The Road Ahead for the Church

The internet has been full of jubilation and despair in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the US, and this is certainly true for Catholics as well. Some Catholics are rejoicing in this historic moment, seeing a major step forward for justice, human dignity, and mercy. Others are deeply disappointed, believing the Supreme Court has redefined marriage in a way that will undermine the family and human flourishing. For some Catholics, however, it’s a bit more complicated.

Two pieces caught my eye that reflect on the tensions some millennial Catholics feel when it comes to figuring out how to reconcile devotion to the Church and the love we have for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

The editors of the Jesuit Post write:

Those of us loyal both to our church and to our LGBT family and friends are left in a difficult position. On the one hand, we want to proclaim the way, the truth, and the life – we want to witness to the radically transformative power of God’s love in the world – and we want to follow the church’s lead in that endeavor. On the other, we struggle to reconcile the church’s teaching with the suffering of our loved ones, or the church’s disappointment with our loved ones’ joy.

Christopher Hale writes:

When we listen to each other with big hearts, we can begin to overcome the unfair stereotypes that divide us. We can put to rest the great lie that everyone who opposes gay marriage is a bigot and that everyone who supports it is a bad Catholic. We can begin to understand and form ourselves again around the fundamental truths of our faith: that God loves us, that the Church welcomes us, and that Jesus walks with us.

As bishops from around the world prepare to respond to the clear need for better pastoral care of gay, lesbian, and transgender people at the upcoming Synod, we can only hope that they will hear from and focus on those voices (on both sides of this issue and anywhere in between) dedicated to dialogue and love, rather than those spewing hatred (of the Church or gay and lesbian people) or pushing legalism. The road ahead is not entirely clear, but if we are guided by the wisdom and love of Christ, we will surely find our way.

Pope Francis Praises Heroism of Parents Who Chose Life

Politicians and activists often see themselves as the heroes of the pro-life movement. But the real heroes are the parents who choose life, even in difficult circumstances. Sometimes these circumstances are the result of our society’s failure to support families and ensure that they have all of their needs met. Sometimes they result from decisions made by one or both of the parents that they later regret. Other times, the child has a serious illness or disability. An obscene number of these children are killed, inextricably linking the pro-life cause with the fight for disability rights. These parents who choose life know the road ahead will not always be easy, but refuse to cast aside their precious children. Instead they affirm the value and worth of their children against a culture that too often estimates a person’s worth using a brutal utilitarian calculation that finds little value in the weak and vulnerable. Pope Francis has rightly labeled such parents heroes:

Francis met for nearly an hour with a group of severely ill children and their parents Friday…

The Vatican said Francis spent time with each child, who ranged in age from two to 14. The father of one child, Andrea Maria, told Francis how doctors had advised his wife to have an abortion because of a difficult pregnancy and the child’s ailments but that they refused.

A Vatican statement of the closed meeting said Francis expressed his admiration for their courage, saying abortion is a false solution and that such parents show “heroism.”

These are the heroes of everyday life. It is good to see the pope recognize some of these “saints of daily life” that are helping to build the kingdom of God right now.

Nebraska Abolishes the Death Penalty

One of the nation’s most conservative states, Nebraska, abolished the death penalty earlier today. Nebraska legislators had just enough votes to override Republican Governor Pete Ricketts’ veto.

This is a tremendous win for advocates of a whole life approach—those who are looking to broaden the pro-life movement’s commitment to human life and dignity—as well as all other opponents of the death penalty. It is also a big win for the Catholic Church, as Nebraska’s bishops took a strong stand against the death penalty during this debate, saying:

We are also disturbed that since 1973, 143 individuals in the U.S. have been released from death row as the result of evidence that demonstrated they were wrongly convicted. As technology improves, this may become more commonplace. We also know that racial minorities and the poor are disproportionately sentenced to death, often as a consequence of racial bias or inadequate defense due to an ability to pay for better representation. We are deeply troubled by a justice system in which the innocent might be executed, and in which race, education, and economics might play a factor in a death sentence.

