|Sacred Heart Cathedral – Rochester, NY (built in 1927)|
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."As I struggle to educate myself on what exactly happened in New York with regards to the Catholic Church's lack of effective opposition to "homosexual marriage", I have come across some rather disturbing Church history.
– John 8:32
The trail starts with an article in Sunday's New York Times titled "After Backing Gay Marriage, 4 in G.O.P. Face Voters’ Verdict". I'll skip over the part about how Senator Mark J. Grisanti went to Mass just days after the vote. There is no mention in the article as to whether he received communion. I assume he did, because otherwise it would be big news. And no one in the New York Catholic Church has ever said that he should be denied communion anyway.
Where it gets interesting is with the case of James S. Alesi, "the first Republican senator to say he would support same-sex marriage this year". I wondered whether Alesi was a Catholic. The rather confusing answer came later in the article. It said "Mr. Alesi [worships at] Spiritus Christi Church, a Catholic congregation that broke with Rome in order to support gay men and lesbians, as well as women in the clergy."
As they say, "you can't make this stuff up".
Spritus Christi Church calls itself "an inclusive Catholic church where all are welcome". The "priest" of this church is a woman, Rev. Mary Ramerman. She is a former Methodist "who wished to become a [Catholic] priest" and "was encouraged by [former Catholic priest] Rev. James Callan". So she moved from California to New York to join Father Callan at Corpus Christi parish.
This happened sometime around 1983 as best as I can tell and Ramerman would have been around 28 years old at the time. With the support of Father Callan she became an associate pastor at the church where she "regularly preached, offered blessings, and stood behind the altar to raise the chalice during the consecration".
Fifteen years later, in 1998 the Bishop of Rochester, Matthew H. Clark, finally decided to take some action. Most likely he was forced into taking action by his superiors in Rome, because as we will see the Bishop had expressed some divergent views of his own in the past.
I'll let the Spiritus Christi Church tell this part of the story themselves in their own self-incriminating way:
On August 13, 1998, Bishop Matthew Clark, under pressure from Rome, removed Fr. Jim Callan as administrator after 22 years at Corpus Christi Church. The Vatican had trouble with three practices dear to the heart of Corpus Christi parishioners: the prominent role of women on the altar, the blessing of gay unions, and the offering of communion to those who were not Catholic.Actually, Callan was just "reassigned to another parish in western New York". And Callan didn't just "bless gay unions", he "conducted same-sex weddings".
Soon afterward, associate pastor Mary Ramerman was terminated. Ramerman, who was 43 at the time and the mother of three children, said "My heart's broken. I also feel angry with the Church that it can't stand up for what it believes in."
I think we can all agree that this was a tragic situation, but not for the reasons cited by Mary Ramerman. This eventualy led to the formation of the Spiritus Christi Church which is not Roman Catholic, but still likes to call itself "catholic". Mary Ramerman was "ordained" in 2001 and is now the "priest" of the church. Jim Callan is now the associate pastor. He still refers to himself as "Father" Jim Callan although he was excommunicated in 1999.
It isn't easy to get excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church these days, but at least the Church hasn't totally given up on the practice. Actually the official statement is that he ''excommunicated himself'', for "starting his own church". Now we know what it takes to get automatically excommunicated.
Which made me begin to wonder about Rochester Bishop Matthew Clark and why he had allowed this to go on for 15 years without taking any action. I quickly learned that Clark "has been criticized for being overly tolerant of homosexuality and even challenging the Vatican's position of not allowing homosexual priests".
In March of this year in response to a statement from the Vatican banning individuals with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies from entering the priesthood, Bishop Clark commented: "I know some magnificent gay priests.... I have always tried to be open to such candidates."
In 1997, a little over a year before the removal of the schismatic Father Callan, Bishop Clark invited the Rochester homosexual community to a Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The homily he delivered was welcoming to the extreme and gave no indication whatsoever that Bishop Clark considers homosexual acts to be a sin, or that homosexuality itself is a "disorder". Here is an excerpt so that you can get a sense of his words that day:
God always calls us to become fully who God wants us to be. And to trust us enough that we will respond to that precious gift with everything that's good and noble and wonderful about us. And who at the same time, recognizing that we can be selfish and prone to sin, is always ready to reach out and to restore and to heal and to send us off again to become the wonderful person we're meant to be. I'd simply like to say this afternoon to you, dear sisters and brothers who gather here, that I hope we have a deep sense of solidarity one with the other. And that we reverence, respect and honor the freedom of one another, just as God honors those precious, God-given gifts in us.I could certainly understand if someone sitting in one of the pews that day who was engaged in a homosexual life, could listen to the soothing words of the Bishop's homily and go home thinking that the Bishop had just endorsed their choice of sexual orientation. And that the Bishop had even gone as far as to give them his blessing in the name of the Holy Catholic Church. How confusing this must be, when we know that a homosexual life can never be in "solidarity" with the teachings of the Church.
