Cardinal Wuerl voices support for GWU chaplain Father Shaffer

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl addresses young people as he celebrates Mass during a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 25, 2013. (CNS photo/Rebecca E. Drobis)

Last Sunday Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. concelebrated Mass with the embattled chaplain of the George Washington University Newman Center, Father Greg Shaffer. During his homily at the 7:30 student Mass at St. Stephen Martyr Parish, Cardinal Wuerl voiced his support of Father Shaffer, who has come under fire recently for counseling gay students to remain celibate and for calling homosexuality immoral.

From the cardinal’s homily:

The Church’s long history recounts many examples of efforts to silence her teaching.  Pope Francis is the 266th Pope.  Nearly all the first 60 Popes were put to death for the faith – by those in political power who disagreed with Jesus, his Gospel, and therefore his Church’s shepherds.

We have seen this over and over again, in various forms of narrow-minded discrimination and blind bigotry. …

The idea that the pastor of a parish today or the chaplain of a religious community and campus ministry today should simply be silenced because he faithfully announces the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that he should not be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture, even in a place that is dedicated to the free and diverse expression of ideas – may seem somewhat radical today, but you have to remember there have always been those who try to force their totalitarian views on all of us. …

I want to make something very, very clear.  Our response must be the response of Jesus Christ, the response of his Church, a response rooted in love. When we are attacked, there will always be the temptation to respond in kind. But we must respond out of who we are. We are followers of Jesus Christ.

But we also need to remember that we all know people – homosexual and heterosexual alike – who may disagree with particular teachings of the Church, but do not express that disagreement by demanding that the Church and her ministers be silenced. …

We must be inclusive, we must recognize the bonds of mutual charity and we must continue to reach out to all of those brothers and sisters who come to Mass to be with us.  We must be allowed to do so freely.

The Catholic Church welcomes everyone and tries to walk with them on life’s journey while at the same time upholding a moral law by which we are all obliged to live.

We have so much more to offer and so does America.  There should be tolerance and respect among all people.  There has to be room enough in America in a society as large, as free and pluralistic as ours to make space for all of us.

Dear brothers and sisters, never be ashamed of Christ, his Gospel, his Truth – or your identity as Jesus’ disciples.  Always be proud of who you are.

Thank you for standing up for the freedom to speak our faith and thank you for standing up for your chaplain.

God bless him and all of you.

In addition to Cardinal Wuerl’s public support of Father Shaffer, an editorial backing the chaplain was published in the Archdiocese of Washington’s newspaper, the Catholic Standard. From that editorial:

The radical intolerance of this effort to dictate what a particular religious group may and may not teach – and how students of a particular denomination may practice their faith – should concern all of us. Any university worth the name should not engage in this style of thought control. Today, we face an increasingly aggressive movement in our culture which seeks to marginalize people of faith and diminish the role of religion in society. This has become increasingly true for the Catholic Church, in particular, including individual Catholics who strive to live and express their faith in the public square.

It should never be acceptable – and certainly not at a university – to silence opposing views. The spurious claim that people who voice the Church’s teachings on moral truth and the nature of the human person engage in hate speech should never be used as justification for attempts to silence and exclude from public life religious institutions and people of faith. Sadly, the GW case is only the latest example of this phenomenon. This type of censorship of religious ministers and their beliefs and teachings is contrary to the principles of fundamental liberty that our nation has historically valued and for which George Washington himself fought. 

Read the whole editorial here.

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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.