December 7, 2013 – When Did We Become Intolerant?

Oh the weather outside is frightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let us blog, let us blog … OK, this is definitely not as catchy of a tune as the original, but the weather has definitely put the focus on indoor activity.  I hope you are snug in your home and don’t have to venture out too much.  I admire those who have to get out and perform public service for us in these weather extremes – police, firefighters, hospital workers, those who clean off the roads, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks, and others I’m sure I am forgetting.  My hats off to all of you.  And hopefully this 14 inches of snow gives us our quota for the winter!

Anyway, right before Mother Nature decided to go all Siberian on us, we had a Parish Council meeting this past Wednesday.  A good part of the meeting dealt with discussion of questions we were given to answer as part of the input for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to take place at the Vatican next October.  The theme of this gathering is “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”   Dioceses from all over the world were asked to give their input on issues such as the church’s teaching on the nature and purpose of the family, the commonality of couples living together before marriage, the process of nullifying a marriage, the church’s teachings about same sex unions and contraception, encountering Jesus Christ within the family unit, and other things.  As you can imagine, putting all of these issues out for one discussion made for some lively conversation, considering that any one of these issues brings its own complexities.

I’m not going to go into what the church’s specific teachings are concerning these issues.  I think anyone who reads this blog is at least somewhat familiar with them.  I think what came out of the discussion, and what I’m sure will come to the Synod next October, is why the message of us Catholics is either a) not being heard, or b) is misunderstood, or c) is being rejected.  Some of the general comments from our meeting had this sort of tone: “not adequately understood,” “louder messages from outside forces,” “we feel like the oddity,” “media influences are making things the norm,” “families are dying,” “people pick and choose what teachings they want to follow.”  There are many other things I could list, but I think you get the general impression.  It’s almost as if we as Catholics, who by the way are still the second-largest religious following in terms of numbers, have been made to feel that we are in the vast minority on social issues.  We have been made to feel like outsiders, almost like victims of our own culture in a way.

This attitude I think I no more prevalent than in the issue of gay marriage.  Illinois, of course, just became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriages.  And it was a self-proclaimed Catholic who waved the pen and signed it into law.  This past Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan was interviewed on a range of subjects.  One of the questions dealt with the momentum that legalizing gay marriage has now in this country.  Dolan responded that the Roman Catholic Church has been “outmarketed” on the issue of gay marriage and has been “caricatured as being anti-gay.”  Asked why the church is losing the argument on gay marriage, Dolan says it’s a tough battle when forces like Hollywood, politicians and “some opinion-molders” are on the other side.  But he said the gay marriage debate is not over and the church will not give up on it.  This was from a national TV news show, and those who consider the church to be “anti-gay” will use these words as another means of ammunition.  However, another news item which I’m sure got no national play was an article written by Dolan himself about tolerance toward gays, and his disappointment toward a Catholic High School that would not allow a speaker, who was a retired priest, to give a presentation because he was active in a ministry called “Courage,” which assists and supports people with a same-sex attraction to live virtuous lives.

Dolan went on to say the following:  “A pure heart leads to generosity, peace and fulfillment. We are all called to chastity — to keep God’s gift of sexual love within marriage — and for married couples to live in faithful fidelity to one another, all in keeping with God’s plan. Yes, sex is a beautiful gift from God, but we see the effects of the misuse of this gift all around us, don’t we?  The epidemic of pornography, adultery, sky-high divorce rates, human trafficking, treating others as objects and not as people made in the image and likeness of God, all can be traced back to the lack of virtue and purity in our lives.  Which is part of what makes the intolerance of those who seek to drown out the church’s beautiful teaching so alarming. For individuals and groups to bully, to threaten, to protest, when a priest seeks to explain this timeless and timely message to parents who invited him to do so, is a scary precedent. We have gone from the days when the plea from some activists was “all we want is to live our lives in peace” to “you shall not have the right to present your teaching.””

If you would like to read this entire article (and share it), here is the link to it:

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/true-meaning-tolerance-article-1.1528660

So there are many questions that can come out of this discussion, but one really jumps off of the page: When and how did the Catholic Church go from being perceived as virtuous to intolerant.  How did the message get to our culture that the Catholic Church will reject you in a heartbeat?  Pope Francis has done a remarkable job thus far in proclaiming the church as a welcoming place, and hopefully his message will continue to be spread and understood.  Pray that folks will see the true message of Jesus’ love, especially as we approach the joyous and sacred time of Christmas.

Thanks again for reading.  Stay safe this week.  Peace.

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