The National Catholic Review

I am sure I am not the only devout Catholic in good standing who was a bit stunned, shocked even, to read the story ( widely reported in The Associated Press and in columns on the blogs: Huffington Post, Daily Kos and the Daily Dish) of a young boy, Lennon Cihak from Barnesville, Minnesota who was refused confirmation because of a picture he posted on his facebook page showing himself and a poster connected to the Minnesota referendum which wanted to amend the Minnesota Constitution so that, by law, marriage was defined as only between a man and a woman. Lennon doctored the poster to show support for equal marriage rights. The referendum, despite a lot of effort and exceedingly large sums of money from many Minnesota dioceses, did not pass.

Lennon's pastor, Rev. Gary Lemoine, at Assumption parish in Barnesville, barred him from confirmation and also told his mother that she and her family would be barred from communion for taking  a line on gay marriage different from his. In an attempt to appeal the pastor's decision, Lennon's mother appealed to the Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, Michael Heoppner, who told her Lennon could be confirmed only if he stood in front of the parish congregation and denounced marriage equality. How I wish Andrew Greeley was still writing his columns. He would have written a scorcher on this pastoral mal-practice!

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a retired archbishop about an earlier letter by Archbishop John J. Meyers of Newark who wrote in a pastoral letter that Catholics who supported marriage equality for gays and lesbians should abstain from communion. The retired archbishop told me Meyers needed to consult a good canon lawyer. While Meyers, in his letter, said he wanted to be clearer than some other of his fellow bishops regarding homosexuality, in fact he went beyond what good pastoral practice and canon law allow.

The canon law of the Church says that good Catholics ( Lennon went to weekly mass and did volunteer work as part of his confirmation preparation) should have access to communion and the other sacraments ( indeed, they have a right to them), provided they have not committed a mortal sin or are under excommunication or an ecclesiastical censure and, also, that they accept the real presence of Jesus in the eucharist ( cf. canon # 905).

It might help if we look at three cognate cases. Case # 1: the official church teaches that the use of contraceptives in marriage is evil and, objectively a mortal sin. Yet, the church does not teach it is a sin for Catholics to support civil legislation which allows the sale and possession of contraceptives. Indeed, in a famous Massachusetts referendum, in the 1960s, to allow the sale of contraceptives ( previously illegal in the state), Cardinal Cushing of Boston said Catholcis were not bound to support such civil laws outlawing the sale of contraceptive devises in the state.

Case # 2:  The official church teaches that divorce is wrong if it leads to remarriage after the divorce which constitutes a kind of adultery. Again, except for a few retrograde Catholic nations before Vatican II, no one in a pluralistic democracy would have taught it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to support civil laws in support of possible divorce with remarriage.

In a similar way, the official church teaches that homosexual sexual acts are immoral. Once again, there is no clear Catholic teaching that a Catholic who votes for or supports civil laws allowing marriage for gays and lesbians is guilty of any clear sin, let alone mortal sin. When I was a boy, I was taught in my catechism quite clearly what was considered mortal sins. Never did I run across a list of such sins: " because I voted for civil laws in contradistinction to a prudential ( or not so prudential!) judgment of my bishop about a civil law."

In my state, we recently had a referendum outlawing capital punishment. The church dis-approves of capital punishment. Most California bishops showed support for the rescinding of capital punishment. Surely, however, I would be egregiously wrong to argue that some Catholic who voted to retain capital punishment was in sin and should be refused communion. Nowhere in canon law do I see any mention of bishops' or pastors' arbitrary ability to claim something new is now a mortal sin! We need someone to guard against such so-called guardians of the faith. Canon lawyers do your job!

There are two ironies in this Minnesota case of egregiously bad pastoral practice by the pastor and his bishop. The referendum was not, as such, one to allow gay marriage. It was an attempt to put into the constitution an amendment that marriage was uniquely between a man and a woman. I could easily conceive of someone opposing gay marriage also opposing the referendum, thinking it was unnecessary so to amend the state's constitution. The point in canon law on this is that canon law assumes that in cases of any kind of punitive penalty, the interpretation of a claimed wrong-doing must be ' strictly' ( i.e., very narrowly) interpreted before any penalties are imposed. That did not happen in this Minnesota case. The  second irony is that in a different Minnesota diocese, Duluth, Father Peter Lambert of Saint Louis parish in Floodwood gave $1,000 to oppose the amendment the Minnesota bishops were supporting. He did not know that this act would become public. When it did become public, he suffered no reprimand from his bishop.

