Fr. Michael Rodriguez, a priest of the Diocese of El Paso, offered an op-ed piece to the local secular newspaper. It was printed on 2 August 2 in the El Paso Times.
Here is the piece by Fr. Rodriquez with my emphases and comments.
Rev. Michael Rodriguez: Every Catholic must oppose certain things
By the Rev. Michael Rodriguez \ Guest columnist
Posted: 08/01/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT
I sincerely hope and pray that all El Paso Catholics will take to heart the precious and infallible teachings of Holy Mother Church [From the onset you get a sense of what ecclesiological camp Fr. Rodriguez identifies with. Also, you just know that his vocabulary will prompt liberals roll their eyes or, in the really hardened cases, throw a spittle-flecked nutty.] in the moral sphere, particularly those most relevant to our city at this critical juncture.
Remember: Every single Catholic, [No one gets a pass in El Paso ...] out of fidelity to charity and truth, has the absolute duty [Again, Father doesn't speak nuance-ese.] to oppose (1) the murder of unborn babies, and (2) any and all government attempts to legalize homosexual unions. [What? Not "gay"? "Murder"? No euphemisms at all?]
Any Catholic who supports homosexual acts is, by definition, committing a mortal sin, [ARGH! The S-WORD! Is making a distinction about sin really "pastoral"?] and placing himself/herself outside of communion with the Roman Catholic Church. [NB: Father said "acts". He did not write about homosexuals, but about homosexual acts.]
Furthermore, a Catholic would be guilty of a most grievous sin of omission [Liberal eyes begin to bleed at this point.] if he/she neglected to actively oppose the homosexual agenda, which thrives on deception and conceals its wicked horns under the guises of "equal rights," "tolerance," "who am I to judge?," etc. [You know that the sky is going to fall on Father's head because of this. That "wicked horns" bit is rather pointed, donchya think?]
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a pastoral letter on marriage in November 2009, which is endorsed by our own local bishop, his Excellency, Most Rev. Armando X. Ochoa.
This pastoral letter states the following: [I'll edit here. The pastoral letter is pretty good, btw. ...]
Abortion and homosexual acts are unequivocally intrinsic moral evils. And friends, this objective truth doesn’t depend on the opinion of the majority. [Blood is now pouring from liberal ears and noses as well.] Frighteningly, if the majority chooses to deny the objective moral order, then we will all suffer the pestiferous [YEEEEEHAW!] consequences. [And 9.5 in style points for that "pestiferous". He rode that bronco to the very end!]
Fr. Michael Rodríguez is the parish priest at San Juan Bautista Catholic Church.
This prompted a response on the part a man with an even tougher job than Fr. Rodriguez, His Excellency Most Rev. Armando X. Ochoa, Bishop of El Paso.
Bishop Armando X. Ochoa: Catholic Church advocates compassion
By Bishop Armando X. Ochoa \ Guest columnist
Posted: 08/22/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT
As Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso and chief teacher of our local church, [Which means, rightly, that Fr. R is not...] I would like to share some pastoral reflections [NB "pastoral"] on certain issues that are important for the well-being of all God’s people.
First of all, I would like to state that previous columns claiming to speak for Catholic Doctrine were the personal opinions of individuals and do not necessarily express the belief of the Catholic Church. [Right. The opinions of Fr. R do not, of necessity, express the belief of the Catholic Church. But, do Fr. R's view by chance coincide with the Church's teaching? Let's review. Abortion is murder of an unborn human being. CHECK. Homosexual acts are objectively sinful. CHECK.]
[But here is new information...] I continue to pray for peace along our region and offer my condolences to the families on both sides of the border who have lost loved ones to the ongoing unrest. [There is a lot of tension in El Paso.] I am also concerned for the families who have had to leave everything behind to escape the violence in Ciudad Juárez. It is my ongoing prayer that our two border cities can work closer to build a more peace-filled community. [So, the bishop is situating Fr. R's comments in the context of the region's tension. Fr. R's comments were addressed to all Catholics, and therefore most of the Latio community. The bishops implication is that Fr. R's comments have made that tension worse. I don't know whether that is the case or not, but it is clearly the bishop's concern.]
The Church has been unmistakable about its consistent defense of the unborn. It continues to call every Catholic and person of good will [Fr. R also addressed all Catholics but he did not speak explicitly about non-Catholics who are people of good will.] to understand the Church’s teaching on the death penalty and other end-of-life issues. Every child has a right to life.
Likewise, the Church is a supporter of the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. These teachings come from a tradition that wants to promote the good of society. [Not just "from a tradition". If I am not mistaken, they come from God, and from God to us through both tradition and reason in light of the natural law. But pay attention...] My concern in writing this reflection is not to change these teachings, [quod Deus avertat] but to offer a more pastoral understanding in dealing with them. [There is that "pastoral" again.]