To my brothers and sisters, gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, you have told me over years of conversations with you and you have relayed to me through friends with whom I have spoken, that far more often than not, our faith community seems forbidding; that in it you feel unwelcome; that your own struggles, issues, questions, joys, sorrows, talents, needs, gifts, are not respected as they should be. I hope I can say with confidence that this gathering this afternoon symbolizes a widespread sentiment among the people of our diocese, that we'd like to do a better job on that. And we would like to convey to you in a much more rewarding and genuine way, the respect that we have for your integrity, your goodness and your gifts. And at the same time, I hope that we could say to you with equal honesty that we are the weaker to the degree that we do not enjoy the wonderful gifts God gives you for the sake of the community.
In 1986 Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope, issued a letter that addressed the "pastoral care of homosexual persons". In it he specifically condemns the type of language and ideas expressed in Bishop Clark's homily of 1997.
In the discussion which followed the publication of the  Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.There seems to be a pattern of Bishop Clark deliberately ignoring Church teachings that do not fit his view; specifically on the subject of homosexuality.
Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.
Increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it.
The Church's ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church's position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.
The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes, attempts to give the impression that it represents all homosexual persons who are Catholics. As a matter of fact, its membership is by and large restricted to those who either ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it. It brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour. One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.
There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.
Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God's personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord's grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way.
The Bishops have the particularly grave responsibility to see to it that their assistants in the ministry, above all the priests, are rightly informed and personally disposed to bring the teaching of the Church in its integrity to everyone.
The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable, and, we hope, will not diminish. Such devoted ministers should have the confidence that they are faithfully following the will of the Lord by encouraging the homosexual person to lead a chaste life and by affirming that person's God-given dignity and worth.
With this in mind, this Congregation wishes to ask the Bishops to be especially cautious of any programmes which may seek to pressure the Church to change her teaching, even while claiming not to do so. A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful. For example, they may present the teaching of the Magisterium, but only as if it were an optional source for the formation of one's conscience. Its specific authority is not recognized. Some of these groups will use the word "Catholic" to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it. While their members may claim a desire to conform their lives to the teaching of Jesus, in fact they abandon the teaching of his Church. This contradictory action should not have the support of the Bishops in any way.
We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.
We would heartily encourage programmes where these dangers are avoided. But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.
All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous.
Another example occurred in 1997, when Bishop Clark attended a New Ways Ministry conference. This is a group that advocates for changing Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Bishop Clark should have been aware that the group's activities had been denounced in 1984 by the Archbishop of Washington James Hickey for their "lack of adherence to Church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts". Later, in 1999 they were further condemned by the Vatican.
As recently as 2010, Bishop Clark wrote an article titled "All are beloved children of God" which was reprinted with permission in the newsletter of a group called "Fortunate Families". In it he refuses to explicitly condemn homosexual acts and speaks rather ambiguously about the Church's teachings.
I will not dwell here on the well known teaching of the Catholic Church opposing same-sex marriage. It is a teaching the church has made clear, and one I understand theologically and uphold faithfully as bishop. At the same time, I lament that the "don’ts" of our teaching too often drown out the "do’s." I lament that the full teaching of the church as it concerns gay and lesbian people is either too little known, too often left unspoken or, in some cases, deliberately ignored.Fortunate Families is a Rochester, NY based group that "serves as a resource and networking ministry with Catholic parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children." This is a laudable mission as long as it does not engage in activities which are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. At first glance the group seems to be faithfully Catholic. But I noticed that in their document "What the Church Teaches" they chose to attack the letter which I quoted from above which was written by Cardinal Ratzinger:
It proved to be quite controversial, perceived by many lay people and clergy as harsh in tone and less than pastorally sensitive.... The purpose is not pastoral, but to state the inclination of the homosexual person is an “objective disorder.” This, he said, is “like telling someone that he or she is carrying a moral time bomb.”They failed to mention that the author of this "harsh" and "not pastoral" letter is the current head pastor of the Catholic Church – the former Cardinal Ratzinger and the current Pope Benedict XVI.
Fortunate Families has also been allied with New Ways Ministry, the "catholic" homosexual advocacy group that I mentioned above. When the group was recently condemned again by Cardinal George in 2010, Fortunate Families came rushing to their defense:
Most of you know that New Ways has been striving for many years in its mission to be a bridge building ministry between lesbian/gay Catholics and their families and friends, and the institutional church. Yet, it's authenticity as a Catholic group has recently been challenged by Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.Unfortunately, the sad truth is that Fortunate Families is not just a support group for Catholic parents of homosexual children, it is also an advocate for "homosexual marriage". In 2010 they joined in a coalition with three other "catholic" homosexual groups – New Ways Ministry, DignityUSA, and Call To Action – to promote "homosexual marriage". The coalition has been dubbed "Equally Blessed".
