Saturday, September 27, 2008


N.B. The link to the article in question is the title of the post. Click away.

Catholics of any stripe have complained for many years about how a bishop goes about the task of being bishop. A lot of those comments are based upon perceptions the person possesses that has little if anything to do with reality. Fundamentally, though, I think these expectations are a good thing and it's good that they tend to be set high because the bishop in his diocese serves as a successor to the Apostles and our life link to the Prince of the Apostles, the Pope. As I have served as a priest, I have seen more of the subtlety that parochial ministry requires. There are many times you have to bang a gong and get everyone's attention. More often, the pastor shapes a place slowly, gently applying pressure where a change of direction is needed. When thinking of parish ministry, think of ballroom dancing rather than Rambo. That brings me to the linked story.

Something of a whisper campaign popped up after emerged that the soon to be installed Bishop of Sacramento, Jaime Soto, would be in attendance at this group's conference. The group in question is the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries. They had asked the bishop to address the conference, I believe as the keynote. I don't know what they expected, but what Bishop Soto delivered did great credit to the office and role of Bishop.

He proclaimed to them a message of freedom to be found in Jesus Christ. He professed a profound truth to those who suffer from Same Sex Attraction Disorders and in doing so, he offered to them a new vision of themselves. He asked them to discover their personhood again in a society where sexuality is a part used to describe the whole. Before you think I am down only on the gay agenda, think again. Men and women of heterosexual orientation deal daily and painfully with the wreckage of our culture's so-called Sexual Liberation. The commonality to both groups is this: our culture doesn't really love sex; it just knows how to use it to get something else it wants.

The reason the culture doesn't get sex right is because they don't understand marriage. Even in the merely natural order, they don't marriage right very often. Even as realized as a natural act, marriage is an act of the conscience and a binding decision for the length of life. The sign of that bond? The children. The kids are just accidents or necessary by-products of intercourse. The child is the sign that the parents have given themselves completely to each other and only want to share that gift with each other. All of this is a NATURAL consequence of the vows of marriage, whatever the form they take. By the way, this is what sets us apart from the animals.

Ever thought about animal reproduction? I was pre-med, so I was forced to. Animals reproduce to preserve a species; it's a survival drive. This also explains why the vast majority of animals are not monogamous. Their drive to survival is wired to making the best baby, the most vivable offspring to insure another generation. Humans have this as part of our make-up. After all, we do have bodies and belong, biologically, to the order of animals. (This explains why lust has such power - it's playing a good card, natural instincts, against the card of reason.) What's different here though is monumental.

Humans aren't just preserving the species; they are preserving the essence of humanity. At its root, again from just a natural order, humanity is configured as a society. Beginning with the family, no one can survive or flourish without the intervention of others. We are configured to make this gift of self, and more importantly, to make this gift freely. That's where we are different from the animals. Every day, we make a choice to not engage in mating behaviors even though there are lots of interactions between men and women. The act of sexual intercourse speaks of and to the deepest drives of the human heart, but because those drives are to be regulated by the free and informed choice of the acting person, we recognize that for those drives to attain to their true grandeur (again, even on the natural level) they must be realized within a stable bond, freely made that cannot be broken except by death. If critics of the Church are right that divorce is no big deal then why do people who have never had an experience of religion immediately recognize a powerful presence when divorce happens?

All of this goes back to the Bishop's address. Needless to say, it did not go over well. Some people left and it was greeted with deafening silence. But the Bishop wasn't done. Then he listened to the participants and let them voice their views. That's pretty critical. Even when we disagree with someone, respect for that person does require hearing them out. It doesn't mean that we have to take verbal abuse from others, but that is an easy thing to address. The Bishop went to meet a portion of his flock and to speak a word that would give them. He did it by stealth and revealed so much more. I'll be watching Sacramento with interest.

Before getting to the weekend, and an essay on St. Wenceslaus, I had to share this money quote. After the Bishop's address, the organizer of the event apparently said to some in attendance, "On behalf of the board, I apologize. We had no idea Bishop Soto was going to say what he said." I am not certain who that is meant to indict. Did this person really expect some sort of wholesale embrace of the homosexual lifestyle from the Bishop? Another question comes to mind but it is too disturbing to write.

Remember your Bishop fondly in your prayers. Even if you don't like him, remember him fondly in your prayers. At every Mass, the Pope and the Bishop is named, and while we can't fight their battles for them, we can offer our support through prayer and encouragement. Have a merry weekend.

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