Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

hearing voices

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 31, 2005

The Springfield (MA) Republican is reporting that only 20% of the priests in the Springfield Diocese (31 out of 154) signed a petition aimed at amending the state constitution so as to eliminate same-sex marriage.

Larry Cirignano of Catholic Citizenship, which helped organize the petition drive, was at a loss to explain the low percentage of [clergy] signatures.

I can't share your confoundment here, Larry. One out of five is a predictable score among Blue State Catholics -- lay or ordained -- when we're talking about a public stand in which Church teaching is at odds with popular sentiment. The Massachusetts bishops supported the petition, true, but with the same pistol-to-the-forehead sincerity you hear in the PSA at the end of game-day beer commercials: "Anheuser-Busch reminds you to drink responsibly." Right. And Massachusetts clergy have contributed about as much to the protection of family life as Anheuser-Busch has contributed to campus sobriety. (You'll have noticed that Fr. James Aquino and his chum Msgr. Piermarini got their pencils stuck in their shoes along with their driver's licenses, and weren't able to sign the petition either.)

Among that 80% of non-signatory clergy, I suspect 20% are in sympathy with the petition, but gutless. Most, however, though they sometimes agree with the Church, have long ago ceased to be taught by her. Taking their moral bearings from the sentimentalisms currently prized by the "aristocracy of feeling," they can see nothing particularly noble about the Church's view of marriage and nothing amiss in including gays therein.

Unsurprisingly absent from the signatories of the Massachusetts petition are the staff of Boston's Jesuit Urban Center, the parish famously celebrated by Boston Magazine as the "Best Place to Meet a Gay Mate," and effectively a staging area for assaults against Church teaching on sexual issues. On the Feast of Christ the King past, the pastor urged his flock to greater efforts at ignoring the Holy See:

I have sensed with sadness how for some in our own community being valued and respected by church authorities has loomed so large recently and caused so much pain and anger. ... That makes me sad as your pastor. Because I believe that any of us can only been really be hurt deeply by someone to whom we have given permission to hurt us. If you pay attention only to the voices that seem to misunderstand or even revile you, and you give those voices permission to get inside, to get under your skin and into your soul, then those voices can and will hurt you deeply. But there is a choice here; you don't have to let those voices in.

I practically begged you a few weeks ago not to let Boston Globe headlines set the terms of engagement for your faith. That is crazy and finally self-destructive. I begged you not to let Vatican documents perturb you unnecessarily -- even those already released let alone those still unpublished. That is equally crazy and self-destructive. You have to give them permission to hurt you!

Get the impression that there are a lot of young families crowding Sunday Mass at the JUC? Neither do I.

And, besides, there are alternative voices to listen to. The British, gay, theologian James Alison has been begging audiences for several years now not to let anyone else set the agenda by provoking your anger; that's exactly what they want. The legendary John McNeil has been urging the same calm and equanimity; John goes so far as to say he is delighted by recent strange and repressive Vatican statements on gay seminarians. He says it shows clearly the "last gasp" of an outmoded system and it will surely usher-in and accelerate a new era of the Holy Spirit, where people choose to listen to the voice of God, and not too many others. John's conviction remains strong: God is very shrewd in all this. Trust God. And I will add today: listen to God -- again.

The Society of Jesus is especially well-placed to help Larry Cirignano of Catholic Citizenship explain the paucity of clergy signatures on a pro-family document. "Look at it this way, Larry: you are the enemy, you and the Church you serve. And every day you keep us in our jobs is one more day we'll be working to knee-cap you and bring your project to calamity. Who needs a Church, after all, when there are alternative voices to listen to?"

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