatening to move him to a restricted-living community for abusive priests. When he was found downloading unspecified “inappropriate material” on office computers the following year, he was once again sent away for an evaluation, where he told therapists he had had “sexual contact with about 100 minors” in the past. As of 2006, Martinez was living at a Catholic center in Missouri for troubled clergy. Now 72, he did not immediately respond to a request for comment through order attorneys.

One man who received a settlement for abuse by Martinez at Holy Family Parish in Wilmington in the 1970s said he hoped the disclosure of the priest’s personnel file would be the final step in his healing process.

“I always felt angry and that my childhood had really been ruined,” said the man, now 50 and an Inland Empire resident. “After the records being released, I have closure.”

Complete Article HERE!

Gay marriage vs. natural law

Ya can’t help but feel a little sorry for old Francis. He’s been without for so long, he’s forgotten some of the fundamentals of the old in and out. Besides, what about all those heterosexual couples who are married, but who are unable to have children. Is he questioning their marriage too?

By Manya A. Brachear

When Illinois legislators approved civil unions last year, gay-marriage opponents turned to Scripture and church teachings to explain their resistance. But with state lawmakers poised to consider approval of same-sex marriage, Roman Catholic bishops and other advocates of traditional marriage have changed their tack.

They say church teaching has nothing to do with it; gay marriage simply violates natural law.

francis george“Marriage comes to us from nature,” Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George said in a recent interview. “That’s based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that’s how families are created and society goes along. … It’s not in our doctrine. It’s not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of reason and understanding the way nature operates.”

State Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Greg Harris, both Democrats from Chicago, could introduce the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act to legalize same-sex marriage as early as this week. Steans has said she and Harris will not put the legislation up for a vote unless they believe it will pass the current General Assembly. A new set of lawmakers will be sworn in Jan. 9.

George figures the bill’s introduction has some “inevitability to it now,” but he’s dismayed that natural law largely has been left out of the public debate.

Supporters of gay marriage call the renewed effort to highlight natural law a clever but disingenuous appeal to the masses.

“On sexual ethics, nature is neutral,” said Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. “We’re moral beings. We may look to nature for some aspects of how we are in our lives, but we answer to a higher standard. Sexual behavior is an expression of human love.”

According to the tradition of natural law, every human being must seek a fundamental “good” that corresponds to the natural order to flourish. Natural-law proponents say heterosexual intercourse between a married man and a woman serves two intertwined good purposes: to procreate and to express a deep, abiding love.

“You want to be sure that everybody has a chance at happiness. That’s a very persuasive argument,” George said. “But we all want that, and nobody should be disdained or persecuted because of their sexual orientation. … But when we get behind the church and behind the state, you’ve got a natural reality that two men or two women … cannot consummate a marriage. It’s a physical impossibility.

Though some have argued that a basic tenet of natural law is equality, the Rev. Robert John Araujo, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago, said same-sex couples are not equal to heterosexual couples. Objective intelligence demonstrates that heterosexual couples have the capacity to populate the planet and same-gender couples do not, he said.

“It is this very intelligence that is at the core of the natural law upon which the cardinal is relying when he asserts that the marriage question is not restricted to religious concerns but is also of concern to the natural-law legal reasoning that gave us the American republic,” Araujo said.

Other people of faith disagree. Last Sunday, more than 250 Illinois clergy members, mostly Protestant and Jewish, endorsed the gay marriage bill as “morally just to grant equal opportunities and responsibilities to loving, committed same-sex couples.”

Alice Hunt, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, said the natural-law argument seems like a “strategic move.”

“They quickly saw biblical marriage wasn’t going to work,” she said. “It doesn’t work for me because you’re still depending on one person or some group of people’s interpretation of natural law. When you look at the history of marriage, there are many ways marriage has taken shape over time.”

Christopher Wolfe, a professor emeritus of constitutional law at Marquette University who now serves as the co-director of the Thomas International Center, a Raleigh, N.C., institute devoted to the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, said natural law plays a role no matter what side of the debate one takes.

“Everybody’s argument on marriage comes down to some kind of natural-law argument,” Wolfe said. “But there are differences as to what that nature is. Are children central to it or not?”

He argues that children should indeed be central.

Polling by the Public Religion Research Institute has found that most American Catholics support legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

Though that might be true of parishioners, the church hierarchy is of one mind and speaks the truth, according to Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the church’s lobbying arm in Springfield.

“The reason we’re vocal about laws that unite more than a man and a woman in marriage is it’s incompatible with human nature,” he said. “We’re talking to more than people in the pews. This is something that pertains to believers and nonbelievers.”

Complete Article HERE!

Do you know where you were…

Do you know where you were on this date, 11/22, 37 years ago?  That would be 1975, for those who can’t do the math.

I was being ordained a Catholic priest in Oakland, CA. It all seems like a lifetime ago.

That day was filled with such promise and joy. Little did I know back then that the organization I was pledging my life too would turn out to be this rapacious monster, a destroyer of lives and vocations. That this organization’s leadership would become a heartless, insulated, monolithic, callous and tone deaf power structure hellbent on undercutting and dismantling The Second Vatican Council. Now, more than ever before and throughout the entire Church, people of conscience are being harassed, shamed and bullied, simply because they are not in lockstep with the old men in charge.

I thought things were bad when the Oblates of Mary Immaculate moved to dismiss me, on trumped up charges, in 1981. It took them thirteen years and a complete violation of our community’s rules and constitutions before they actually got around to tossed me out. I thought things were horrible back then. But those sad days pale in comparison to what is going on today. Just look what they’ve done to Roy Bourgeois. Not only did they dismiss him, but they excommunicated him and defrocked him too. Now compare the ruthless treatment Roy to how the hierarchy deals with pedophile priests in their midst and you’ll get a pretty good picture of the institution’s priorities.

It’s a scandal and it’s heartbreaking to watch.