Today on Facebook, I saw a link posted by someone with whom I'm linked as a friend. It was to a Commonweal blog about a situation in an Austrian parish. The parish had a council election. The parishioners made the biggest vote getter the youngest nominee, who happens to be a man living with his lover, another man.
According to the translator's note accompanying Rorate Coeli's post on this:
[C]andidates for parish councils in the Archdiocese of Vienna can be nominated by any Catholic before the election. The nominations are supposed to enclose a signed statement by the candidates in which they affirm that they fulfill the conditions for the office (including crucially the condition that they adhere to the faith and discipline of the Church - “sich zur Glaubenslehre und Ordnung der Kirche bekennen”). At the election voters mark as many names on the candidate list as there are places to be taken in the council; the candidates with the most votes are elected. In Stützenhofen [the parish in question] the candidates neglected to sign statements affirming that they fulfilled the conditions for election. [Note: This is what was later referred to by the relevant authorities as mere “electoral irregularities.”]The pastor, Fr. Gerhard Swierzek, informed this gentleman that given his being a manifest public sinner, he could not take office. The decision was appealed to the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, His Eminence Christoph Schönborn. After meeting with the man in question and his partner, he and the bishops' council for the archdiocese met and overturned Fr. Swierzek's decision.
Now, I join others and do not, will not hesitate for one second -- not even a fraction thereof -- to laud the fact that the Cardinal took the time to meet with these people and not simply judge them based on their self-identified status. After all, as St. Augustine taught, right? We're to “hate the sin, love the sinner.” In that order. That doesn't mean, however, that loving the sinner means ignoring the sin.
Why is it then, that there was no mention of the sin and that this is a very public sin, and that Cardinal Schönborn grossly failed in his duties as a teacher in this respect?
This gentleman is openly living in contradiction to the Church's teachings. His Eminence--the editor of the Catechism who should know better--met “with both the man and his partner,” and still overturned the pastor's decision.
First, a passing, possibly snide comment: Were it, say, Cardinal Dolan who met with a cohabiting lesbian woman -- let's say she was a former religious, just to make it a really juicy news story -- whose pastor had upheld her overwhelming election to a council or board, and His Eminence had overturned the pastor's decision -- or if Cardinal Schoenborn had upheld the pastor's decision even after meeting with the person in question. We'd have a much different reaction here, wouldn't we? Or am I making too far of a judgment or assumption? If I am, please forgive me.
More importantly, however, there isn't even a question here. This man is living in public sin. That, absent every other consideration, disqualified him, and the cardinal should have upheld that.
This is not about homosexuality and what the Catechism teaches (and what the Church has always taught) about the objectively sinful nature of homogenital acts per se.
After all, sin is sin is sin is sin is sin. We are all sinners. If someone misbehaves in public, that is a manifest public sin. The difference is that people who do jerky things like this aren't expected to shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh, well. God made me this way. I'm under no obligation to change my behavior(s).” They're expected to get it together, go to confession, seek professional help if needed, do what they can to stay in a state of grace and grow in perfection, and become saints.
That hasn't happened here. This man and his partner aren't separating. There was no indication in the piece that they were living chastely with one another.
Indeed, I followed the links back, and here is what I found from the gentleman (scroll down to the bottom):
In an interview Herr Stangl said “I feel committed to the teachings of the Church. But the demand to live chastely seems kind of unrealistic to me (Forderungen nach Keuschheit zu stellen, ist aber relativ fern von der Lebensrealität). How many people really live chastely?”It, therefore, begs the question:
- Would we let a heterosexual cohabitting couple or a partner thereto serve in this way?
- Would we let a divorced person who remarried without benefit of an annulment do so?
- Should we let a woman who has left her husband and the children she bore with him for another man or woman serve in a position of public trust in the Church, even though that person would give grave scandal?
- What about someone who disagreed that the Eucharist becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity after the consecration? Or on infant baptism, Mary's Assumption, the efficacy of the sacraments, etc.?
- What about any number of other public peccadilloes that aren't necessarily crimes but manifestly, completely, utterly opposed to Church teaching, which comes to us, as all the Church Fathers attest, “from the apostles”?
Does Matthew 16:16-20 or 18:18 mean nothing anymore? Is to read the text as it appears on the page only a foolish sop sold to gullible, unenlightened, non-theologians who don't understand the finer points of the historical critical method and the much bandied about “recent scholarship”?
No, not at all. As Bl. John XXIII teaches, the Church is Mater et Magistra. The popes are to be obeyed in their teaching(s). Therefore, with the Church, the 4th Commandment applies. When our views are discordant with hers, it is our views that more likely come up short, not the other way around.
Church teaching and canon law (neither of which did the Cardinal cite, I notice) are clear here, and yet, phhhfffffffft. Who cares? After all, “Let's feel committed to the teachings of the Church, but not actually do anything about them, because I judge them to be kind of unrealistic to me. After all, how many people really live them, especially when they're just so gol darned hard?”
Yeah, who cares about that whole road is wide, gate is narrow thing, right?
The issue here is Matthew 23:1-3. His Eminence has negated 2,000 years of magisterial teaching on the obligations of a pastor toward public sinners. Thus, he sits on the seat of Moses, following the traditions of men. Those under his pastoral care must obey him, but this is really shocking.
Again, I was delighted to know the Cardinal, may God bless him, took the time to talk with these people. However, I am deeply saddened and scandalized and a little depressed by the Catechism editor's treatment of Church teaching, never mind his ignoring what canon law says about those who are manifest public sinners.
I guess those teachings have become like those wax encased bones we see in churches in Rome and elsewhere: relics of the past. Well, if it's just a symbol (pace Flannery O'Connor), the hell with it.
Thankfully, the Pope doesn't take this approach, nor do all but a few and shrinking bishops in the world. Thus, things are getting better in this way. However, how long, O Lord? How long? And how many souls lost along the way?
Please pray for Fr. Swierzek.