Catholic Chaplain Gets Grief for Being Catholic

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

“They say he urges students who have homosexual feelings to lead a life of celibacy.”

That appears to be the actual complaint against a dynamic, engaging priest who heads the Newman Center at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

He is “controversial,” reports tell us, because he preaches that homosexual activity is sinful, as is abortion.

I’ve heard him preach now and again. There’s even more to the story: He also says viewing porn is sinful!

He does all of this, pointing to Christ and the Sacraments. He does all of this, pointing students to a better and eternal life than the one popular culture — and increasingly our schools and even our law — tends to offer, encourage, promote, and expect.

We are all free not to buy into what he believes — what the Catholic Church teaches — about any of these things, of course. But he is being blasted — with official complaints being filed with the school — for teaching what the Catholic Church teaches. For doing so both publicly and privately. For authenticity — something the world seems to crave and desperately needs.

The lead complainant has actually already left the Catholic Church. He’s an ordained priest of a schismatic church. But how dare a priest tell students who are looking for Catholic spiritual direction the truth about what the Church teaches, helping them better live their lives according to it.#more#

This is very much related to the national debate we’re having — or not having — about marriage. As Tom Messner has pointed out there are some fundamental issues of religious freedom that are inevitably going to come up when we give in to a “new normal” of redefining what marriage is:

The religious-freedom problems associated with same-sex marriage cannot be completely exempted away. Even if same-sex marriage legislation included every religious-freedom protection recommended by the experts, new fact situations can always arise. Statutory protections enacted today can be diminished and even repealed in the future. And even the strongest legislative protections may be unfavorably construed or misapplied by activist judges.

More fundamentally, however, exemptions fail to solve one of the major reasons same-sex marriage threatens religious and moral conscience in the first place. Same-sex marriage does not simply include more people in the definition of civil marriage; it labels the natural understanding of marriage as a form of irrational prejudice, ignorance, bigotry, and even hatred. In other words, same-sex-marriage laws teach the public that people who view marriage in the natural way are morally equivalent to racists.

Once this idea is embedded in the law, there will be enormous pressure to take it to its logical conclusion by marginalizing and penalizing people who continue to think marriage is one man and one woman. Some of this pressure will come from state sources and some will come from private sources, but in both cases it will find ways through whatever cracks might exist in protections for religious and moral conscience. As Princeton professor Robby George put it in your recent interview with him, “If you ask, ‘What can be done going forward around the country to protect religious liberty?’ the answer is this: Win the fight to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. Period.”

Cardinal George in Chicago recently wrote:

The nature of marriage is not a religious question. Marriage comes to us from nature. Christ sanctifies marriage as a sacrament for the baptized, giving it significance beyond its natural reality; the State protects marriage because it is essential to family and to the common good of society. But neither Church nor State invented marriage, and neither can change its nature.

Nature and Nature’s God, to use the expression in the Declaration of Independence of our country, give the human species two mutually complementary sexes, able to transmit life through what the law has hitherto recognized as a marital union. Consummated sexual relations between a man and a woman are ideally based on mutual love and must always be based on mutual consent, if they are genuinely human actions. But no matter how strong a friendship or deep a love between persons of the same sex might be, it is physically impossible for two men, or two women, to consummate a marital union. Even in civil law, non-consummation of a marriage is reason for annulment.

Sexual relations between a man and a woman are naturally and necessarily different from sexual relations between same-sex partners. This truth is part of the common sense of the human race. It was true before the existence of either Church or State, and it will continue to be true when there is no State of Illinois and no United States of America. A proposal to change this truth about marriage in civil law is less a threat to religion than it is an affront to human reason and the common good of society. It means we are all to pretend to accept something we know is physically impossible. The Legislature might just as well repeal the law of gravity.

It might be worth considering that there is not an inevitability to gay marriage, and that there is a real danger in fundamentally changing the definition of marriage. How is a secular campus in a major city going to tolerate Catholic Church teaching? As Messner notes, once the law changes to fix supposedly backward ways, it’s going to take a lot to protect priests who are faithful to Church teaching.

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