The Sins of the Fathers: Will Msgr. Paul Garrity be disciplined?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 15, 2015

Boston is not known as a hotbed of orthodoxy, but Msgr. Paul Garrity has crossed a line. To write in the diocesan paper that the Church’s teaching on the permanence of marriage is “ridiculous”, “untenable” and “disrespectful” is, in effect, a direct attack on the Catholic faith by the Archdiocese of Boston itself.

I take it as a given that the column in which Msgr. Paul V. Garrity was writing on September 11th (speaking of terrorist attacks) is typically given over to wide-ranging discussion and exchange of opinion. But ridiculing Catholic teaching in a Church newspaper goes far beyond the expression of legitimate opinion and really is reminiscent of the factors which made this date notorious in American history.

We could assume, I suppose, that Msgr. Garrity is actually unaware that his remarks attacked unchangeable Catholic doctrine, that is, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is the old knave or fool dilemma. But on the off chance that Garrity is merely a fool, let us consider:

  1. Msgr. Garrity: ”It is ludicrous to assert that divorced couples who have found love and fidelity with new spouses are still recognized by the Church as being married to their former spouses after the passage of many years.”
    Jesus Christ: “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt 19:6).
  2. “It is equally untenable (and disrespectful) to try to convince these happily married couples that, in fact, their relationships are sinful.”
    Jesus Christ: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mk 10:11-12).

Is Msgr. Garrity only a fool when he makes these assertions “without absolutizing history or denying the truth of the Gospel” and claims that they are just “common sense”?

It is clear that the words of Christ have been upheld throughout history by His Church and preached to the ends of the earth as Our Lord commanded. One can disagree with these teachings (and cease to hold the Catholic Faith), but for a priest to keep his position in the Church and continue to draw his salary while proclaiming the Faith to be ridiculous, untenable and disrespectful would seem to tilt the needle away from foolishness and toward knavery.

Moreover, as recently as the Synod on the Family in October of last year, the assembled bishops overwhelmingly rejected the proposal Msgr. Garrity yearns to see accepted. (In this the Monsignor is acting suspiciously like a German bishop. But the faith-dead Germans will be definitively buried at this year’s Synod. Remember that you heard it here first.)

There is, as the world knows, a lot of foolishness and knavery in the Church in Boston, but Msgr. Garrity has raised it to a new level by engraving it clearly in the Church’s own newspaper. The question before us now is whether Cardinal O’Malley or any of the auxiliary bishops in Boston will pick up the gauntlet Garrity has derisively thrown at the Church’s feet. Will there be any official correction of Msgr. Garrity? Any ecclesiastical discipline? Any redress of the scandal given?

The laity are already speaking out in the online responses to the article. But what of Boston's ecclesiastical leadership?

I do know that efforts are being made to alert the diocese, including the Cardinal, to this attack on the Church. But since Cardinal O’Malley is currently out of the country, it may be too easy for Boston’s other ecclesiastical authorities to let the whole thing blow over.

Sadly, if corrective action is not taken, it will be strong evidence that successive generations of leadership in Boston have learned nothing from the dysfunctional history of the past few generations there. Thus are the sins of the fathers visited upon their children.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Sep. 16, 2015 5:07 PM ET USA

    More than one comment has called attention to the blame due to the editor. I agree, of course, but the blame is more difficult to assess without inside knowledge. First, the editor is less guilty in that he is a layman and not a pastor of souls; second, he may not be allowed to screen out comments submitted by senior clergy. I just don't know.

  • Posted by: dmva9806 - Sep. 16, 2015 11:18 AM ET USA

    Having lived in the Boston area a few years (although many years ago) and periodically revisiting, Msgr. Garrity's statements don't surprise me What would surprise me would be any kickback from the chancellory office. The prevailing attitude there seems to be don't rock the boat, keep the troops pacified. The only clerical sins are fiscal misbehavior and upsetting the congregation.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Sep. 15, 2015 10:49 PM ET USA

    It sounds like Msgr. Garrity has submitted his resignation from the Catholic church. It will be interesting to see if Cardinal O'Malley accepts it.

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Sep. 15, 2015 7:04 PM ET USA

    Out of town, out of the country, on the moon wherever - if corrective action is not taken, it is tantamount to an endorsement of Garrity's views. Yes, it's really that simple.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Sep. 15, 2015 6:56 PM ET USA

    I'm surprised that, as an editor, you don't also call out the editor of the paper. Why print it? Or, if you're going to print it, why not at least add an editor's note to the effect that it is what it is.

  • Posted by: FredC - Sep. 15, 2015 6:35 PM ET USA

    Also the editor of the newspaper should be fired either for ill will or for ignorance.