Catholic leadership often creates a level of discomfort among those of us who believe that today’s culture wars require saints and martyrs rather than politicians masquerading as bishops and priests.
Most recently a couple of news items illustrate my point quite vividly.
First, there’s the Marathon Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is on trial for the April 2013 bombing that killed three and injured more than 200 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As the jurors grapple with the sentencing question, the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts have issued a joint statement opposing the use of the death penalty in this case. In this statement, they cite Pope Francis: “Today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime of the condemned. It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person that contradicts God’s plan for man and society and His merciful justice, and it impedes fulfilling the just end of the punishments. It does not do justice to the victims, but foments vengeance.”
Contrary to the pope’s view on capital punishment, Catholic teaching on the death penalty does not raise the use of capital punishment to the level of an intrinsic evil. However, Catholic teaching does define every act of procured abortion as intrinsically evil. So we wonder why the Massachusetts Catholic bishops have chosen to defend a terrorist’s right to life while saying little about the fact that, every 20 seconds in this nation, an innocent baby is aborted.
Then there’s the case of the Catholic theology teacher at Immaculata High School in New Jersey whose Facebook post condemning same-sex marriage garnered her national attention and a not-so-pleasant response from her bishop. Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski told the press that the teacher in question, Patricia Jannuzzi, had been put on administrative leave following outrage about her post from the homosexual community and certain Catholics. In response, we said in a prepared statement, “It is disingenuous of the bishop to publicly cite the Church’s call for acceptance of the sinful individual without, at the same time, reminding the sinner of the Church’s expectation in his or her life. Such an omission will, and has, caused confusion on the true Catholic teaching regarding the homosexual lifestyle.”
Yet the bishop has persisted in catering to the public rather than Catholic teaching.
With all due respect to the office of bishop, we wonder why a Catholic bishop would suggest that a moral theology teacher’s comments defending Catholic teaching on the practice of homosexuality “were disturbing and do not reflect the Church’s teachings of acceptance.” We were not aware that the Catholic Church had an official teaching on the acceptance of sin, Your Excellency. Apparently we missed that chapter in whatever text it is you are using as the basis of your comment.
While we do not know the fate of Patricia Jannuzzi regarding her future employment or ultimate termination, we do see a thread that weaves its way through stories like those where we find Catholic shepherds defending convicted murderers and defaming faithful Catholic teachers. It is thread of distortion, deception, and political posturing.
We must ask the obvious then. Why are certain Catholic bishops so very unfamiliar with the natural law and why do they act in ways that defy it? Is it painfully difficult to define sin as an offense against God or is the popular practice to dance around the truth and misguide souls in ways that can lead to hell?
Let us reflect upon what St. Thomas Aquinas taught about the natural law: “The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.”
We hope and pray that Catholic bishops, in particular those noted here, will take a moment to familiarize themselves with the natural law before making further public proclamations that confuse, dishearten, and alienate the faithful.
Defending truth and life is hard enough! We would really prefer not to have to battle Catholic bishops too!
Christ admonishes us: “You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). Please join me in praying for these bishops and in writing a kind letter to each urging them to stand firm, as Christ encourages us all to do.
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap.
Archbishop, Archdiocese of Boston
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184
Most Reverend Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.
Bishop, Diocese of Fall River
47 Underwood Street, P.O. Box 2577
Fall River, MA 02722
Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski
Bishop, Diocese of Springfield
PO Box 1730
Springfield, MA 01102
Most Reverend Robert J. McManus
Bishop, Diocese of Worcester
One Cathedral Square
Providence, Rhode Island 02903
Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski
Bishop, Diocese of Metuchen
146 Metlars Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08854