17 May, 2010

Denver, Boston and Lesbian Mothers:- Diversity in the Church

On March 18th I reported under the heading of "Denver Mess,"what I re-cap below and I updated that post on 3/23/10, but just published it  today.

Denver Recap

In Denver, a pastor of a parish Catholic school refused admission next fall to two small girls because their mom's were lesbians. Both moms were physicians, have grown up Catholic, participated in the parish, had spoken to the school administrators about their situation and been given the go-ahead to enroll the older girl in the school last fall. The action of the pastor brought up a major controversy about what was the moral / ethical thing to do.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput intervened in the situation and supported the pastor's decision. Among the things I posted in my original post were two questions: 1) Where was compassion shown to the children? and 2) Could not a more equitable solution without publicity be arranged between the archdiocese, the parish pastor and the parents of the two little girls. Apparently no other arrangements have been made to settle this issue with more equity and compassion.

Enter Boston

The NCR reported today that things happened very differently in the Archdiocese of Boston. The incidents appear to be similar in that a parish pastor, Fr. James Rafferty ,at St Paul School in Hingham, MA reportedly denied admission to an eight-year-old Catholic boy because his parent was a lesbian.

However, the response from the Boston archdiocese, has been quite different than that in Denver. Mary Grass O'Neill, an offical of the Boston  Archdiocese said,
We believe that every parent who wishes to send their child to a Catholic school should have the opportunity to pursue that dream..... The archdiocese does not prohibit children of same sex parents from attending Catholic schools." .... We will work in the coming weeks to develop a policy to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future.

The superintendent of schools,  Mary Grass O'Neill, met with the pastor and school principal and the boy's parent. Arrangements were made that the Archdiocese would help arrange for her son to be enrolled in another Catholic school in the Archdiocese. According to O'Neill, the boy's parent. "...indicated that she would look forward to considering some other Catholic schools that would welcome her child for the next academic year."

The differing responses to these similar events does show that there  is some diversity between dioceses. I am sure that both bishops accept the basic teachings of the Church about same-sex unions [we cannot add "and behavior," because we don't know what does or does not happen in the the bedrooms of these parents]. And we must remember that each bishop governs and pastors by virtue of his own ordination and not merely as a delegate of the Holy Father.

The approach in Boston appears to be a wise pastoral decision. There seems to be a focus on the whole situation and attention to the people invloved in it. Perhaps something has been learned from the sex-abuse scandals in the diocese or from the leadership of Cardinal Sean O'Malley. But for whatever reason there is room for compassion and a public witness value to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Cynics, may say that the response in Boston was merely to avoid being in the lime-light for another controversy. But I say, present the evidence before you make that judgment.

The approach in Denver, at least to my way of thinking, appears to be a legal/theological decision; in other words upholding of the Law based on a particular understanding of theology. In this manualist understanding it is taken-for-granted that there are clear, uniform positions held by the Church [even those which are in no way defined as infallible] that are in every way and everywhere objectively true and universal. From this perspective there is little room for emphasis on "person" and "relationship" [with God, others and self] as a significant element in moral judgment. Thus it is more difficult in this theology to focus on victims [whether of sex abuse or of innocent children suffering for what their parents may have done].

The Church and the world are always changing. However, as Alvin Toffler so aptly put it in 1971 human beings no longer deal only with "culture shock," but now also with "future shock." In the midst of all this change, John XXII, Vatican Council II and Paul VI tried to ready the Church to modify its stance in many areas and to enter into dialogue with the contemporary world as well as to challenge it to hear the Gospel message spoken in words and theologies that they could understand.

Today there has been a return to a more defensive stance by much of the hierarchy, some theologians, ever larger numbers of the faithful [some of my earlier posts speak to some of these trends]. What does this have to do with Denver and lesbian mothers as well as those in Boston and all over the country?
For lesbians and other LGBT persons, progressive Catholics, many orders of sisters, those of our clergy formed in the spirit of Vatican II, and many others it may mean 40 years in the desert. Archbishop Chaput is one of the most articulate leaders of the "new" defensive Catholicism and it's use of apologetics as the primary initial approach to preaching the Truth of Catholicism. There is no doubt that there are moments and on some issues that the Church must defend itself. But a generalized defensive, apologetic vision and practice will only lead to "more Denvers."


