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Salt and Light, or Confusion and Obscuration?

Fr. Thomas Rosica’s recent commentary on Fr. James Martin’s book seems to imply that the Church’s doctrine that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” actually misses the mark and doesn’t reflect reality.

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant to the Vatican press office and CEO of Canada's Salt and Light Media Foundation, talks with Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago as they leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 14, 2015. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

As Scripture reminds us, we use both salt and light to enhance or even amplify goodness. A meal is seasoned with salt to bring out the flavor of something else. We light up a room to reveal its contents and to avoid stumbling around in the dark.

I’m sure this is why Salt and Light Media took its name. How unfortunate, then, to encounter a July 15 commentary, titled, “Is It Possible to Build Bridges Today,” from Salt and Light Media’s CEO, Fr. Thomas M. Rosica, CSB, that at least appears to do the exact opposite by suppressing a crucial and fundamental truth of our Catholic faith and of the human person. Rosica offers his thoughts on the relationship between the Catholic Church and the “LGBT community”. In the process, he appears to unintentionally reveal the core problem in the Church today regarding homosexuality, same-sex “marriage”, and related issues, such as the transgender phenomenon. As I read it, Rosica’s commentary manifests an “overly benign interpretation” of the homosexual condition itself.

Keep in mind the teaching of the Church as expressed in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 document “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”:

In the discussion which followed the publication of [the “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics” of December 29, 1975], however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

In addition to warning against an “overly benign” view of the homosexual inclination, the CDF document also warned the faithful against what could be called an overly benign view of the “LGBT community” itself:

Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it. These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.

The Church’s ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church’s position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.

The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes, attempts to give the impression that it represents all homosexual persons who are Catholics. As a matter of fact, its membership is by and large restricted to those who either ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it. It brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour. One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.

This is necessary background for considering Rosica’s commentary. It is, effectively, the “salt and light” we really need to add in order get the full flavor, the full illumination, of the problem inherent in his reflection.

The reflection begins with Rosica’s brief account of a parish mission he led years ago at Most Holy Redeemer parish, in the heart of San Francisco’s “Castro” district, where the “majority of parishioners” were, in Rosica’s words, “homosexual and HIV-positive.” He describes their vibrant parish community of elderly people and “practicing gay Catholics.” While one can and should assume that Rosica means to say they were “gay practicing Catholics,” it is also safe to assume that the parish had indeed brought “together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behavior.” Why assume that? Because it is still the case today at Most Holy Redeemer Parish; it is still known as an “LGBT-affirming” community comprising a high percentage of members who “ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it.”

To Rosica’s credit—and theirs—he does say this of his encounter with many parishioners:

Many of the gay persons who I met that week revealed a deep spirituality and faith. And most interesting of all, the people I met asked that we, as ministers of the Church, be people of compassion and understanding, and not be afraid to teach the message of the Gospel and the Church with gentleness and clarity even in the midst of ambiguity of lifestyle, devastation, despair and hostility.

Later, however, Rosica says something utterly stunning:

Throughout my 31 years of priestly ministry, having ministered to many persons who are L.G.B.T., gay, or all the others words we have used to describe their conditions: persons of same-sex attraction, homosexual, intrinsically disordered persons….

The charitable assumption here is that there are typos above. “Persons of same-sex attraction”? Never heard the term before. Persons with same-sex attraction, sure. Then the whopper: “intrinsically disordered persons”?

I thought Rosica said these are the words “we have used”—does he mean “we the Church”?—to describe conditions. Not persons. Why the shift?

As I interpret this, it’s probably not an error at all, but a necessary “pivot” for what Rosica wants to say next:

At the last Synod of Bishops on the Family, I was inside the Synod and watched how some courageous bishops and Cardinals of the Church challenged their brother bishops and Synod delegates to be attentive to our language in speaking about homosexual persons. At that historic 2015 Synod, Bishops spoke about homosexuality. The very fact that this topic was being discussed so openly is a change from previous synodal discussions. I can honestly say that the Synod Fathers were genuinely trying to find a way to recognize those who live a homosexual lifestyle, but were in no way comparing such a union to Christian marriage between a man and a woman. I am especially grateful to New Zealand Cardinal John Dew who made a fervent plea to examine our ecclesial language of “intrinsically disordered” to describe homosexual persons. Such vocabulary does not invite people into dialogue nor does it build bridges.

Crucially, Rosica makes the same breathtaking conflation here as he did before: Church language never—as in never, ever, ever—describes homosexual persons as “intrinsically disordered”. Never.

