instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, July 03, 2015

Not really a red meat kind of guy, my bishop

"Defiant" isn't a word I usually associate with the USCCB, but Archbishop Kurtz's statement on Obergefell v. Hodges has a touch of firebrand in it:
Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare.... Obergefell v. Hodges ...will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. ...profoundly immoral and unjust....a tragic error....
Not so Cardinal Wuerl's statement. The Cardinal is a teacher, a catechist, who treats the Supreme Court decision as a settled fact, more a circumstance in which teaching occurs than a subject of teaching in itself:
The law of the land affirms that “marriage” in civil law may now include two persons of the same sex. While this is not the Church’s understanding of marriage, it is a definition confirmed by the Court....
These reflections come with the hope that we try clearly to respect the law of the land and its implications and at the same time we are equally clear on our understanding of marriage and what it means in the light of the Gospel.
On the day the decision was announced, I found Archbishop Kurtz's words much more to my liking. When the common good takes a hit like that and the majority cheers, it's time for good old fashioned bold speech, some clarifying parrhesia and confident encouragement from our bishops. Compared to some red-blooded episcopal responses, Cardinal Wuerl's phlegmatic take comes off as anemic, maybe even submissive.

As we get on with things, though, Cardinal Wuerl's even tone doesn't seem so out of place. If his statement doesn't buoy us up for the fight, it does give guidance for the conversations we might have, when people are open to at least hearing the opinions or beliefs of others. If he is talking more to his flock than to the media, then his repeated point about respecting those who do not accept Church teaching, while leaving out anything about deploring the Supreme Court decision, makes sense. People who already deplore the decision don't need to be told to deplore it, but they do need to respond in a manner that bears witness to Christ.

I might also point out that the Archdiocese of Washington issued a separate press release, which echoes the Cardinal's blog post but, leaving out the counsel to the faithful, reads as a clear and firm statement of faith -- and history and nature too:
Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a truth that predates courts and constitutions. This understanding transcends cultures, religions and all time – it is the foundation of civilization. More than just a bond between people who love and are committed to each other, marriage is also about creating and nurturing the next generation – something that requires both a man and a woman with their distinctive and complementary gifts. This is the reason that civil governments have given marriage special recognition throughout all of human history. Men and women are not interchangeable. Marriage is not ours to define.  History, nature and revelation all profess these truths.
Both the Cardinal's blog post and the Archdiocese's press release bring up the risk of conflict between Church teaching and civil law. I know Cardinal Wuerl has a reputation in some circles for being something of a squish, but when push comes to shove and actual conflict with civil authority arises, he stands firm in maintaining Catholic identity and teaching Catholic faith. He won't deny Communion to Nancy Pelosi, but he smacks her down as soon as she claims her nonsense is consistent with Catholic teaching. He is criticized because "he neglects to mention what the sin is" that we are supposed to hate while loving the sinner, but years ago he shut down archdiocesan foster care and adoption services rather than conform to the District of Columbia's SSM law. He doesn't fight when, where, and how a lot of people want him to, but he does fight.