Millstone Not Milestone: The Danger of Homosexual Activism
By: Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
I received my Diocesan Newspaper yesterday.
I was tired, having come to the end of a particularly long week. I placed it near my recliner and saved it for what I hoped would be a relaxing Friday evening perusal.
Finally, after unpacking the briefcase, checking the E-Mail, unwinding with my family and climbing into some comfortable clothes, I sat down to relax. Following my usual pattern, I skimmed through the pages before zeroing in on the articles.
On page six of this month's edition, a prominent advertisement caught my attention. The "Dorothy Day Lecture Series, Lecture 4" was being sponsored and hosted at a local Catholic parish.
Of course, I was interested. I have spent most of my life involved in social justice and I am a long time admirer of Dorothy Day, I thought it may be something I would want to attend.
Then, I noticed the name of the speaker and read the full content of the advertisement. My heart broke. I immediately thought of the loving warning given by the Lord Himself to those who would cause scandal:
"He said to his disciples, "Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." "Luke, Chapter 17: 1-2
This was not simply an advertisement for a speaker. It was at least an implied endorsement of the speaker and his message by a local parish. After all, the event is being held in a Catholic Church. Tickets are being sold! When I called the number listed, I got the parish office on the other end of the line.
At the bottom of the large, prominent advertisement the following notice was written:
"Individual copies of the official Catholic Church document on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual persons will be available that evening."
To the theologically untrained eye (which is the eye of most wonderful faithful Catholics reading this paper) it looked as though there was a connection between the speaker, his message, the sponsorship and this document; that somehow, this speaker and his message is an example of the "Official" teaching" of the Catholic Church.
Of course, anyone who has read this excellent pastoral letter or studied the clear and compassionate teaching of the Church on this vital area and is aware of the "ministry", message and views of this speaker knows that this is absolutely NOT the case. I have studied that document and the clear, unambiguous teaching of the Catholic Church on this vital moral issue at the graduate level.
I wondered why they were handing out this excellent document at such an event. I found myself both flabbergasted and growing cynical. After all, I am a lawyer. I have also been actively involved in politics. I understand the concept of "deniability". Could that be the reason? My suspicions grew.
The advertisement also used the technique of borrowed esteem or authority. First, the name of the lecture leads one to believe that Dorothy Day would have endorsed the overt homosexual lifestyle of the speaker. It also implied some kind of endorsement of efforts to equalize homosexual sexual practices with a civil and human right. Was this an effort to connect Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and the Catholic Worker movement they had founded with those who advocate for some "new" (actually very old) sexual ethic, elevating them on a par with the great human and civil rights advocates of our age?
If so, nothing could be farther from the truth.Dorothy Day, (who will soon, and in my opinion rightly so, be canonized), was a faithful, orthodox Catholic Christian. She arrived at her deep commitment to authentic human freedom and social justice through her deep, "incarnational" life of prayer, her absolute fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church and her insistence on the relevancy and prophetic role of the "social encyclicals" of the Church.
Finally, there were two other references in the advertisement that appeared to be designed to send implied messages. One was to the fact that Dr. White received a "civil liberties" award and the other to the fact that he was a ghostwriter for four Christians often associated with the "religious right". There are many interesting implications here that would not further the purpose of the article. However, two points are worth noting.
I am a constitutional lawyer and have found myself pitted against the A.C.L.U. more often I would like, defending religious freedom, parental choice in education and the inalienable right to life. The A.C.L.U. can certainly be questioned these days as to its claims to be the chief "Civil liberties" champion. It has a growing hostility to the Catholic Church.
Secondly, the four men mentioned in the advertisement no longer use the services of Mr. White since he rejected one of the central norms of their Christian faith. Let me share a personal experience concerning one of these leaders. I still vividly remember the events of February 15, 1995. That was two years before I relocated to Northern, Virginia to lobby for pro-life and pro-family causes, work in a presidential campaign and study at the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University.
At the time, I was still serving as the first Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Pat Robertson, with national headquarters at Regent University Law School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I received notice from security that Mel White was arrested at the Founders Inn for trespass. The "Founders Inn" is a Hotel adjoining the campus. It is private property.
I knew that getting press coverage concerning Pat Robertson having "denied his free speech rights" was Dr. White's intended goal. He wanted to prompt a confrontation in order to call national attention to his ardent efforts to change Pats mind on the subject of homosexuality and thereby have a "bully pulpit" from which to carry on his crusade.
Once Dr White was imprisoned, Pat asked for my opinion on a request that he had received from White to visit with him in jail and pray with him. I reminded Pat of the admonition found in the gospel of St. Matthew chapter 25 to visit those in prison. To his credit, Pat went to visit Dr. White in prison and he did pray with him. I was pleased. Of course, Mel White did not change Pat Robertson's mind about homosexual practice.