  1. I would hardly say progressives and these groups of "sisters" have very little to do with True Catholism. Nothing could be future from Christ. Christ has spoken for two thousand years through His church. This new brand of catholism is a what pope pius x spoke of in his writings of "modernism". Heresies will always be around same old story the only difference is a play of names. Each bishop has made their decision like it or not how it is. Each of these men will be judged accordingly.

  2. Davide,

    As always, I thank you that you care enough to make comments. I guess we just read different Church history books. That can happen.

    The other area where we seem to differ is about change. It seems your position is that the Church never really changes. My understanding is that the Church is always changing, growing and developing-- even in the area of doctrine.

    You may want to read what John Henry Cardinal Newman has to say on the development of doctrine. Cardinal Newman will be canonized by the Holy Father in September when he visits the UK.

  3. Ken, I never said the church wasn't changing or has changing. I am speaking about basic Christian truths/doctrines. I don't have to bring this all up again. We look at the church differently. I see things as the church guided by Holy Spirit, can not guide us into error, meaning If the church says this or that must be believed than it is as if it can from the mouth of God,or flip over on it's head change a Christian doctrine, because a group of people call for a change. Many of those Nuns are political and even going against their own vows.They will make an excuse why they do this, but does not matter. The gospel so many progressives preach is a different gospel, false gospel. Many progressives call for change even going as far as saying change doctrine, change the truths about Christ, and Ken since God can not lie, basically many people are waisting their time. As a older man who has lived much longer than I, had many more experiences than I should know the world is flipped over on it's head not all progression is foward. I know of cardinal Newman u almost seem to suggest he would support the progressive agenda and certainly he would not. Jehovah witnesses are constantly changing their doctrine calling it new light versus old light as if God is confused always changing his mind. Friend I love you as a friend highly respect you on so many levels but I do not agree at all with many of your views. The catholic church that you call to change is a catholic church I want no part of. Thanks-dm

  4. Ken,
    Wanted to thank you for your post I do read them and think very hard about what your saying. Your viewpoints are so much different than mine, and because of this causes me to strengthen my faith. Even though much of what you talk about I don't get at all I respect what you say and the man who writes. I do believe there should be dialog within the church, however I also believe there are many things that are clear as crystal. I am sure we would be very good church buddies but not so much study partner's only cause more confusion and arguments. I hope you well and look forward to your article for new blog.

    I am sorry if I say things that offened (never my attentions) you perhaps better if I read what you write and leave be...i dunno know..you have about a snow balls chance in hell of changing my opinions as I do you. so maybe perhaps I keep my opinions to myself.Take care and have a great day

  5. Hey you guys,(keep reading Davide...it's not a BAD comment)
    Let me start by saying that the RCC is very fortunate indeed to have both of you 'fighting' for it's survival/continuance. To create positive change that will embrace the entire 'flock' ( let's not forget that that is why any church is in existence at all), it needs both sides of the argument. And it certainly has that with you both.Good luck and I look forward to the progress and compromise that is ahead.

  6. jabacue,
    Kewl name btw...thanks...i agree totally with you. The church is existence because Christ promised "the gates of hell will not profail against it" but i get what you saying....Ken is good and decent man, handsome too, me not so good never decent but always handsome ;) grazie

  7. Jabacue,

    Thank you very much for your comment. And I know this is not the first time we have communicated (which is fantastic).

    Davide has said the he loves me as a friend, as I do him, and that we would make good "church buddies" (and I agree 100%).

    He also mentioned how difficult it is at times for us to understand or appreciate each other's point of view. I agree but I firmly believe that dialogue (even debate) is good. Although Davide seems to think otherwise, I have never been out to "change his mind" or him as a person. Whether he changes anything or not is up to him. I have absolute trust in his integrity, honesty, and ability to know God's will for himself. Our dialogue can only help both of us!!


    Jabacue, I agree with you that "both sides" must be articulated. I'm not sure that either Davide or I would use the word "compromise," but I'm sure we both want ourselves and others to better understand what we are about on this journey and and to come, evermore, to a common ground.

    BTW, As I mentioned earlier, I know that we have been in contact before. I like that :) I think I will send a direct message to you in a little while.

  8. Davide, just tried to write ANOTHER post and lost it. Will respond with email

  9. Davide,

    Re what you said to Jabacue: I agree AND disagree with you. You are extremely handsome. There is no question about that, BUT you ARE a very good and decent person (even when you are crude!! haha)


Comments most welcome.