Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Cardinal George starts new year with clarity (and a clarion call) UPDATE #2

Photo by Photobra Adam Bielawski;used
 under Creative Commons License.
(The Cardinal looks a bit like my dad in this photo!)
In case you saw the headlines, yes, Cardinal George has issued a letter in the light of  the likelihood that Illinois will be the next state to broaden the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

Rather than accept the summary you find in the news, I suggest you read the Cardinal's own words. After all, he is a brilliant man who has spent a great deal of time pondering the matter and its implications for Catholics, and this is an extremely sensitive issue: not just complex, but close to the heart for many people who cannot see anything but close-mindedness and bigotry in the Church's position, which the Cardinal applies to the situation facing us in Illinois this week. 

The Cardinal also presents his deep worry about the "social engineering" aspects of legislation of this sort. "This proposed legislation will have long term consequences because laws teach; they tell us what is socially acceptable and what is not, and most people conform to the dictates of their respective society, at least in the short run." When the government asserts authority over an institution that it did not establish, it puts all members of society in its debt: people begin to see their God-given human rights as "gifts" bestowed by the government--gifts which can be "taken away" by that same government on any number of pretexts. "Human dignity and human rights are then reduced to the whims of political majorities. "

The most immediate threat to Catholics that the letter points out is actually one that is already playing out in society:  "Those who continue to distinguish between genuine marital union and same sex arrangements will be regarded in law as discriminatory, the equivalent of bigots." The next step, the Cardinal seems to say, will be legal action against behaviors, policies and possibly even teachings construed as "discriminatory" or "hate speech." This in the name of "fairness."

Personally, I don't expect the Cardinal's letter to have much impact on the political action here in Illinois, but I do hope and pray that Catholics who up to this point have been drifting along with the tide of the surrounding cultural assumptions will at least give him a hearing.

Yesterday 1700 religious leaders in Illinois issued a letter to Illinois lawmakers on the issue, expressing concern for both the natural order and for the First Amendment rights of religious believers. "If marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations...will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations," putting them at risk of lawsuits (as has already happened in other states), harrassment and accusations. Read the full statement by Illinois religious leaders on same-sex marriage here.

Brandon Vogt prepared a post for The National Catholic Register on the 10 most common arguments in favor of same-sex marriage; it is worth reading. I am sure you have already heard all 10, and perhaps have not known how to respond in clarity and charity.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield IL issued a letter of his own on the legislation (which will now be presented to the new legislature, rather than the lame-duck session that just ended).


Anonymous said...

You can put things in quotes to assume there's something wrong with gay people but the underlying facts are there that as long as they are concenting adults they deserve the same rights...Now, saying thst, i don't care if they just sign a dotted line in Vegas or find some church willing to show some love to them..I don't personally believe in marriage anyway,its just a couple of signatures and doesn't change the fact that thousands of Catholics still get divorced anyway...Both my brother and sis are with their boy or girlfriend and both have kids too and are just as happy...If the church continues like this more and more will leave it..By the way, if you think abortion is murder that would be a lot of women you're sending to prison or in death row.

By the way, i just found out that god sanctioned slavery in the OT..If you'd like the passages i'd give them...

I also just read that although Lincoln set slaves free he still was bigoted to them and didn't believe they should mix with whites or hold jobs in high office..I even read that he considered sending them to other countries or back to Africa


Sr Anne Flanagan said...

The quotes in my post are from the letter, not a form of emphasis. And yes, you will find all sorts of things in the Old Testament that we find abhorrent today.

As Catholics, we do not read the Bible as if every passage were the moral equivalent of the next, and every example meant to be followed. If we read the Bible that way, we would allow divorce and polygamy (because these are accepted in the earlier parts of the Old Testament, although the later prophets--like Malachi--have God saying things like "I hate divorce').

The Old Testament relates events and values that date back to the late Stone Age! In guiding the Chosen People, God had to start with some very basic principles... But if you read the later prophets you see some highly developed social justice. For example, " 'So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,' says the Lord Almighty (Malachi, 3).

Then Jesus introduced into our wayward human history God's unalloyed perspective on things--even though (as in the case of slavery) it takes hundreds, even thousands of years for us to actually begin to conform to that. We are all still very far from living according to the Sermon on the Mount.

Anonymous said...

