Archd. of St. Paul/Minneapolis about St. Francis Cabrini parish: Fr. Z reacts

There has been some attention in the Catholic blogosphere given to a parish in my home diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

Fr. Leo Tibesar of St. Francis Cabrini landed smack in the middle of some controversy about homosexual unions.  

This controversy compelled a clarification from the Archdiocese.  

Here is the Archdiocesan statement with my emphases.

Charges about Father Leo Tibesar & St. Frances Cabrini Parish

Various bloggers and websites have reported that Father Leo Tibesar, of Saint Frances Cabrini Parish in Minneapolis announced his intention to bless same sex marriages. Those reports are not true. Father Tibesar has never blessed a same sex marriage nor does he intend to do so, which would be a violation of his priestly vows and state. He made this very clear in a public clarification issued by Saint Frances Cabrini’s parish council and following a meeting with Archbishop Harry J. Flynn.

During his meeting with Archbishop Flynn and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates, Father Tibesar also agreed to remove any language from the St. Frances Cabrini parish website that is in opposition to Roman Catholic Church doctrine and to refrain from statements in any form that are contrary to Church teaching. He confirmed these commitments to Archbishop Flynn in a letter following their meeting. Communications Office, Archdiocese of StP&M

Why am I posting this?

First, the statement above makes reference to "bloggers".  Since I am originally from that Archdiocese, and since WDTPRS is one of the most highly frequented of the Catholics blogs, I don’t want anyone to have even the slightest idea that I ever posted an entry about St. Francis Cabrini parish.  I am not one of the bloggers who wrote about this issue.  I didn’t pay much attention to it.

Second, I am posting about this because I am pleased with content of the statement.  It is a very good thing that people know that a Catholic priest, in the midst of controversy, has never done what he was accused of doing.  He didn’t in fact do something so scandalously irresponsible as bless a same-sex "marriage".  That should make people happy and relieved.  Also, steps are being taken to remove improper language from the website.  Moreover, Archbishop Flynn has taken the matter in hand.  All these are good things.

Third, this is a chance to make yet another clarification.  The statement above refers to "same sex marriages".  There is no such thing as a same-sex "marriage".  "Marriage" of any sort can only be heterosexual, never homosexual.  The language of the statement might reflect the quick and sloppy terminology of the media, but we all have to be clear that the terms "same sex" and "marriage" cannot be wedded in any way.  That said, the statement still gets the point across.

Fourth, we are seeing more and more how the Catholic blogosphere is having an impact on the life of the Church and on the wider media.  When something questionable occurs, and bloggers get hold of it, the information is disseminated with great speed. 

Then the meat grinder fires up. 

We have to be careful, friends.  It is good that the Catholic blogosphere can act as a "watch dog".  But that is not enough.

When we find that bad things are taking place, we mustn’t fall into the trap of taking delight in them because now we have something to flog other people with. 

We run the risk of sinning when we take delight in the misfortunes of others or when we take up other people’s errors so that we can hurt them.

Dwelling on the negative or on the missteps of others is spiritually risky business.

Furthermore, Catholic bloggers and those who participate in commenting should be promoters of the positive, not just vigilantes.

Some years ago, I heard Cardinal George speak at a meeting of the Catholic Press Association.  He told the assembled journalists that it was the role of Catholic writers to report not merely the doings of Church figures, but rather to report on the "life of grace".  And the only way the reporters would recognize grace in action amongst God’s people would be if they too were in the state of grace.

This is something for us to keep in mind when stories crop up on the Catholic blogosphere.  

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jeff Miller says:

    “announced his intention to bless same sex marriages. Those reports are not true.”

    Funny they call us bloggers liars when the parish’ website said:

    “Publicly bless the relationships of a same sex couple after the couple completes a process of discernment similar to that completed by heterosexual couples before marriage;”

    How his this not an intention to bless so-called same sex marriages?

    It is true that he hadn’t done so, but their site certainly mentioned the intention.

    This was the same priest who in a homily last month said.

    “Two people came into Church to pray, one was a Catholic Archbishop who refuses communion to Rainbow Sash people at the Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday who prayed ” I give you thanks oh God that I am not like others – greedy, dishonest or like others who need to make their dissent from official Church teaching so public and divisive.”

    “The other were Rainbow parents of GLBT people at the Cathedral on Pentecost who stood off on the side and prayed, “Oh God be merciful to us for failing to attend our own Churches more often; they say they love God then turn there backs on us in hate directly contrary to 1:John,4 – whoever loves God must also love the neighbor.””