Nor should he have.
Herein lays the real problem with this invitation, issued eight years later, in my Diocesan newspaper, to come and hear Dr. Mel White speak at a Catholic Church. The agenda behind the invitation - and behind the movement that Dr. White leads - is to change Christianity, not simply to rightly oppose discrimination against homosexual persons.
There is no doubt that discrimination against human persons is wrong. That includes discrimination against homosexual persons. Some misguided (and sometimes sinful) Christians and others have misused Christianity to cloak hatred and sin. This kind of behavior is wrong and should be opposed.
However, anyone who reads the teaching of the Metropolitan Community Church (of which Dr. White is an ordained clergyman) will soon discover that it has an overt agenda that could best be described as an effort to give a legal equivalency (in church doctrine, civil law and public policy) between active homosexual relationships and marriage. The congregation has clearly and unequivocally called for a public policy that would also redefine marriage.
The congregation also has a leadership role in a growing movement to remove any references to God as Father or the use of any phraseology that would refer a masculine gender to any member of the Holy Trinity. In short, it has fallen into heresy. References to God as "father" are more than an anthropological device. Nor are they "sexist". They actually speak to the very unique revelation that is Christianity.
Sadly, the Metropolitan Community Church (M.C.C.) seems to believe that by advocating theological heresy it is leading other Christians to tolerance and liberation. I find it increasingly interesting that there is a growing, intriguing connection between those Dioceses in the Catholic Church taking great pains to neuter liturgical language and the confusion over the clear truth concerning sexual identity, marriage, family, the theology of the body, conjugal love....
Similarly, if someone takes the time to read Dr White's material, his website (where he is featured with his life partner); and the "soulforce" movement materials, the picture that emerges is very clear. They all support an overt effort to equate a feigned "right" to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage with a civil and human right. The goal is to give equal civil recognition to these activities, elevating them in law to the same status as marriage. Soulforce, M.C.C and White are some of the chief opponents of the "Defense of Marriage Act."
This demanded new "right" to homosexual unions, apparently derives from the same "penumbra" of privacy wherein the "right" to abortion was discovered by an errant U.S. Supreme Court in the infamous decision of "Roe v. Wade".
The materials distributed by "soul-force" and the Metropolitan church make an effective "use" of the admittedly heinous ignorance of some Christians in their opposition to this homosexual equalization effort. Through a symphony of well written sophistry (it is no wonder that Dr. White was a sought after ghost writer) Dr. Whites materials attempt to equate an unwillingness to change Christian doctrine in this area with the "mistakes" of the Church in the past.
Dr. White is in serious error. In times past, we would have said that, as a professing Christian, he is in heresy.
Unfortunately, in our feigned compassion, we have become confused about the difference between theological aberration and liberation. There is a fundamental difference between a disordered appetite and a civil or human right. Opposition to equalizing homosexual practice with marriage is in no way equal to racism.
It is not compassionate to fail to speak the truth. It is never compassionate to encourage anyone in making wrong choices in life. After all, making wrong choices is what sin is all about.
However, that is also not the main point of this article. Here, however, is the point of this article. Catholics - and particularly Catholics charged with leadership - should know better and act accordingly!
As I read my Diocesan newspaper, (by now certainly NOT a source of relaxation) I remembered the sections in the Catholic Catechism regarding the sin of scandal.
I have gone to these sections often over this last year as we experienced the horrors of the "dark night" , the purification of our Church, precipitated by the egregious sins committed by some of our clergy.
If the promoters of this event (and perhaps the agenda behind the speaker) actually do know about all of this; and they actually have engaged in these activities designed to confuse others (which I do not want to believe) they commit an egregious sin called scandal. I truly pray, for their sake, that is not the case.
However, precisely at a time when the Church I love, and for which I have been ordained, is reeling from the sexual sins of some of her members, I cannot remain silent about this advertisement or this event. The message, the messenger and the timing are wrong and could lead to scandal! The pertinent sections of the Catholic Catechism should be examined:
I. RESPECT FOR THE DIGNITY OF PERSONS
Respect for the souls of others: scandal
2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." (Mt 18:6; cf. I Cor 8:10-13.) Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing. (Cf. Mt 7:15.)
2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible." (Pius XII, Discourse, June 1,1941.) This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, (Cf. Eph 6:4; Col 3:21.) or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.
2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!" (Lk 17:1.)
What disturbs me the most about this advertisement and the invitation to this lecture is not that this errant Christian is speaking, but rather that a parish Church in my Diocese is giving him the platform, surrounding him with symbols of apparent approval, encouraging the faithful to attend - and CHARGING ADMISSION.
