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The outrage of the activists, the silence of the hierarchy

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 24, 2021

Last week’s statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, confirming that the Catholic Church cannot bestow blessings on same-sex unions, should have surprised no one. The teaching of the Church— which the CDF statement reiterated— has been reasonably clear for the past 2,000 years.

Yet there are some Catholics who claim to be surprised by the Vatican statement, and others— such as the The National Network of Catholic LGBT Groups in Brazil— announcing their “outrage.” New Ways Ministry, a group that has been rebuked by the Vatican for distorting Church teaching regarding homosexuality, predictably denounced the CDF statement, citing the contrary thoughts of such heavyweight theologians as Elton John and the White House press secretary.

New Ways Ministry, continuing the heedless gay advocacy that drew the Vatican’s censure, responded to last week’s statement by offering the text of a ceremony for the blessing of same-sex couples, thereby doing precisely what the Vatican had said that Catholic Church cannot do. The celebrity priest James Martin, SJ, then passed along a petition from New Ways Ministry, inviting people to sign a statement: “We Will Bless Same-Gender Couples.” Of course the clever Father Martin did not explicitly endorse that rebellious statement; he simply cited a passage from Lumen Gentium on the right of the faithful to express their opinions.

There were negative comments from the hierarchy, too. Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German episcopal conference— that is, the leading voice of the hierarchy in a country that is losing over 250,000 Catholics a year— announced that he was “not happy,” with the Vatican statement. Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich— who is closing parishes by the dozens— offered the self-confirming prediction that the “understandable reaction among many [to the CDF statement] will be disappointment.” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, too, said it would “hurt many people.”

But these prelates, while giving every indication of sympathy for the homosexual critics of the CDF, stopped short of expressing outright disagreement with the Vatican statement. Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, on the other hand, took that next fateful step, saying in a published column: “I want to apologize to all for whom this is painful and incomprehensible.” He said that he felt “shame for the Church” because the CDF statement used an argument that “does not even reach the level of high school.”

The reasoning that Bishop Bonny finds so incomprehensible, and condemns as so juvenile, is of course the formal teaching of the Catholic Church. So my friend Father Gerald Murray is justified in writing for The Catholic Thing:

Bishop Bonny faces a decision if he is to remain true to God and the words he solemnly swore on the Bible: recant his rejection of the Church’s teaching and faithfully proclaim that teaching within his diocese. If he cannot do that, he should immediately resign.

Father Murray reminds his readers that when he was installed as leader of the Antwerp diocese, Bishop Bonny solemnly swore an oath of fidelity to the Church, and said: “I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.” If Bishop Bonny truly finds the teachings of the Church “incomprehensible,” in simple honesty he must admit that he cannot be a teacher of the Catholic faith. And if he does not have the integrity to step down, other bishops— most importantly, the Bishop of Rome— should demand his resignation.

Unfortunately I have not heard of any bishop— or for that matter any priest other than Father Murray— making a public demand for Bishop Bonny’s resignation. Most of the world’s Catholic bishops seem content to sit back, passively absorbing the insults heaped on the Church by homosexual activists, saying nothing in public to defend the Vatican statement or rebuke its overheated critics.

Liberal Catholic activists can always summon up the energy to profess surprise that the Church teaches what the Church teaches. But I confess that I am not at all surprised by the silence of the bishops who have sworn to uphold the Church’s teachings. The pattern is all too familiar. Liberals howl in outrage, and denounce the expression of simple Catholic doctrine. Bishops are silent. And as any lawyer will tell you, silence implies consent.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Retired01 - Mar. 29, 2021 2:29 PM ET USA

    Why shouldn't the bishops be silent? The answer is simple. By speaking the bishops do not affect the quality of the dinner they will be served tonight.

  • Posted by: tenriverbend2769 - Mar. 25, 2021 10:59 AM ET USA

    Thank you Mr. Lawler, thank you Fr. Murray.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 25, 2021 10:45 AM ET USA

    Pope Francis visited the US in 2015, exactly 3 months after Obergefell. His silence then on "gay marriage" and mixed, ever corrected, Vatican reports about his meeting in the nunciature with Kim Davis, left many with the impression that the newest pope was open to blessing of sodomy. That is what card Cupich is suggesting in his comment.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Mar. 25, 2021 9:50 AM ET USA

    Each day the schismatic amongst us persist with their heterodoxy, more and more Catholics who don't have the ability to discern the magnitude of the growing scandal will become lost to the true faith. Who of the Church leaders in the US do you see willing and able to lead a recovery and how soon? The bishops who could start with the defense of the Eucharist surely aren't showing themselves competent. They seem unable to "accompany" a single individual in a return to orthodoxy.