Either Rosica doesn’t really know this, or he knows it and is, in spite of his knowledge, accidentally or deliberately conflating person with either inclination (objectively disordered inclination) or act (intrinsically disordered acts).

Rosica then adds yet another layer of confusion with this next (and quite impenetrable) statement:

No matter how well-intentioned scholastic theology tries to describe the human condition, some words miss the mark and end up doing more harm than good. Reality is more important than lofty theological or philosophical ideas.

I must need an actual degree in theology or philosophy to “get” that. Maybe you, dear readers, can help. I always thought that Catholics were to trust that the words of theology that end up in doctrine are words that actually do hit the mark and are there for our good. Further, I always thought that the theological and philosophical ideas that undergird our doctrine are based on  reality. As the Catechism states: “Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith” (par 89).

What Rosica seems to be implying that the Church’s doctrine that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” actually misses the mark and doesn’t reflect reality. If there is another way to read it, I’m all ears.

But how could that be, since everyone—including Rosica, surely—already knows that the Church teaches us not to have an “overly benign” interpretation of the homosexual condition, and most definitely, that we should never go so far as to call this condition “neutral, or even good”? What have I missed?

In this particular case, we have the opposite of what “salt and light” are really supposed to do. Whether intended or unintended, here we have a suppression of something good—an obscuring of the Church’s real and authentic teaching on the human person and the homosexual inclination.

However, being in the realm of public discourse means that Rosica now has a golden opportunity to correct any unintended confusion that may have arisen from his reflection.

Let’s hope he offers an unequivocal clarification. Now, that would be a real “salt-and-light” moment of truth.

About Jim Russell 6 Articles

Jim Russell writes on topics of marriage, family, and sexuality from a Catholic perspective.

15 Comments

  1. The push is on…Father James Martin and his buddies Spadaro and Rosica, are out to change the words of the Catechism. So creepy that Rosica considers Bishop John Dew to be “courageous” simply because he put forth a proposal at the synod. What was courageous about that? No, we are talking about people who want to change that wording, and they think they have the Pope who can do it. The difficulty is that the current Catechism speaks the truth about homosexuality, and it does it clearly and with great gentleness. Martin and his friends hate clarity. Any inclination which causes people to have a special series of health warnings on the CDC website is, yes, disordered. Essentially, they want the wording changed because LGBT activists do not like it. Always remember, Father Martin wrote an article in America Magazine saying that God wanted many homosexuals in the priesthood at this time, because they have “special gifts”. They are not fooling anyone. We have seen increasing homosexual activity in the Vatican, now a drug fueled orgy has taken place and highly placed priests arrested. The homosexual lobby is in the ascendance, and they are now making their moves.

    • I know that it isn’t the thrust of Deacon Jim Russell’s excellent article, but Father Rosica also took several pot-shots at Archbishop Charles Chaput and others (including, I assume, Father Gerald Murray, Eduardo Echevarria, and Father Paul Mankowski, SJ) who have written intelligent, articulate, truth-filled critiques of Father Martin’s “modest proposal.”

      O tempora, o mores, indeed….. (all sarcasm intended)

  2. Where are deacons when we need them? Enter Rev Jim Russell. Deacon Jim has studied the issue of homosexuality and addresses it intelligently and correctly. It’s not a passing mindless phase as some think. It’s deepening worsening virulent spiritual disease suffocating purity and a grievous affront to the order of Nature. Nature ordained by no one other but God. Fr Rosica is an old hand. A kind of faulty shooting apologist for gaiety cowboy straight out of Broke Back Mountain. Sentimental. Irrational. As if the divinely instituted natural order is subject to the aberrant rumination of certain men. Some would argue what proof? Evidence? If we abandon the natural order we dismiss order. The very basis of morality. And truth. Dismiss it and chaos reigns.

  3. Father Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant to the **Vatican** press office presents to the world a “commentary on Fr. James Martin’s book” that “seems to imply that the Church’s doctrine that the homosexual inclination is ‘objectively disordered’ actually misses the mark and doesn’t reflect reality.” Once again it is Bergoglio’s **Vatican** that is, at best, confusing Catholics. And at worst, teaching heresy.