When I recounted the tale of Lennon Cihak and the refusal to allow him confirmation because of a facebook picture ( prescinding from the fact that someone in the parish seems to be spying on the kids' facebook entries! What does that say?), a fellow Jesuit, quite pastorally sensitive, said to me in response: " Is it just me ? I know we have always had some horror tales in Catholicism. But they seem to me to have been growing exponentially and in ridiculous punitive measures in the last year or so!"

Just recently, in other forums, the church has been talking about a ' new evangelization': outreach to non-Catholics and the many, many fallen away Catholics. There have been items in our Catholic newspapers about the church needing to become a more ' welcoming' church. The shock for me in this Minnesota case is the extent to which it shows the many ways the church is often more about ' new excommunications' and punitive measures than " new evangelization". Alas, the nearest other Catholic chruch to Barnesville's Assumption parish is 16 or 17 miles away. I am afraid we have needlessly lost another Catholic to pastoral stupidity and mal-practice.

Code of canon law # 212 states that Catholics ( including the laity)" have the right and, sometimes, the duty to give to their sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful." It is to that canon I appeal in saying that the new slippery slope by which bishops and others declare, on their own mistaken  'claimed authority', things to be mortal sins, introduce loyalty oaths into parish life and talk about a more widespread refusing of communion is doing serious pastoral harm in the church. It is time for our canon lawyers ( and is it too much to hope: some of our, alas too silent, fellow bishops?) to remind them that they are brazenly overstepping their pastoral authority and doing harm to the church on many of these issues.


Marie Rehbein | 11/21/2012 - 8:46pm

That is fascinating.  I believe I recall the name Nancy Danielson.  Sybil is another movie about that topic.
Jim McCrea | 11/21/2012 - 5:33pm
Marie @ 47: "Amy" was once also known as "Nancy Danielson" - among others.

Remember the move:  The Three Faces of Eve?

Snip:  A doctor treats a woman suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.
Mike Brooks | 11/21/2012 - 12:24pm
It seems to me that the primary issue here is the rules of enforcement of Church teaching.  How many millions of non-Catholics have received communion at a friend's wedding, not to mention the millions of divorced Catholics, Catholics who have committed unconfessed mortal sins, etc... who receive communion at mass? 

So the rule appears to be that as long as the priest or bishop doesn't know about the sin, then it's up to the sinner to self-enforce.  Once the sinful offense becomes known, then the priest/bishop can, at his option, enforce. 

It's kind of like the speed limit laws: it's essentially self-enforcement until a cop catches you.

But speeding laws are (in theory, at least) designed to protect society in this world, and so it makes sense for cops to hand out tickets to the people they catch.  But Church laws, it seems to me, are about setting us up for the afterlife; what good does denying someone communion or any other sacrament do, but make them resent the Church?  We don't comply with Church law to avoid p?unishment by the Chu?r?c?h; we comply with Church law to avoid punishment by God?.  The Church can ?o???nly guide us.?

???The s??inners are breaking Church law all the time; they'll have to atone for that in front ?of God in the hereafter. Let the kid be confirmed and leave it to God to punish him, if that's God's will.  In the meantime, what the Church should do is to try and educate the kid on what the Church teaches and why.  Those little blurbs in wedding programs have probably stopped a lot of people from taking communion?, not for fear of punishment by the Church, but for respect for its teaching and God's law?.

On a broader note, I think that most of the problems that the Church is facing today is allowing outsiders to define it (as tyrranical, hateful, bigoted, antiquated, etc...) , not unlike the Republicans being defined similarly by Democrats.  The publication of this story is just another in a long line of attacks (akin to the story about Todd Akin); no liberal rag is posting/printing stories about all the good work the Church is doing around the world.  The answer is not for the Church (or Republicans for that matter) to change their beliefs; the answer is to get their good message out and to overcome the perceptions generated by its attackers.  And for leaders to avoid stupid things - like stopping people from getting sacraments and saying stupid things about rape and reproduction - that provide fodder for its attackers.
Tom Maher | 11/21/2012 - 10:00am
Marie Rehbein # 50

Father Coleman ends his article as follows: "It is time for our canon lawyers ( and is it too much to hope: some of our, alas too silent, fellow bishops?) to remind them that they are brazenly overstepping their pastoral authority and doing harm to the church on many of these issues."  But Fails to show what specific canon are the Bishops "barazenly overstepping their pastoral autjhority ...". 