Well, i do like some of what St Francis said and did but i doubt i could go as far as he did , i don's think the Pope's could either, with all the riches they have..I can't say i remember alot though..Somtimes you read something nice then get confused and upset when you read something bad written or said by the same person..Here's a nice story:

I was wondering. Are you symbolically married to Christ?

So god can change his mind on any given moral issue even if he was ok with it before? That's good, maybe the money spent on stopping gay marriege can finally go to something else like helping the poor etc instead of using one issue that Jesus himself never even mentioned.

So, did god really kill all those people in the flood then and do other nasty things just to help his "chosen" people?

Why don't you do as is written,even in OT standard? After all it was still the same god If you're gonna make exceptions So, the gay issue can be considered old fashioned and of course barbaric, like stoning people.

Here's the passage where god mentions slaves and did not Paul also say that slaves should obey their masters?

Lev 25: 1,44-46 The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying....As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property.


Sr Anne Flanagan said...

As I said above, the slavery thing took a long time to enter into society, although not quite as long as you'd expect for something that is actually so radical. Paul wrote that slaves should obey their masters, and then he wrote to an actual slave owner (Philemon--the New Testament book by that name is the letter) and suggested that he take back his runaway slave Onesimus and not just let him back into the house, but receive him as a brother. So he didn't expect to change society whole-hog, but he did use his pastoral influence to help individual Christians make decisions that took into consideration the impact of Jesus' life and teachings.

Anyway, as I also wrote above, Catholics do not take the Bible as a kind of technical manual. It is a family history through which, over the course of several thousand years, God gradually made his will known. Even then, we do not accept the idea of individual interpretation of the Scripture, which leads to such aberrations as that fundamentalist group that goes to all the soldier's funerals to proclaim hate messages they think are biblically-based. (Sadly, such behavior gets translated by the media as expressing "Christian" beliefs and values.) Still, their way outside the bounds interpretation shows the need for a bona fide teaching of just what the Bible means in today's world. And that is what the Catholic Church is about.

By the way, the Pope does not have all the wealth some people presume. For one thing, the few art treasures that are there really belong to all people. If they were sold, only the owner would be able to enjoy them. We ordinary Catholics would be dispossessed of our cultural heritage. Plus, something few people think of, caring for Renaissance buildings and art is a real pain. The Knights of Columbus here in the U.S. paid to have St. Peter's restored and cleaned up for the year 2000. The Vatican couldn't afford it. The Vatican buildings (state of the art for 1500) are freezing cold in winter, and sweltering in summer. I worked in one of them and had to bring blankets to the office just to get through the day.

Here is some information on Vatican finances from 2004: " It has an annual operating budget of $260 million, which would not place it on any Top 500 list of major social institutions. To draw a comparison in the non-profit sector, Harvard University has an annual operating budget of a little over $1.3 billion, which means it could run the equivalent of five Vaticans every year and still have pocket change left over. The Holy See’s budget would qualify it as a mid-sized American Catholic college. It’s bigger than Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles (annual budget of $150 million) or Saint Louis University ($174 million), but substantially less than the University of Notre Dame ($500 million)." (

Years ago someone proposed selling St. Peter's Basilica, and Pope Paul VI just looked at him and asked, "Who would buy it?"

Anonymous said...

The LORD spoke to Moses..quite simple really..Direct from god..Now you can pick and chose all the passages which suit if you like(in a cafeteria) but then it doesn't really make sense..not that much does with religion..

"If they were sold, only the owner would be able to enjoy them"

So? All the money made caould go to good causes...As much as i like art and all that..I mean i can apprecaite all the beauty of it i still think if he melted down that solid gold cross he carries and gave the proceeds to charity while talking about capitalism it would make more sense..Ok there are some things that should maybe all the Frescos like Michelangelo..Honestly..i hate trying to be clever because i always don't know that much at all about art in many respects..I just look at something like a painting or building and say
"Nice, very nice or What the.."
I'm ok at sarcasm sometimes though..nothing else.

Oh,but there must have been money spent on fighting the "gay agenda" right so how much would you estimate?

You know what? you can say your church has lasted 2000 yrs as many times as you like but in the future, unless you change some of your ways, you will lose..Not die out completely but lose many christians who these days aren't bothered about it..especially the younger generations...Church attendences are dwinding aren't they?

On a lighter note i heard this a few yrs ago and liked it as a musical piece..I don't know if you will but you only have to listen once i guess..Don't worry, it ain't rude or nothing.