    This priest has participated in the national leadership of the pro-homosexual acts group Dignity and was still made pastor.

    Just reporting on this does means that we take delight in this, which would be quite sinful. That is of course always a danger. But nothing that I have read within St. Blogs on this story shows this attitude. What I have seen written is mainly people upset by scandal with nothing being done about it. For example St. Joan’s within the same diocese has been quite scandalous and the only action taken to help them has been done by the Vatican who in an unusual move told them to remove items from their website. This had not been requested by the diocese.

    Does anybody think that if bloggers and places like Lifesite had not reported on this story that the diocese would have ordered them to pull down these pages? After all they have been up there for quite a while. So instead of the diocese smearing bloggers by saying they are not reporting the truth, how about a little truth from them?

  2. Jeff: I think I made it pretty clear that the blogosphere often forces clarifications and corrections which otherwise might not have been made, or would have taken a very long time to come forth.

    However, my other point should also be clear. Now that the work is done, it is not the time to pile on.

  3. Brian Mershon says:

    Jeff, Of course the general guidelines Fr. Z provides about the prospect of sinning is correct.

    Of course you and others should publicly rebuke prelates who are doing public damage to the Faith, especially when it is open dissent, as many in the Archdiocese of Minnesota are, including their own bishop for years.

    Of course we should pray for their conversions, including the Archbishop’s.

    If there is one virtue lacking among men nowadays, Catholic, non-Catholic, priests and others, it is the virtue of fortitude. St. Thomas says that we are called as a duty, at times, to publicly rebuke our prelates. It is a duty. To NOT do so would be potentially sinful.

    So of course all of this is a balance, which I believe is all Fr. was trying to point out.

    If the diocese calls you liars and says you are spreading untruths, then you should PUBLICLY call them on their obvious calumny–especially when the printed word itself justifies your story.

  4. Jeff Miller says:

    Another point is that the Catholic blogosphere did not accuse him of performing same-sex marriages. The blog posts on the story referenced the parish’s website saying that they support this though that is has “Not yet been implemented,”

    There were less than 20 Catholic blogs that reported on this and none of them made any such assertion. The points referenced were what the website said, his involvement in Dignity, and his homily attacking an Archbishop for refusing Communion to those in the Rainbow Sash movement. None of these points are in dispute which is why I find what the diocese statement to be less than truthful.

    I also am exceedingly glad that they have spoken to this priest and am even happier that he in fact has agreed to remove those pages against Church teaching and not make any statement against Church teaching. This is very good news and in fact those pages are now removed from the parish’s website.

  5. Brian: It is very important to consider in all of this the principle of fraternal correction and keep it well in view when considering bold moves like “rebuking” a prelate in public.

    It is one thing to report FACTS, and another thing to REBUKE.

    Moreover, all people have the right to a good reputation, all things being equal. So, while we are surely correct to defend ourselves when others suggest we are less than truthful, neither should we try directly to tear down the reputations of others.

  6. The relevant quotation from the Angelic Doctor, I believe, is as follows: “When the faith is in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public.”

  7. David: “When the faith is in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public.”

    A good text … for proof texting.

    It is a very difficult thing to discern when the faith is in peril

    It is not up to just anyone to make that determination.

    Nor does is this text speaking merely of the faith of one, or a few, or even many. 

    This is the sort of text that even the rather poorly informed about the Faith might think to use to excuse saying whatever they want to say.

  8. Margaret says:

    Amen, Fr. Z. Delighting in the sins of others (even to detest them) is spiritually cancerous.

  9. paul picchietti says:

    I am sorry Fr. Z. but the faith is in imminent peril. Have you noticed
    the USCCB’s movie ratings lately, scandalous. How about all the sex
    scandals, scandalous. Homosexual seminaries, scandalous. How about all
    those so-called catholic colleges, scandalous. When should I stop. The
    sheep are and have been scandalized. How about the ongoing church
    “wreckovations” ? Cardinal Law running Santa Maggiore ? Cardinal Mahony?
    Are you in union with him ? It just does not stop !

  10. “It is not up to just anyone to make that determination.”

    Who do I have to be?

  11. I know this might be really hard for some people to digest but to say “the faith is in peril” is a far far graver statement than the usual superficial way it is bandied about some people.

    First, on an individual basis, faith is always the last Christian characteristic to be lost.

    Then, the concept of “the Faith” goes far beyond the ability of one, or a few, or many, to destroy.

    I am making distinctions here that most people aren’t used to making.

    This is why the text that was cited far more complicated than some can understand.

    This is, however, now official a rabbit hole.

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