The whole of the Father Coleman's article is Bishops have no right under canon law to be involved with the defence of marriage.  But Father Coleman can not show which canon law prevents that involvment by Bishop.  

Actually Father Coleman canon law argument are very legalistic and unlikely on their face.  If one looks at the actual canon laws on marriage from the Council of Trent in effect today thsese canons allow Bishops the power to make anyone anathma who does not support the sacrements including marriage as defined by the Church.  Redefining marriage is a serious threat to the authenticity of Church doctrine that is just not allowed.  The Church had to deal with this threat many times before at the time of the reformation when Luther and King Henry VIII decided for their own political, religious and personal reasons to redefine what marriage and other sacremnet are or are not.  The Council of Trent definitvely disappove of these revisionism of Church doctrine that impact society.   .    is and its rules.  The Church allows Bishops to find anathama people that do not conform to the CHurch view on the sacrements.  If one does not support the Church's definition of marriage in society one does run the risk of sanctions by Bishops that can exclude a person from participating in the sacrements.    

Father Coleman brought up the issue of Bishops not conforming to canon law.  But actually it is Father Coleman's views that are not supported by canon law. The Bishop fully have the authority to vigorously defend and evagelize the sacrement of  marriage ias defined by the CHurch in socieity as they have had done throughout the Church's history.  
Tom Maher | 11/21/2012 - 7:17am
John Coleman S. J. # 45

You have not made your case that you asserted in this article that Bishops and priests in Minniesota are not conforming to canon laws of the Church by vigorously promoting a Minnesota Consitutional amendment defining marriage as limited to a man and a women.  

To the contrary the canon laws of the Church from the Council of Trent strongly support Church involvment in a counter refromation process that strongly refuted allowing marriage to be dredefined in the Church or in society. 

The idea of marriage being allowed to be redefined in any way other than between a man and a women is not sanctioned in canon law.  Under canon law, Bishops and priests that insist the law define marriage as between a man and a women completely conforms to the Church's definition of marriage in society.  The Church has been is legislatively and consistutionally defending and maintaining the civil definition of marraige across the United States.  You have failed to show any substanitive reason why the Church should not vigorously defend and evangelize its strongly held and well considered views on marriage in society.
Marie Rehbein | 11/20/2012 - 9:53pm
Jim and Vince,

Thanks for pointing that out.  I had not noticed that. 
Frank Gibbons | 11/20/2012 - 9:50pm
Patricia Bergeron,

''Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 
So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.''   Matthew 19:4-6

''For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'' This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;   Ephesians 5:31-32

Mystery here indicates sacrament. Indeed, Christ's love for us is sacramental and covenented. Christ shares his Body with the Church so that we become one with Him and with each other. This love emulates the love between a married man and woman but it does so in an entirely perfect way.  

The Church is not out-of-bounds or uncharitable to want to keep the definiton of a marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.  

John Coleman | 11/20/2012 - 6:23pm
Trent dealt with sacraments. Civil marriages are not, as such, sacraments. My post was not about sacramental marriages ( which are between one man and one woman) but about civil marriages. Read the insert of Jim McCrea from Steve Schloesser to get a good history, before and after Trent.
Tom Maher | 11/20/2012 - 5:59pm
Conitinuation of # 43 

These canons of the Council of Trent are the bedrock foundations of the Church's teachings on the sacrements today.  These canons are not accomodating to other views religious or secular views outside the Church.  This is by the Bishops of the United aStates and elswhere have strongly advocated for the Church's stongly held views on what marriage as a sacrement is and is not. 
John Hayes | 11/20/2012 - 4:53pm
Jim McCrea, thanks  for the  link to the letter by Fr Schloesser (SJ, so particularly appropriate here at America).

It is incidental to his main argument but I welcomed his comment on the ineffectiveness of claims that an issue is resolved by natural law.