Simon-The Simple One.

Anonymous said...

Oh, here where i live we've heard about those westboro baptists too..I live in the UK but wasn't born here.Dunno if i mentioned it before.

So, are you symbolically married or is that not true?

And i still dont fully understand who goes to hell exaactly if i don't believe i Christ but know about HIM.

Simon-got the flu god created but am recovering:)

Anonymous said...

Here's a site i found that shows the ammounts spent during a certain period by the Catholic church and others.

This part is interesting:

Given this history, it’s no surprise that the Catholic Church is once again dumping a stunning amount of money into efforts that prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from marrying. Dr. Sharon Groves directs the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion & Faith program. Dr. Groves says that the Church hierarchy’s heavy investments in anti-equality measures shouldn’t be seen as reflecting the values of lay Catholics.

“The majority of Catholics support equality for their LGBT sisters and brothers, and they do so precisely because their faith compels them to extend the same love and dignity to others with which they themselves wish to be treated. That is the Golden Rule that guides not just those in the Catholic faith, but so many people across religions. The Church hierarchy should be reflecting the values that the laity holds – instead they are supporting a discriminatory agenda that does not speak to the fundamental underpinnings of the Catholic faith.”


Sr Anne Flanagan said...

This is not a referendum on individual human equality or on the respect due each and every human person. The legislation being proposed here in Illinois pretends that each and every human couple is not just equal in dignity, but identical in every respect, and that is simply untrue.

If you read the Cardinal's letter you see that his concern is with the redefinition of a basic social structure, a redefinition that gives preference to the emotional needs and desires of adults and now completely ignores the whole reason governments ever got in the business of regulating marriage: children. Only the marital union of a man and a woman can bring a child into existence without anybody else's help or interference. The government has a clear interest in promoting the welfare of children, if that government is going to have a society at all in the future. And since things like close blood relations or incompatible blood type have a direct impact on offspring, the government sets limits to who can marry whom.

Obviously, with gay couples, this is not an issue. There are those who will make the obvious comment that gay couples can adopt children or make use of sperm donors or surrogates to "create" children that are even biologically related to one of the parties. All that does is make sure that children are deprived of their rights: their right to come into existence in the very intimate love of their natural parents without any third party intrusion, and their right to know and be raised by their own father and mother (unless this is impossible because of death, or harmful because of abuse--both exceptional circumstances that only underline how important the norm is).

There are any number of peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that children do best when they have a father and a mother: one of each, not two generic parents, or maybe three. Children have a right to know their parents, and now that sperm donor children are coming of age, they are vocal in expressing that right to know "who they are," even while they suffer the anxiety of hurting the feelings of the mother/s who raised them. (2010 study of almost 500 young adult donor "kids" also found that they are more troubled and prone to depression than their peers.)

Same-sex adoptions and sperm-donor children and surrogate mothers are all part of our society now. Just more forms of institutionalized injustice.

Cardinal George (and other voices, Catholic and non-Catholic) also points out that the law being proposed in Illinois will create a situation in which people will be prosecuted for acting on their beliefs. Catholic organizations like the "Knights of Columbus" could be brought to court for not renting their halls for "all" weddings; Catholic parents could have their parental rights terminated if they teach their children that marriage between a man and a woman is in any way special. These are not worst-case imaginary scenarios. Things like this have already happened in other states, as well as in Canada (where a bishop had to go to court over something he wrote in his diocesan paper) and England, where people have lost jobs for making their opinions known--in private.

As far as the article you quote, yes, there are innumerable Catholics who are so conformed to the spirit of the age that all of the above points are lost on them. That really doesn't prove anything.

Anonymous said...

Wow,just wow!!your so-called love only extends as far as your prejudice and callous words that i simply can't believe i'm reading.

You don't make the rules and all that money you waste is going to go down the drain eventually..Nature itself doesn't not abide by every rule you define either..Not everything is defined by how many or much you pro-create..I have 2 brothers now out of the 4 of us with children outside of marriage,,you cannot dictate to them whether or not thay want to marry..I also have a sister with 2 kids outside of marriage...All are doing fine.

There are probably many children who are very happy with same sex parents..You cannot be so nasty and say there arent when there are so many marriages going wrong with hetro couples..

Divorce amongst christians and abotion is as i said before..If you think Abortion is murder are you willing to send all those women to prison and death row?