    Schism, it seems to me, is never the answer to disputes within the Church. I believe this because of the fervent prayer of Jesus:

    “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

    The reason the world does not yet believe in Jesus seems to be due to Christian disunity. Satan has successfully used a divide-and-conquer strategy to dismember Christ’s earthly Body. We definitely do not want another schism, which brings me to my question for any orthodox Catholic scholar who cares to answer it:

    What do we do if the Vatican itself has clearly become schismatic, its rejection of teachings the Holy Spirit has preserved in the Church for two-thousand years rupturing ecclesiastical union and unity?

    • Harry the Pontiff has to be proved a heretic to be held morally responsible for schism. If it can be proved some hold he excommunicates himself from the Body of Christ. The difficulty is proving it. He must be adamant and consistent. To date the Pontiff hasn’t provided that kind of evidence. In my opinion. At present there’s a conference in Paris titled Deposing the Pope: Theological Premises, Canonical Models, Constitutional Challenge. “The conference comes three months after Cardinal Raymond Burke gave an interview in which he explained that if a pope were to ‘formally profess heresy he would cease, by that act, to be the Pope.’ Burke said in the December 2016 interview that there is a process within the Church for dealing with such a situation, adding his hope that ‘we won’t be witnessing that at any time soon'” (Lifesite). Canon lawyer Edward Peter’s agrees along the same lines.

      • Fr. Peter,

        Thank you, my friend, for your thoughtful response. It won’t surprise you that I still have a few comments to make. ;o)

        Bergoglio’s inner circle of advisors realize that he can’t officially, adamantly and consistently teach blatant heterodoxy. But as you know there are dioceses where heterodoxy is already scandalously affecting praxis, and Amoris Laetitia, misinterpreted according to the recently deposed Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Müller, is being incorrectly used to justify this abuse. Bergoglio remains silent in regards to all this. It is as though the slow spreading of such abuse is what was intended.

        As more and more dioceses let heterodoxy affect praxis, and the Vatican continues to remain silent, what we have is a de facto schism, where Catholics notice that restrictions on being allowed to receive communion vary from one diocese to another. Geographic location becomes one of the things they consider in determining what is seriously sinful and what isn’t, which is of course, absurd, the result of the destruction of universality in the essentials, which is what makes the Church “Catholic”.

        In the worst case this goes on for so long, and becomes so ordinary, that the departure from traditional belief and praxis that proponents of the heterodox side of “elephant in the living room” schism, the one that everybody agreed to pretend wasn’t there, defend the continuation of the abuses by arguing that desuetude has removed the binding force of “anachronistic” teachings prohibiting what it is that they allow.

        So we have the destruction of Catholicism without Bergoglio (or a pope elected by a College of Cardinals stacked by him) ever resorting to the “adamant and consistent” teaching of heterodoxy. I don’t think the Holy Spirit is going to let the Church be destroyed, but I think the Spirit expects us to do more than consider what our response would be to “adamant and consistent” official teaching of heterodoxy that will never happen.

        Whatever the appropriate response is, I am convinced it isn’t official schism. We are already in the midst of an unacknowledged schism anyway. If the schism is eventually publicly acknowledged, there will be massive confusion among Catholics, many of whom will ignorantly go with the heterodox side of it. On the other hand, if the current de facto schism is never acknowledged and dealt with, and the heterodox side of it is allowed to continue to grow, it seems likely to me that it will end up as I have described above.

        I don’t want to see official schism that amounts to more dismembering of Christ’s earthly Body. I don’t want to see unacknowledged schism lead to the slow but steady destruction of the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit, no doubt, has a perfect plan for us to find our place in. I can’t help but think that we haven’t yet found our place in it, and that our place very likely entails picking up and carrying a heavy cross. Maybe that cross will be accepting the painful consequences of boldly proclaiming the Truth, which sadly, will come from within the Church as well as from without.

        • Harry your assessment delineates what’s occurring. Insofar as cause, “It is as though the slow spreading of such abuse is what was intended” coincides with what I perceive. Cardinal Mueller is a faithful Catholic who appears to have thrown water on the fire by stating AL is wrongly interpreted by heterodox Nat Bishops Conferences. Cardinals Caffarra, Burke believe there are premises in AL that lead to false conclusions. The important issue nonetheless is that the Pontiff hasn’t corrected these Conferences and the reasonable conclusion is he approves if only tacitly by his silence. As you also concur. At times regarding the German Conference the Pontiff responded that each Conference has its own cultural identity and perspectives. That confirms heterodoxy. The Church is instituted in the Credo as one baptism, one faith. A schism is defined as disunion with the Roman Pontiff. That dilemma can be overcome if as Cardinal Burke says an heretical pontiff can be subject to removal. Burke was Apostolic Signatura of the Grand Tribunal so he obviously knows Church law. I agree with you Harry that what you describe correctly as de facto schism will likely continue unless there is intervention. Cardinal Mueller as Prefect had chastised the Germans and was apparently silenced by the Pontiff. Mueller also said, significantly that the office of the Pontiff is to strengthen and defend the faith handed down from the Apostles. The great difficulty facing opponents of this creeping heterodoxy is that it is driven not by definitive binding doctrine. Rather it is driven by non definitive often vague at times incorrect premises contained in AL. It appears that what will transpire unless we have a miraculous turnaround, or divine intervention is the continued dismantling of the larger institution leaving a smaller orthodox Church. This was Benedict XVI’s vision.