"John Ford, a Jesuit moral theologian who was the most aggressive proponent of the anticontraception stance (and taught in Weston, Mass.) admitted letter [sic] that the "natural law" argument had failed; if the point of "natural law" arguments was to convince any "rational person" (unlike, e.g., Scripture, which would convince only a religious believer), and if all these rational persons were rejecting the Catholic position, then what did that say about the law's "natural" aspect?
Eventually, the bishops abandoned this fight and made a distinction between public policy and personal religious practice.While Catholics themselves might be forbidden to use contraception, it was not necessary that this be imposed on public policy in a democracy." 

Tom Maher | 11/20/2012 - 12:37pm
Father Coleman's Canon Law legalisms obscure the Church's forever strong defense of the sanctity of marriage.. The Gospel has always clearly defined what a marriage is and is not.

No Canon Law if where to exist in the early Church would have explicitly authoirzed Saint John the Baptist, Christ cousin, to strongly denounce King Herrod for "marrying" his brother's wife.  Saint John the Baptist died for is public denounciation of King Herrod violating the sanctity of marrage

Marriage is a sacrement insituted by Christ.  It is sacred and its sanctity must alasy be understood and preserved. 

The Bishops across the Unted Staes  have repeatedly come out publically and strongly against same-sex marriage as one would expect in the same way John the Baptist Cmae out agasint King Herrod affairs or Saint Thomas More and the Vatican came out against the the affairs of King Henry VIII.  Once againt the Church must give strong and clear public witness to Christ''s sacrement of marriage even against very powerful politcal movements to redefine what marriage is. 
T BLACKBURN | 11/20/2012 - 11:16am
Wow, again, Amy #32. I am not a proponent of gay marriage. My "vulgat sneer(s) and put down" was a direct quote from the Ninth Commandment: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's."

Please do not confuse my irritation with the shabby forms of argument my "side" makes with support for the other side. I merely was pointing out that the marriage, which we say was "always between a man and a woman" in the past, was not always between two actors with equal freedom. I kinow that my side wants to contend that God created marriage as it existed in 20th Century United States, but the Bible shows that He at least put up with patriarchs who had multiple consorts - call them wife or call them mistresses - and at another period He put up with marriaqe in which the brides had only the rights and status of manservants or oxen. Thus, our "always," like our evasive definition of marriage, is open to attack by anyone who has, oh, say, read the Bible.

That doesn't make lus wrong, but we sure are careless. I'll give you that.
Marie Rehbein | 11/20/2012 - 9:49am
Wow, Amy#32.  On most topics you seem to be so insightful, and on this topic you seem to be suffering from prejudices that imply that you have no contact with gay men (at least).  Gay couples are capable of great commitment and caring and can be wonderful adoptive parents.

You remind me of a situation I encountered where the school counselor was looking for someone to help with a child who had been adopted by a heterosexual couple and was returned to the adoption agency because when they decided to get divorced neither one of the individuals wanted the responsibility of caring for this child that had been with them from age 2 to 5.  I don't extrapolate from this example to determine that heterosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt, so why do you make so many assumption about the parenting fitness of households without a female adult?
Amy Ho-Ohn | 11/20/2012 - 9:22am
Marriage is (this is not a definition, just enumeration of one of its properties) the institution that governs procreation. It is a truism that the man and woman are not "equal" in the work of procreation. The woman is biologically predestined to bear the majority of the pain, disability, danger and work. Human laws can (and most normal people agree, should) make the woman equal in civil and property rights, but they can't abrogate this fundamental fact of nature. Maybe someday, when artificial wombs are a viable option, but not yet.

Even societies that care little for the woman's well-being have a vested interest in the viability of the offspring. Orphaned offspring rarely thrive. Therefore it is in the interests of all to make human laws which support and enhance the ability of the natural institution of marriage to provide as much assistance and protection to the mother as feasible.

This one reason why laws that pretend that a "marriage" can exist in which there is no female are bad laws. Implicitly denying the enormous contribution biological motherhood makes to the welfare of society, society effectively declines to take an interest in its future existence.

Lesbian "marriage," in which at least one woman has children and the other commit to help care for them, is potentially a sociaily useful idea. Gay marriage is inherently farcical.