I must ask whether the proceeds of the event are going to promote "soulforce" or the Metropolitan Community Church? If so, they are promoting the opposite of what the very document they are distributing requires:
"All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous."
There is a huge difference between compassion and complicity.
Finally, the pastoral wisdom set forth in this Church Document "On the Pastoral care of Homosexual Persons" must NEVER be used to promote the opposite of what it addresses. It may be handed out that evening but I fear that the event itself is a violation of the contents of the very instruction.
That's right! Let me end this article by setting forth excerpts from the document lest some of my readers think that this claim is only my interpretation of the document:
EXCERPTS FROM "ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS
"12 Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God's personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord's grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way.
13 The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable, and, we hope, will not diminish. Such devoted ministers should have the confidence that they are faithfully following the will of the Lord by encouraging the homosexual person to lead a chaste life and by affirming that person's God-given dignity and worth.
14. With this in mind, this Congregation wishes to ask the Bishops to be especially cautious of any programmes which may seek to pressure the Church to change her teaching, even while claiming not to do so. A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful.
For example, they may present the teaching of the Magisterium, but only as if it were an optional source for the formation of one's conscience. Its specific authority is not recognized. Some of these groups will use the word "Catholic" to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it. While their members may claim a desire to conform their lives to the teaching of Jesus, in fact they abandon the teaching of his Church. This contradictory action should not have the support of the Bishops in any way.
15. We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.
We would heartily encourage programmes where these dangers are avoided. But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.
17 In bringing this entire matter to the Bishops' attention, this Congregation wishes to support their efforts to assure that the teaching of the Lord and his Church on this important question be communicated fully to all the faithful. In light of the points made above, they should decide for their own dioceses the extent to which an intervention on their part is indicated. In addition, should they consider it helpful, further coordinated action at the level of their National Bishops' Conference may be envisioned.
In a particular way, we would ask the Bishops to support, with the means at their disposal, the development of appropriate forms of pastoral care for homosexual persons. These would include the assistance of the psychological, sociological and medical sciences, in full accord with the teaching of the Church.
They are encouraged to call on the assistance of all Catholic theologians who, by teaching what the Church teaches, and by deepening their reflections on the true meaning of human sexuality and Christian marriage with the virtues it engenders, will make an important contribution in this particular area of pastoral care.
The Bishops are asked to exercise special care in the selection of pastoral ministers so that by their own high degree of spiritual and personal maturity and by their fidelity to the Magisterium, they may be of real service to homosexual persons, promoting their health and well-being in the fullest sense. Such ministers will reject theological opinions which dissent from the teaching of the Church and which, therefore, cannot be used as guidelines for pastoral care.
We encourage the Bishops to promote appropriate catechetical programmes based on the truth about human sexuality in its relationship to the family as taught by the Church. Such programmes should provide a good context within which to deal with the question of homosexuality.
This catechesis would also assist those families of homosexual persons to deal with this problem which affects them so deeply.
All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous.
In assessing proposed legislation, the Bishops should keep as their uppermost concern the responsibility to defend and promote family life.
18. The Lord Jesus promised, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (Jn. 8:32). Scripture bids us speak the truth in love (cf. Eph. 4:15). The God who is at once truth and love calls the Church to minister to every man, woman and child with the pastoral solicitude of our compassionate Lord. It is in this spirit that we have addressed this Letter to the Bishops of the Church, with the hope that it will be of some help as they care for those whose suffering can only be intensified by error and lightened by truth.
There is a vast difference between compassion and promotion. Those who have spiritual responsibility for others have a higher obligation to guard over the message that is presented in our churches.
I believe that some of those sponsoring this event actually believe that it represents a "milestone". They think that through such lectures some perceived "oppressive" view from the past will be exposed and a "new way" unveiled. I fear that they are instead fastening a millstone around some of the faithful.
The biblical warning with which I began this article rings out! "Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin."
All of this leads me, at the beginning of the Great fast we call Lent, to repentance and prayer for our beloved Church.
I am praying for Dr. White. I am also praying for the Church of my Diocese.
Please join me in both.
Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, a Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia is the founder and president of "Common Good", a way, work, and movement dedicated to the conversion of culture. (http://www.commongoodonline.com) A constitutional lawyer, he founded "Lentz, Stepanovich and Fournier, P.L.C.", a law firm in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Long active in social, cultural and political participation, Fournier has served as a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist, the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice), an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes and has recently launched "Common Good Legal Defense Fund", an outreach of "Common Good". Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. Along with Michael and Sandy Galloway, he is a founder of "Your Catholic Voice" and serves as a features editor for Catholic Online.
http://www.commongoodonline.com VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Founder, President, 757 546-9580
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