When we talk about abortion and homosexuality, we are talking about human beings dealing with all kinds of concerns and unresolved challenges. Our Church does not want to simply judge and condemn, but first to offer Christ’s love and compassion. God’s first and primary law is love and how love of others is at the same time our love for God. [Okay. This is so. At the same time, when Jesus saved and then forgave the woman caught in adultery, He admonished her to sin no more. It is also a work of mercy, a dimension of compassion, both to admonish the sinner and instruct the ignorant. It may be - and this is just supposition on my part - that many Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have never heard some of the things Fr. R wrote expressed with that sort of stark clarity. Is it possible that stark clarity can also be a tool of the compassion His Excellency affirms?]
As Church we want to journey with everyone as they search for meaning in their lives. [This is the language most people are used to hearing and reading.] We believe that Christ offers this meaning. The use [wait for it...] of harsh words of condemnation is not the approach Christ invites us to have toward one another. Intolerance closes the door to learning and deeper understanding of each other. [Let's pick this fine and correct statement up and turn it about and examine it from all sides. What popped into my mind as I read this were the Lord's harsh words in Matthew 23. Surely the Lord was not lacking in compassion even as he verbally thrashed the Pharisees with the truth. St. Paul, invoking the meekness of Christ, in 2 Cor 10-13 doesn't mince words about those who have sinned and have been admonished more than once. Was it a lack of compassion that drove virtually every single Father of the Church to use scathing invective when defending the Regula Fidei and Tradition? Have Popes who issued stern condemnations and anathemas throughout the Church's entire history been without compassion? Was there a dearth of compassion at the Second Vatican Council when the Council Fathers stated in Lumen gentium 14 that people who reject the Church, knowing that it is the Church Christ founded, cannot be saved, or when they taught in Gaudium et spes 51 that abortion is an unspeakable crime? In every one of these examples, there were high tensions in the community. I am not disagreeing with His Excellency, mind you. I am musing to myself about what constitutes "pastoral" and "compassion". At the same time I am thanking God that I am not now nor ever will be a bishop, who actually has to make decisions about this dilemma.]
Furthermore, it leads to divisiveness within the body of Christ. [cf. Matthew 10:34.] It is time for us to learn how to work with each other, even when and if we disagree. Too many people have suffered because of a profound lack of compassion and a perceived arrogant intolerance.
Recently, in our scriptural readings, we have seen that when the Israelites entered the Promised Land after the exodus, they encountered the Canaanites, whom they considered to be a sinful race which was to be exterminated. This mind-set persisted until the time of Christ. [But Christ and the Apostles, and the Fathers, and Popes down through history somehow kept using hard language. Did they fail to understand something about being "pastoral"? Pope John XXIII at the time of the Council said that he wanted the Church to shift her style of teaching. Fine. But see my examples of the Council's teaching, above. There were still moments for blunt language.]
With his arrival, he indicated that this outlook was no longer to be held by his followers. Jesus’ own response to the marginalized was always one of love. He constantly preached that love is not exclusively for those who are dear to us. He proclaimed that we must love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. [To the marginalized, yes! Look how he treated the lepers and the blind and lame and diseased and widows and Samaritans and some public sinners. He was gentleness itself with some public sinners. But not all public sinners. I cite: ""Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness." ]
Our love for others is to be like his own, all inclusive. Every individual is made in the image and likeness of God and for this reason all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
God is the judge of our lives, and we are called to spread his Gospel of compassion and justice. [Were Fr. R's comments in his op-ed unjust?] While it is important to offer a teaching on human sexuality which may not be popular in modern society, the Church, nonetheless, upholds that each person be treated with dignity and respect. [QUERY: Does that mean that we never say that a sin is a sin?]
I urge all of our pastoral agents to reach out to individuals with a homosexual orientation and their families with compassion. This can be done without compromising Church teaching in any way because our pastoral care demands no less from us.
The Most Reverend Armando X. Ochoa, D.D., is Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso
This is a really interesting situation.
I started out willing to back Fr. R’s piece. As I read the Bishop’s response I was initially disappointed. When I see the word "pastoral", I get worried that something is going to go all wobbly.
That said, I am trying to engage this tough situation and see it from different sides.
I think perhaps a guiding hermeneutic here could be:
“Soyez toujours le plus doux que vous pourrez, et souvenez-vous que l’on prends plus de mouches avec une cuillère de miel qu’avec cent barils de vinaigre… Always be as gentle as you can and remember that one catches more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar."
St. Francis de Sales was bishop of a place where there was a lot of tension. He found a way to teach with clarity and compassion. Nevertheless, St. Francis the bishop also used stern language.
Thus, I circle around to questions:
- Does "pastoral" never allow for hard language?
- Is there a way in which we have perhaps gotten a bit overly sensitive or squeamish?
Remember: The Bishop, writing his public correction of one of his priests, is writing within a particular set of circumstances. We must allow that that particular time and place may have not been the right time and place for the style of Fr. R’s correct but hard message.