It is not a promising sign that proponents of gay marriage seem to be unable to discuss the subject without directing vulgar, puerile sneers and put-downs at married women. ("similar to his ox or his ass.") But it is completely in accordance with the fundamental intention of the campaign.
T BLACKBURN | 11/20/2012 - 7:11am
Maria Byrd. Much better. So Fr. LeMoine and all the clerics, politicians and pundits should say "marriage ia a natural institution uniting a man and a woman." I wish they would. I guess what irritates me is that we are discussing constitutional amendments, denial of sacraments and social trends in the language of "whatever," which isn't as serious as the subjects to which it is being applied.

Your four conditions, I notice, do not include equality. Judging by the 9th Commandment, marriage at one time must have been a natural insitution uniting a man and one of his possessions, similar to but not identical with his house, his ox or his ass.
Anonymous | 11/19/2012 - 9:46pm
Here you go, Mr. Blackburn:

MARRIAGE. As a natural institution, the lasting union of a man and a woman who agree to give and receive rights over each other for the performance of the act of generation and for the fostering of their mutual love.
The state of marriage implies four chief conditions: 1. there must be a union of opposite sexes; it is therefore opposed to all forms of unnatural, homosexual behavior; 2. it is a permanent union until the death of either spouse; 3. it is an exclusive union, so that extramarital acts are a violation of justice; and 4. its permanence and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract; mere living together, without mutually binding themselves to do so, is concubinage and not marriage.
Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament of the New Law. Christian spouses signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and his Church, helping each other attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children.
T BLACKBURN | 11/19/2012 - 6:05pm
OK, John Hayes, marriage is a covenant. I can go with that. How come no one can say it?

But, still: That contract I mentioned that reflects mutual interests - say that I will deliver so many pounds of talapia to her seafood restaurant at an agreed price- is also a covenant. But I am not married to that termagant, am I? Never!

Now what? The Catechism said marriage ia a covenant, but called it a "matrimonial" covenant," and we don't know what "matrimonial" means, since it depends on what "marriage" is. Maybe there is all this trouble over same-sex marriage because we different-sex marriage folks can't explain ourselves clearly even to ourselves.
John Hayes | 11/19/2012 - 5:46pm
But the "definition" is not a definition. There is no noun linked to marriage on the back end of the linking verb "is." 

The missing word is probably "covenant" The CCC says:

"1601 The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

I was curious about what what Archbishop Meyers had said. His letter is here:

It's not possible to copy the text from the letter so I can only refer you to the third paragraph on page 2, where he cites that article of the CCC and then says that if you can't assent to the church's teaching on marriage, you should refrain from receiving Holy Communion

Assenting to the Church's teaching is something different from believing that the civil law should enforce the church's teaching (or the natural law, as +Meyers prefers to describe it) but the two get confused. 

On page 10, +Meyers says that "Civil law should reflect the natural law to the extent that public order allows". That is more aggressive view than Augustine or Aquinas took, but at least it does acknowledge that prudential judgement is involved in deciding what is appropriate for the civil law to require. 

Unfortunately, people who didn't feel up to reading and analyzing a 16 page letter probably came away with the feeling that if they voted in favor of the state recognizing same-sex marriage they would cut themselves off from the Holy Eucharist.
ed gleason | 11/19/2012 - 12:35pm
Imagine a pastor and bishop thinking that a rejection of a constitutional amendment is the same as rejecting church teaching! "Rejection of the Church’s teaching on marriage is a very serious breach of faith'.This takes creeping infallibility to the laughing stage.
There ought to be a canon law and sanctions for making the Faith a laughing stock.  
 I love his charge of 'defacing' an election sign. Maybe the hierarchy will mount a US Constitutional amendment on this 'issue' and try to garner a 2/3rd vote in both Houses and States.
We all should thank God we will never have to pass through this backwater town of Barnsville in all our lifetimes.

Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 11/19/2012 - 12:24pm
In July, James Martin, SJ, posted this article, which inclues a video:

 There are many celibate gay Catholic priests in the church today.  (And let me emphasize, since that last statement is usually misunderstood, I'm speaking about celibate gay priests.  These are validly ordained homosexual men who lead celibate lives.)  What is exceedingly rare is the Catholic priest who speaks publicly about his own homosexuality.  (There are only a handful in this country who have done so.)  An article in America in 2000 examines this phenomenon, and lists some of the reasons why Catholic priests remain silent about this aspect of their lives-even as they lead celibate lives. 
Even rarer is the openly gay Catholic priest who speaks about issues related to homosexuality and homosexual activity.  That is why this ten-minute speech by Robert Pierson, O.S.B., a member of the Benedictine community at Collegeville, MN (and listed as a priest in good standing in the 2011 Official Catholic Directory) is so unusual.  Father Pierson, who had worked in campus ministry at St. John's University and is currently the director of the Spiritual Life Program at St. John's Abbey, speaks of his own homosexuality, his experience in ministering to gay and lesbian students, and then describes why he bas concluded that a Minnesota Catholic may vote ''no'' on a proposed state amendment that would prevent same-sex marriages.  In 2005, Father Pierson had resigned from his post as director of campus ministry after the Vatican officially barred men with ''deep-seated homosexual tendencies'' from ordination, and because of broader issues in the church's teaching. ''Because I can no longer honestly represent, explain and defend the church's teaching on homosexuality, I feel I must resign,'' he said at the time

Needless to say, his comments on same-sex marriage are in direct opposition to the U.S. Catholic bishops, including Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who has vigorously supported the amendment (that is, opposing same-sex marriage) and asked parishioners in his archdiocese to recite a ''A Prayer for Marriage'' as part of the Prayers of the Faithful (petitionary prayers) at Masses.  The bishops could not be clearer in their opposition, which rests primarily on the Christian tradition of marriage as between a man and a woman (as well as on the church's opposition to homosexual activity).  Father Pierson's appeal is primarily to freedom of conscience, and on that topic he quotes both the Catechism and Pope Benedict XVI. ''Our Holy Father taught in 1967 that we must obey our own conscience, even if it puts us at odds with the Pope. I doubt that he knew that he was going to be Pope when he said that.''
Rick Fueyo | 11/19/2012 - 12:10pm
The hierarchy is frustrated that they are fighting a losing cause in this issue, but they are. And they will not win through the exercise of sheer power over the sacraments.  They cannot compensate for the fact that they cannot defend their position in a persuasive manner, even given the benefit of the doubt.
Vincent Gaitley | 11/19/2012 - 11:45am
Again, as I have written here before, we Catholics have no recourse, no way to hold accountable bad bishops and clumsy priests.  Whether or not the boy removed himself from the ceremony is not the point, the point is another bishop chose to publicly pick a fight the wrong way with the wrong person and at the wrong time.  The bishops just don't understand how little credibility they have with so many of us, and how silly they appear to the media.  The bishops take the media bait every time and we are all losers for that.  
John Hayes | 11/19/2012 - 1:42am
David Smith, I think the central issue in the article is:

there is no clear Catholic teaching that a Catholic who votes for or supports civil laws allowing marriage for gays and lesbians is guilty of any clear sin, let alone mortal sin.

In other words. You can accept the church's teaching that a certain behavior is sinful without necessarily believing that there should be a civil law forbidding it. 

Do you want to argue against that?
John Hayes | 11/19/2012 - 12:08am
Except singular wouldn't be "custodos" The sisters will be ashamed of me. 
Vince Killoran | 11/18/2012 - 11:53pm
Sheer madness.

When my son goes for his "interview" with our pastor next year all his giving is his name and the name of his favorite saint.  Some small talk about the weather and sports. That's it- nothing more.
PJ Johnston | 11/18/2012 - 9:19pm
I was confirmed several years ago on the explicit assurance of a prominent conservative Catholic theologian (subsequently reiterated to me by the local Tridentine mass priest) that one can licitly support civil same-sex marriage as a Roman Catholic.  That still seems to be the case - nothing has changed in doctrine or canon law to make what was true then not true now - but it appears as if there are bishops and priests who are intent on warping and twisting canon law in order to eliminate any diversity of opinion on the issue.  It's obvious that if I were seeking confirmation today, it would not be allowed to happen, and that the day-to-day practice of some (many?) priests and dioceses is to refuse LGBTQ Catholics and their supporters communion. 

When you're confirmed, you contract canon law obligations that there is normally no way to get out of.  You're stuck with them for the rest of your life.  That's all well and good if everybody plays by the rules or you didn't bother to find out what you were getting yourself into in the first place, but when you specifically asked about the issue and got an all-clear and they later arbitrarily change the rules on you, you get stuck mandatorily attending a church which has more-or-less explicitly told you that it would not confirm you today and that you're not welcome receiving communion.  And you have to go, every Sunday, for the rest of your life.