The death penalty is not necessary in Nebraska. The purposes of a criminal justice system are rehabilitation, deterrence, public safety, and the restoration of justice. The death penalty does not provide rehabilitation to convicted criminals. There is no clear evidence that executions deter crime. Public safety can be assured through other means. And justice requires punishment, but it does not require that those who have committed capital crimes be put to death.

Nebraska is the 7th state since 2007 to abolish the death penalty. More and more people seem to be drawing the conclusion that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent, that it is arbitrarily and capriciously applied, extraordinarily expensive, unfairly applied across demographic lines, prone to gruesome mistakes, and always at risk of being applied to innocent people, among its other flaws. Hopefully other states—red, blue, and purple—follow Nebraska’s lead.

Indiana’s Bishops Tackle Poverty

The Bishops of Indiana have put together a very good letter on addressing poverty. Here are some highlights of Poverty at the Crossroads: The Church’s Response to Poverty in Indiana:

  • As bishops who serve the people of God, our concern is for everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation, race, ethnic background, economic or social status. Christ came to save all humankind.
  • At the same time, we bishops have a particular obligation to care for the most vulnerable members of God’s family. That is why we pay special attention to the unborn, to the sick and the elderly, to prisoners, to those who suffer from various forms of addiction or mental illness, and to the education of people from many different backgrounds and circumstances. That is also why we care, in a very special way, for those brothers and sisters of ours who are poor.
  • The Gospels insist that God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that God himself has “become poor” (2 Cor. 8, 9).
  • Are we incapable – or worse – have we chosen not to see our sisters and brothers who are poor? Are we blind to the impact poverty has on families, neighborhoods and entire communities and unquestioning as to its causes?
  • Experience teaches us that the family is the only lasting, solid foundation on which healthy societies can be built.
  • Work is more than simply a way to make a living; it is a continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected; these include the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize, to private property, and to economic initiative.
  • The human person is what is most important, not economic theory or social structures.
  • Workers are co-creators with God in building the human community. Workers are not commodities. They are not instruments of production or tools in the hands of owners or managers, who are entitled to use them and then set them aside at the end of the day or the completion of a particular project.
  • A society that cares for the least of its citizens—including the unemployed, the underemployed and uninsured—is a society that will flourish in the sight of God and in its material and spiritual well-being.
  • The Catholic Church is strongly committed to education and, particularly, the education of the poor. More than two centuries of experience convince us about the powerful role that education plays in breaking the cycle of poverty and helping families, producing thriving citizens, workers and professionals.
  • For decades, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been unswerving advocates for comprehensive reforms that will lead to health care for all, especially the weakest and most vulnerable. We believe that health care is fundamental to human life and dignity.
  • We believe that health care is not a privilege, but a right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person.
  • Do programs and policies place a primary emphasis on child welfare and enhance – not detract – from strong marriages and family life?
  • Poverty brings intolerable stress on the family’s ability to carry out its mission as the fundamental unit of society. Families are called to be stewards of all God’s gifts, and this requires an environment of stability and peace that can provide each family member with opportunities to exercise his or her responsibilities for the common good.

Update: Archdiocese of San Francisco Will Remove ‘Ill-Conceived’ Sprinklers

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has released a statement explaining that the sprinklers mentioned in our post earlier today were installed to remove homeless people from certain areas (so they might relocate to safer areas, possibly on the Cathedral grounds) for the sake of “safety, security, and cleanliness.”

They admitted that the method used was “ill-conceived,” a polite way of admitting that they were exceptionally foolish in trying to move human beings (some of the most vulnerable human beings) using sprayed water. They are immediately removing the sprinklers, which may have been installed in violation of San Francisco water-use laws (and were used at a time when California faces terrible drought conditions).

There was no direct apology for their gross indifference to the human beings affected by the enactment of this impersonal, foolish policy. Either there was knowledge that these human beings were being soaked and the policy remained in place or no one was paying any attention to these people. Either way, it reflects precisely the type of indifference Pope Francis has denounced over and over again.

Of course the Archdiocese has helped thousands upon thousands of homeless people. That is wonderful, but it does not negate the indifference shown to those being soaked and ignored. Hopefully not just the policy, but also the indifference will be reversed today, after Catholics across the country demanded an end to this policy and the Archdiocese finally did the right thing.