18 March, 2010

Denver Mess: Breslin, Chaput, two small children and gay moms

The issue that has emerged here has to do with the meaning of love. Is love heavy on compassion and light on judgment? Or does Christian love require vigilance and hard choices, separating eternal truths from passing fancies and misguided desires?  [Tom Fox, Editor, NCR]

Summary of the Mess in Denver.
The controversy over the dismissal of a young child from a parochial in Denver  because her parents were lesbians, should have been dealt with at the local level between the pastor and the girl's moms. As in the past there were a number of acceptable options for a wise, Solomon-like solution. Whether or not it was the "right thing to do," someone leaked to the press the decision to expel the girl from school.. The pastoral leaders ( Fr. Breslin and Archbishop Chaput) have "stood their ground" and "defended Church Doctrine," the parish is split over the issue and, in the meantime, the moms and children have been pushed pretty much out of the picture.

The moms agreed to an interview by the NCR. They detailed much about their lives and Catholic beliefs and practices.They described the whole procedure they went through to ensure there was common understanding between themselves and the school / parish regarding their daughters' school attendance. Even in his most recent statement, Fr. Breslin repeated the "official position" of the Church and implied that the underlying issue had to do with homosexuality. Although unstated, there was an assumption, without evidence, that the two women were sexually active. Nothing in Breslin's statement gave any indication of his having read any of the women's words. It seems to me that at least the pastor on the scene would have shown  at least some pastoral concern to hear and express understanding to the children and directly to the moms along with what they were saying.

The Larger Picture.
It is very unfortunate that this particular situation has occurred at this time, when the Church leadership is returning to a very defensive posture because it feels so under attack by raging "secularism, " "materialism." and  "internal opposition" to Papal direction. This movement toward "apologetics" began under Pope John Paul II and has been championed by Pope Benedict XVI. One of the staunchest and most articulate spokespersons for this point of view in the U.S. Church is Archbishop Chaput of Denver.

So many of the "Catholic Culture Wars" today (E.g. the "reform of the reform" in Liturgy, making the old Latin Mass equal in legitimacy to the Mass of Paul the VI, control by the Vatican of the English translation of the Mass, the refusal  to even discuss clerical celibacy, homosexuality, or married priests [except Anglican priests and some Protestant ministers who "convert"], or women priests) derive from the Holy Father's and many bishops' fear of the modern and post-modern world; excessive fear of secularism, materialism, expressive individualism and perceived opposition on the part of the laity and some priests.

The actions of both the pastor and the archbishop seem so bound into an almost post-reformation worldview that they cannot even entertain the idea that "progressive" change is possible and necessary, and quite possibly from the Holy Spirit. At least for now the faith and hope of Pope John XXIII and Vatican Council II for a Church in dialogue with a beautiful, if wounded modern world, has not been lost, but stymied for awhile.

We need fewer "Proclaimers of Certainties" like Archbishop Chaput, and more Seekers after Truth like these two moms.

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