You believe in meeting your freely-contracted obligations, no matter what, and a change of opinion on the issue is impossible.

What do you do to stay sane?
Kang Dole | 11/18/2012 - 8:48pm
Also, if you'd just confirm people immediately after baptism like in Thee Olden Tymes, this whole, "what people actually think" thing wouldn't be a problem.
Kang Dole | 11/18/2012 - 8:46pm
CIA directors who don't know how to use email, and now teenagers who don't know how to use Facebook. It's a sad state of affairs.
Anonymous | 11/21/2012 - 11:26pm

CONFIRMATION CHARACTER. The indelible sign imprinted on the soul by the sacrament of confirmation. Its distinctive qualities are that it assimilates a person more closely to Christ, the Teacher of Truth, the King of Justice, and the High Priest. St. Thomas Aquinas holds that the confirmation character gives a person the power and the right to perform actions that are necessary in the spiritual battle against the enemies of the faith. He distinguishes the fighters of Christ (the confirmed) from the simple members of Christ's kingdom (the baptized) and explains that confirmation empowers and entitles those who receive it to not only preserve the faith but to make public profession of what they believe and a sense of mission to extend this faith to others.

Latin con-, thoroughly + firmare, to make firm: confirmatio, fortification, strengthening
Patricia Bergeron | 11/21/2012 - 9:57pm
Dear Frank Gibbons,
I'm not saying what the Church should or should not do. I'm past caring. All I'm saying is that as I read the Gospels, Jesus' message was one of compassion, not judgment. Remember His remark to the young man who stated the two greatest commandments: Love God with your whole mind, your whole soul,... love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus's reply was "you are not far from the kingdom fo God!" To me, this is the essential message, and one that we, in all humility, must embrace. I am not about to pass judgment on someone else's life... I have enough stumbling blocks in my own. I am not about to label someone else's life as "disordered." I have enough of my own disorder to contend with. In my humble opinion, true Christianity seeks understanding of other people and approaches other people with love and willingness to walk in their shoes. Passing judgment just does not feel like the Lord.

I think the Spirit is at work, and in mysterious ways. I think we will all be surprised when we meet God face to face.
Marie Rehbein | 11/21/2012 - 11:43am
Tom #51, apparently your vision of the Church is for everyone to be of one mind.  However, there is room within Catholicism for individual judgment about living in the world, is there not?  I believe Pope Benedict XVI has said as much.

While the Church has a sacrament called marriage and has the right - and maybe a duty, as you see it - to make all people think of their marriages as sacraments, it is not the case, as Tom#34 points out, that marriage has always and everywhere been regarded as a sacrament or even a contract between one man and one woman. 

We do not live in a theocracy, and while you choose to accept the Church's understanding of marriage, others look at the larger society and see inequities that are baseless but for the teachings of some religions that are supposed to be freely followed and not required to govern the lives of all.

In any case, not agreeing with the Church's stand on civil marriage does not automatically equate to disagreeing with the Church's stand on sacramental marriage.  A person can desire to enter the sacrament of matrimony through the Catholic Church and still support the freedom of same gendered people to marry.

RE #47:  The quote from Matthew says that people are male and female so they will join together but it does not say that this is the only permissable joining together.  However, it does say that once joined they should not be "put assunder" by any "man".  It's an argument against divorce, not against gay marriage, I would say.
T BLACKBURN | 11/21/2012 - 10:46am
Tom Maher (51), Before you trod those last few miles to what you think is Trent, please go back and re-read, or read, what Father Coleman wrote. I think you took the wrong fork and are about to reach Taormina.
Marie Rehbein | 11/21/2012 - 8:16am
RE Tom#49:

The point being made is that it is not a mortal sin to disagree with the Church's position regarding civil marriage.  Therefore, no one who disagrees should be denied any sacraments.  However, the pastor in question stated that this issue alone would be sufficient cause for denying the boy in question his Confirmation.
Tom Maher | 11/20/2012 - 5:52pm
Father Coleman should know very well the Council of Trent issued very deciisive canons and degrees and the sacrements in general including marriage.    The canons and decrees of the Council of Trent are essential parts of the Church doctrines and teachings today, unrevised and in full force. These decrees on the sacrements in general and marriage in particular were a strong, definite reponse to Protestant ideas such as those of Luther that challenging the validity and Church's teachings of the sacrements in general and marriage in paticular. 