Also, your bible has some really nasty stuff it in it that is not censored and the underlying fact that most christians believe you go to hell for not beleiving..I call that pretty horrible and you picking and choosing passages that suit you does not make a difference either...You mentioned the bad stuff but then diverted it to picking and choosing.

No ,their points are not lost to them what wil be lost is your arrogant attitude which will eventially lose you more followers...In the end all there will be are so called lapsed catholics belivinbg in a god but turning away from your silly notions...It actually proves they are far more loving and respectul thamn you and your bishops will ever be.

It also,in the end boils down to one saying it doesnt prove anything is pretty ironic seeing that you acan't prove your god is here or even that Jesus was a historical figure..Yes, i've been reading some comments on places like the James Randi website and looking at vids..Al you really have about Jesus are the 4 gospels, and i think some of those don't match up wirh one another anyway.

All you have is faith, which,as you know does not mean proof...try taking that to a court of law.


Sr Anne Flanagan said...

True, I pulled no punches, but you didn't respond to any of the points I made, either. Instead, you raise other issues which you have already raised here many times before. That tells me that this conversation has exhausted itself.

I am sure there will be many other things we can discuss in future posts!

Anonymous said...

"Same-sex adoptions and sperm-donor children and surrogate mothers are all part of our society now. Just more forms of institutionalized injustice. "

institutionalized injustice is the catholic church itself..The sooner your "old guard" leave this world, As you and i will in time, then the better it will be for society..You are a dying breed who's love only extends to those who
"Follow your rules" and also...You only love,if it is love, to favour your god and to be "rewarded" by him with your mythical afterlife..You need a god to tell you what compassion is and that same god is an evil so-and so who kills in favour of those he chooses and takes out men women and children if need be..To save one man like Jesus but ignore those innocents is truly HORRIFIC!

Contraception is another thing too..If it weren't for it you'd bee seeing more and more unwanted children, even those born into your ever so sacred marriage rules.

You'd rather see see unwanted kids roaming the streets or ones dying because a poor family can't afford them? You do realise dont you that mistakes happen within as well as outside of marriage..People have desires on both counts and sometimes mistakes happen..Next time you should inform your god nbot to put those desires in the act that actually prooduces life.

Is the Vatican gonna open up its rooms for those children?, i dount it. It is willing to spend money on non issues than see children actually being saved from hunger etc.

Your saviour said that to be perfect you must give up everything like possessions so in that case let the Vatican start by melting down all that gold and live upto its hloowed "Principles".
I'd like to see your pop's walk arounf barefooot and with nothing like St Francis..At least he did some things right in one sense.

If you don't want to publish this its up to you but as long as you read i don't really care.


Anonymous said...

Actually, you never answered them so i repeated them. And i did respond, with understanding of those people and the view that many of them would look after those children just as well if not better.

I ask again..Are you willing to send all those thousands of women who have abortions every year to prison and death row?

Anonymous said...

It's your blog you make the decision to end it..It still doesn't make any difference to the future, which doesn't seem to be to bright for your church.

Anonymous said...

Just thought i'd add. Malta only just passed some kind of a divorce bill( in favour of) last year. I don't follow their news over there much even though i was born there, but it made some headlines round the world.


The Storyteller said...

Dear Sister Anne,

Thank you.

If I may be so bold, this poet recently reflected on this topic and wrote, as a re-vert Catholic Christian, from the heart to the heart, and was published.

Janine McDonald: Respect dissenters in gay marriage debate - The State Journal-Register

Having walked on both sides of the fence, I have decided to rest in the grass of Mother Church.

Although I did not "need my Bishop's letter", I am ever so grateful for the Rock of his faith.

Although I believe in Holy Matrimony, I feel it is not my place to get in the way of civil-partnerships - I recognize we are all on our own journeys...and this American must grant that freedom...

But please dear brothers and sisters, within the walls of The Church, do not make common marriage; if you are confirmed in this faith, then one is obligated to grow in it, to see the Truth of the Union under the eyes of God, and honor it.

On October 7, 2012, the Readings for Mass penetrated my being...and the quiet whisper within shed light on this issue - coveting.

Since that day, I have been pondering...and have become grounded in The Word Made Flesh, The Shepherd who grew to speak and teach: Mark 10:6-9

How can I deny the Gift of His Wisdom?

With love,
Your sister in Christ...