    • Vatican II is schismatic. Look how far from the original faith and doctrine it became. The Novus Ordo is practically protestant.

  4. As a rule, I find that when I do not pay attention to Jesuits, Christian Brothers, anyone in the Vatican, clerics and nuns in in Canada, the US, Germany, Ireland, Australia, France, South America, and Spain, etc., I sleep better. Of course there are a multitude of exceptions, like Poland and Africa, and certain bishops in China and Vietnam. Some bishops and priests and nuns scattered to remote outposts in the West.

  5. Fr Rosica says, “Reality is more important than lofty theological or philosophical ideas.” That’s straight out of Pope Francis, “reality is more important than ideas,” and idea he got from an Argentinian dictator. But it doesn’t make sense, because good and bad ideas cause good and bad realities. Auschwitz was the rotten fruit of a very bad idea. The Pope’s maxim has it exactly backwards.

  6. Here’s where this is going:

    Remember how everyone expected the Church to change her teaching on artificial contraception?

    And then, when the Church declared that the teaching was NOT changing, remember how 95%+ of Catholics just ignored it?

    That is what is going to happen re: “gay” “marriage” and homosexual acts.

    Creating confusion — and through confusion, ignorance, and through ignorance, material heresy — is the preparatory phase. This issue will be “taken to the Church” (c.f. Matthew 18) eventually, but ONLY when most Catholics are already convinced that the Church doesn’t REALLY hold that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, and that the Church couldn’t POSSIBLY decide in favor of that “archaic” view.

    When the stage is set, some of Pope Francis’ semi-official mouthpieces (e.g., some handpicked noobs at the CDF) will issue a statement that homosexual acts aren’t disordered, that homosexual attractions are merely “different” in a morally-neutral way, and that civil unions for the purpose of solemnizing a same-sex pair’s unrepentant intention to regularly engage in mutual masturbation is a positive social good, while admittedly lacking the full benefits of the Christian sacrament of marriage.

    Next, the Pope will be asked what he thinks of the aforementioned semi-official pronouncements, and he will say something vague and non-judicially-binding such as, “I am comfortable with the content of the statement.”

    This will be taken to be an ex cathedra teaching by all the Catholics who are already confused by the Martinesque/Rosican doubletalk.

    After this, Catholics who hold the traditional view will be excoriated for being “disobedient to the pope.” Protestations that the teaching was not, in fact, ex cathedra or even Magisterial in nature will be pooh-poohed as “excuses” and “hiding behind technicalities.

    After that, some faithful clergyman will attempt another Dubia, or perhaps accuse the originators of the problematic statement of heresy, in order to trigger an official proceeding. But the pope will resolutely ignore it or duck-and-weave his way around it. He will do everything in his power to NOT exercise the Petrine charism of infallibility. He will likewise resist any attempt to provoke an Ecumenical Council to consider the question, because that, too, would have the same charism.

    And since that charism is precisely what allows the content of the Christian religion to be declared clearly and faithfully, it WON’T be declared clearly and faithfully.

    That’s why every attempt to “take it to the Church” in obedience to Matthew 18 will fail, on this question. The Roman Pontiff will prevent it…and no one else can override him and force the matter to a clear resolution.

    That’s where we’re going, friends.

    “Is the pope a Catholic?”

    That question used to be a punchline. It was funny.

    It wasn’t funny in the days of Alexander VI, or in the days of Honorius. It’s not terribly amusing right now, either, save darkly.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Salt and Light, or Confusion and Obscuration? - Catholic Crossing
  2. Salt and Light, or Confusion and Obscuration? - Catholic Daily
  3. TVESDAY CATHOLICA EDITION | Big Pulpit
  4. Parry and riposte over Jesuit James Martin’s defense of homosexuality | Fr. Z's Blog

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