From a reader:
I’ve been troubled by a sermon I heard last Sunday. It seemed inappropriate, and I’m seeking your advice on what to do.
A visiting priest oftentimes gives homilies heavy on so-called "social justice" themes. Because of his political appeals, he often squanders opportunities to preach the gospel. This week, though, I think he was actually going against the Church.
Before beginning Mass, he spoke about the election and his excitement for Barack Obama. Once Mass began, he continued talking about the election and his approval for Obama (this took over 10 minutes altogether).
At the homily, he talked about the origin of the First Nicene Council. In his words, the church was divided into "conservative" and "liberal" factions regarding the acceptance of traitors during the persecution back into the Church, but eventually the bishops sided with the "liberals."
He said it’s the same today with conservatives wanting to be exclusivist and the liberals thinking that the church is for everybody. He mentioned reading about the bishops who said that Catholics cannot support pro-abortion politicians like Obama.
But he said that abortion isn’t necessarily right or wrong; the bishops’ warnings are just one way of looking at it. Finally, he cited the presidential election (again) as evidence that our society is forward-looking and that the Church will abandon its sexism and ordain women as priests – perhaps not for several decades, but progress is inevitable.
I knew I should say something to the priest, but I couldn’t think of any way to be civil about it, so I kept quiet. It’s been bothering me, though, and I wonder what (if anything) I should do. This priest might be well-intentioned but I fear he may be inflicting untold damage on souls.
Here are the elements I think are important.
First, you kept silent when you knew you would be too harsh. Excellent. You don’t get anywhere when you froth.
Second, this is a visiting priest. But if he is regularly there, then you need to address your concerns to the pastor.
Third, being a bad historian is or having stupid politics are one thing, but distorting the Church’s teaching in the pulpit is another. If he truly said what you say he said about abortion, he must be corrected. At the very least the pastor needs to tell him not to say anything like that again from his pulpit. The same goes for female ordination. Both of these are clarified by the Church in a definitive way. If he is confusing people about what the Church teaches, he must be corrected.
Fourth, it is very difficult to apply for correction of a priest when you don’t have proof of what happened. You have your account of the sermon. It would help if other people gave their accounts.
This is always a bad situation for everyone involved. My recommendation is that you talk to the pastor of the parish and tell him your concerns. Follow it up with a letter about what was said on both sides and save a copy.
This must be placed in the pastor’s hands to deal with.