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not as they do

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Aug 16, 2005

JUST IN CASE you failed to draw the desired conclusions from the media coverage attending The Monsignor's Day Off, journalist Joshua Robin -- in what purports to be a hard news story -- helpfully connects the dots for you:

Three gay-rights protesters stood outside the church's doors, demanding Clark apologize for his previous statements attacking homosexuality, including suggesting it was behind the recent priest abuse scandal.

And many Catholic congregants attending services said that Clark's relationship -- which he maintains was entirely platonic -- was nonetheless a sign that significant changes are needed within the Church, including allowing greater roles for women, married men and openly gay people.

Let's see if I can grasp the reasoning: The Church claims to have her teaching from Christ, but there's plausible grounds for thinking her ministers stray from that teaching, ergo the teaching is false.

Sorry, Josh. Can't get there from here.

Do these folks, I wonder, seriously believe that Catholics base their faith on the virtue of their clergy and offer their loyalty in proportion to its integrity? Were this the case, the Church would probably not have survived the First Century ("I assure you I do not know the man!") and definitely wouldn't have made it into the Fifth.

Core sample any period of church history and you'll find the ash of burnt-out fires. Some flipping around in the Catholic Encyclopedia surfaces the example of Alexander Farnese, Pope Paul III, father of four illegitimate children, who made one of his grandsons a cardinal at sixteen years of age (he was already Bishop of Montefiascone at ten) and another a cardinal at fourteen. We can well imagine the edification accorded the Catholic layfolk when the teenage children of the Pope's bastards, with fresh red hats, were appointed to their respective dioceses. And yet, fully aware of this churchman's recreations, it was from Paul III that St. Ignatius Loyola sought and received final approval for the Society of Jesus -- and it was to him (and his successors) that Ignatius pledged his loyalty. This from the Jesuits' founding document:

Whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross and to serve the Lord alone and his Vicar on earth in our Society, which we desire to be designated by the name of Jesus, should, after a solemn vow of perpetual chasity, poverty, and obedience, bear in mind that he is part of a community founded principally for the advancement of souls in Christian life and doctrine and for the propagation of the faith by the ministry of the word, by the Spiritual Exercises, by works of charity, and expressly by the instruction in Christianity of children and the uneducated.

You can call St. Ignatius quixotic, but naive he was not.

Of course it's dismaying when the higher clergy turn up in a hot tub with some chirpy Minister of Presence on their laps. It wipes out a lot of good will painfully won by honest priests and is heartbreaking to those who've received encouragement -- sometimes life-changing encouragement -- from the cleric in question. But caving is no solution. Contrary to the half-Catholic congregants Josh Robin spoke with, you don't give greater glory to God by changing the rules and declaring the hot tub's been filled with holy water all along. Ecclesiastics of Ignatius' day were even rottener than our own, but it was he who saw the right way forward.

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  • Posted by: Fr. William - Aug. 17, 2005 1:22 PM ET USA

    Amen, Diogenes. AMDG

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