Good for him. I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya. I don’t think, look, the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, “Bravo.”
–Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Michael Sam’s coming out
I have received a number of frustrated and angry emails about this. Though I think it should be fairly obvious that the Cardinal is not condoning homosexual behavior, His Eminence clearly fell into the trap set for him.
Without a doubt, no matter what any person with same sex attraction actually believes about his or her sexual orientation and the acts that might proceed from that attraction, letting other people know about it involves the risk of public embarrassment and rejection. The answer that society at large presents us is that there is nothing wrong with either the attraction or the acts and that rather than be embarrassed by one’s homosexuality, gay people and the rest of us should celebrate it. Unfortunately the Cardinal’s remarks only reinforce this idea, even if he is otherwise clear that same sex attraction is disordered and homosexual acts sinful.
Courage, the approved Catholic apostolate that provides a spiritual support system to men and women with same-sex attractions in order to help them live chaste lives in accordance with Church teaching calls “coming out” a “trap.” This is so because it is a ritualized commitment to a sinful lifestyle and because it forces those who receive the news to choose between the homosexual person and a commitment to the gospel values.
The whole celebrity coming out ritual being repeated lately with greater frequency takes all this to a new level. In my view, it is a in a large measure passive-aggressive propaganda. I don’t want to imply too much about the intention of individual celebrities, but clearly the media, and in particular, the questioner of Cardinal Dolan, manifest an intention to force us either to celebrate the coming out or make ourselves look like the very reason why many homosexuals out of fear pretend to be straight. That was the whole idea of the question posed to the Cardinal, and it worked. Cardinal Dolan was caught in the trap.
This being said, I don’t think the interests of the Church are served by dragging the Cardinal over broken glass or continuing to hyperventilate about Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” The Church is confronted with issues both of truth and mercy, and her job is neither to capitulate to demands for misplaced compassion, nor simply to make a juridical proclamation of her own beliefs. Her job is to save souls.
Carl Olsen from Catholic World Report just linked to an interview with Bishop Robert Morlino who has attested to the fact that the guidance of Pope Francis has made him more courageous and committed to proclaim the gospel in the face of opposition. This is because he sees in the Holy Father the integration of the forthrightness of the truth proclaimed by Christ as well as God’s mercy. Bishop Morlino calls this standing up for “the whole Christ.”
Concerning the media’s handling of the pope’s refusal to “judge” comment, Carl Olsen points out that the damage is already done: “The dominant media narrative has been set in semi-solid stone, and anything that Francis says or does contrary to said narrative will be ignored.” Unfortunately, this is true, not only for non-Catholic news consumers, but also for Catholic ones, regardless of whether or not they are inclined to accept the Church’s teaching. This is what makes Cardinal Dolan’s remark doubly unfortunate. He not only fell into the trap, he also helped to reinforce the false “Francis” narrative.
But just for the heck of it—not that it will change anything—let me quote Bishop Morlino on the Pope Francis flap:
When Francis was telling us about that, he was talking about a particular bishop whom he had just given a job in the Vatican, and it was found out that in South America where this bishop had been, he had been charged with certain misconduct. So the question came to Francis, “How could you bring him in?” And Francis said, “The man has admitted he did wrong, he is sorry, and he has changed his life through the grace of Jesus Christ. Who am I to judge him now?” That is hardly a statement that somehow justifies homosexual behavior.
Pope Francis is not a theologian. He would never have been chosen by Bl. John Paul II to be the head of the Holy Office, as was Joseph Ratzinger. He is a pastor and speaks like one. He also happens to have been chosen at this time to be the Vicar of Christ. His voice ought to be treated as though it has a prophetic quality because in a particular way that voice is capable of being heard and appreciated by both Catholics and non-Catholics, and even by those to whom the evangelical message is completely foreign. Cardinal Dolan attempted to follow this path on his feet in a more or less hostile situation and got burned. It is a moment we can all learn from.
I leave off with this pertinent quote from Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium, 168:
As for the moral component of catechesis, which promotes growth in fidelity to the Gospel way of life, it is helpful to stress again and again the attractiveness and the ideal of a life of wisdom, self-fulfilment and enrichment. In the light of that positive message, our rejection of the evils which endanger that life can be better understood. Rather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.