"Equally Blessed unites Catholic Voices for Marriage Equality, Justice" -- Four longstanding Catholic organizations announced today that they have formed Equally Blessed, a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society. “As Catholics, we believe that all human beings are beloved children of God,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an Equally Blessed member. “We are called to do our part in bringing about justice in the church and the world, and Equally Blessed will allow us to do that together.” The coalition also includes Call To Action, DignityUSA and Fortunate Families.Why hasn't Bishop Clark condemned these efforts by Fortunate Families since they form part of his diocese and claim to be "faithful Catholics"?
Lest you think that Bishop Clark is just a "hands off" manager, there is at least one instance that I could find of him getting involved and condemning the activity of a group in his diocese with regards to the issue of homosexuality. This happened in 1997:
Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester (NY) has imposed severe restrictions on the Catholic Physicians Guild and the Catholic Lawyers Guild in his diocese, after both groups issued statements critical of homosexuality. Bishop Clark, who has been forthright in his support of homosexuals, participated in a recent national conference sponsored by the militant pro-homosexual New Ways Ministry. Bishop Clark told the two professional groups that henceforth they cannot hold meetings or disseminate literature without his permission and accused them of undermining his authority.There is some speculation as to what exactly caused the Bishop to accuse these groups of "undermining his authority". In the case of the "Catholic Lawyers Guild" it seems to be a notice that they published critical of the “Mass for Gay and Lesbian Catholics” which I mentioned above. The lawyers guild which is officially known as the "St. Thomas More Lawyers Guild" issued a statement which begins as follows:
On March 1, 1997, Bishop Matthew H. Clark of the Diocese of Rochester, New York presided at a “Mass for Gay and Lesbian Catholics” at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Prior to the celebration of the Mass, Bishop Clark stated that he was “going to disappoint” those Catholics who had expressed the concern that he should remind those attending the Mass that homosexual activity is sinful. According to Bishop Clark, it would have been “oppressive and manipulative” to “pound on” the sinfulness of homosexual activity. (Catholic Courier, February 27, 1997, p. 3.) The media reported that “[Bishop] Clark avoided any discussion of the official teachings of the Catholic Church” on the homosexuality issue. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, March 2, 1997, p. 1A.)I am beginning to suspect that Bishop Clark was not fully in agreement with the public stance of the New York Bishops which was against the "homosexual marriage" bill. A search for his comments on the bill during the past few weeks comes up with only one result, when he was cornered by reporters at the blessing of a cemetery. He made a pro forma statement in support of the Catholic view on marriage, but still managed to throw in enough ambiguity that one reporter wrote that the "Bishop does believe the Catholic Church will continue to evolve in various way".
Because of his failure to convey the full teaching of the Catholic Church on the issue of homosexuality, his words and actions caused much confusion among the faithful, especially our youth.
"Reaching out in more effective pastoral ways, embracing however you want to put it, people who are of homosexual orientation or life practice. We don't approve of that practice but that's not to say we don't see good, loving people who go that way of life,” Bishop Clark explained. “We don't say that there is no love there at all, there is no sign of God's presence because indeed they remain God's children beloved of us all. It is more a question of how you reach that wonderful end of equality for all people and we're just arguing in this case that you don't effectively, long-term do it by redefining an institution that has served us so beautifully.”Another reporter highlighted the Bishop's initial response when asked about the issue.
The Bishop appeared surprised to be asked about the issue.... "Oh, my heavens," Bishop Clark laughed when the topic of gay marriage first came up.Either he was "surprised", or he was hoping that he wouldn't have to address the question directly.
Wouldn't you have expected the Bishop to make a strong statement in writing with regards to the question of "homosexual marriage" while the debate was raging in his home state? Especially given his past history with regards to the teachings of the Church on homosexuality. In this case silence is not golden. Senator Alesi, who lives in the Diocese of Rochester, is probably counting on Bishop Clark's continued silence when he comes up for reelection.
You remember Senator Alesi. He attends the schismatic "catholic" church that was formed in the Diocese of Rochester largely due to Bishop Clark's neglect of the heretical practices that went on there for so many years.
And now we see the dire consequences of the systematic denial of Church teachings regarding homosexuality. Unfortunately, these consequence could affect not just the city of Rochester or the state of New York, but could spread throughout the United States and even beyond.
Finally, I would like to say that I didn't write this article in order to attack Bishop Clark. My intention is to spread the truth of the Church's teachings about homosexuality. I hope that Bishop Clark and other bishops in New York and around the country will begin anew to dedicate themselves to the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church – and not just on homosexuality.
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of Bishop Clark and the other bishops in New York and around the country so that they can guide their flocks back along the one true path that Christ has revealed to us. There are many lost sheep and lambs out there that desperately need their guidance.
St. Joseph, father of Jesus in this valley of tears, give us your guidance. Lift us up in your arms as you lifted the Child Jesus and protect us from those that would harm us. Teach us the ways of the Lord. Amen.