These canons of the Council of Trent are the bedrock foundations  ?T?h?e?se canons are completley unaccomodationg of other views such as those held by ?Protestant or others.

Patricia Bergeron | 11/20/2012 - 5:25pm
I'm not sure Jesus ever "instituted" marriage as a sacrament or really had much to say about it (except when certain religious leaders tried to trip him up). I do know that Jesus said at least two things:

Jesus #1: "Love one another as I have loved you."

Jesus#2: "Be not afraid."

By the way, I've been married (yes, in the Church and to the same man) for 35 years. Gay relationships have never threatened by marriage. 

This Thanksgiving, let's be grateful for all loving relationships.  
Vince Killoran | 11/20/2012 - 4:16pm
"Marie @ #33: haven't you discovered by now that "Amy" is indeed multiple posters/multiple personalities?  There is no single "Amy" per se."

Jim may be correct: 

See #11. Is this the same Amy?
Jim McCrea | 11/20/2012 - 3:14pm
Catholic marriage history education time (and, yes, it is long .... no sound bite theology or history here):
Jim McCrea | 11/20/2012 - 3:12pm
Marie @ #33: haven't you discovered by now that "Amy" is indeed multiple posters/multiple personalities?  There is no single "Amy" per se.
T BLACKBURN | 11/20/2012 - 1:05pm
"Marriage is a sacrament insituted by Christ." (36). That is exaclty the kind of blather I have been railing about. If it is true, then marriage has NOT always and everywhere been anything between a man and a woman. There was polygamy and serial marriage before Christ (and after, as well). The Catechism does NOT say that, either. Matrimony is the sacrament.

Matrimony is not under attack in civil society; marriage, as we understand it, is.

If you want to say "Marriage is sacred and its sanctity must always be understood and preserved," you have to say it was instituted by God (the Father) at Creation. IF you say that, you open a whole new can of worms but you are on ground from which, once established, the rest of your case follows. If you don't say that, you do not have an "always and everywhere" situation.
Sandi Sinor | 11/20/2012 - 11:38am
#34. It is also true that the church did not begin to call marriage a sacrament until the 12th century and marriage was not ''officially'' named a ''sacrament'' until the Council of Trent, which also imposed the requirement of a church witness to the marriage.  Christians who are not Roman Catholic or Orthodox do not consider marriage to be a ''sacrament'' since it was not instituted by Jesus in the bible.  He was a guest at a Jewish wedding and he performed a miracle there as a guest to help out the hosts (at the request of his mother. He did not initiate the action on his own), but Jesus did not ''institute'' the institution or sacrament of marriage at Cana. Development of doctrine is ongoing.  It is only 55 years since laws banning interracial marriage were declared unconstitutional in the US. Many christians supported these laws arguing that interracial marriage was against God's law and should not be legalized.
Vincent Gaitley | 11/19/2012 - 11:02pm
We are not free to marry any man or any woman, so these definitions of one man, one woman are inadequate, and give the wrong impression.  I loved my late mother, but was never free to marry her or my sister or many of my female cousins.  The law is mutual on this too, since they are barred from marrying me.  Why?  Incest?  More likely the fear of the issue of incest, that is, "injured children" to coin a non-political phrase.  Yet, homosexuality was (and remains) taboo for many, yet there is an undeniable change in the general level of acceptance.  I doubt this is coming for incest, but one is left to wonder.  If brother and sister are not planning or past children, what of that in this new age of anything goes?...and then the obvious: can brothers marry? What is the difference? 
And if we permit same sex marriages, what of the number? Who cares how many wives or husbands a person has?  Justice Scalia predicted this, and you can expect that, absent a definition of marriage we will spawn marriages of infinites. 
Jim McCrea | 11/19/2012 - 5:52pm
Canon law obligations!  Seriously?  

Civil law is corrupt, without doubt, but canon law is absolutely corrupt.
T BLACKBURN | 11/19/2012 - 4:47pm
Fr. LaMoine writes:

"We believe that the teaching on marriage (that marriage is between one man and one woman for the purpose of creating new life), is a matter of divine revelation; it comes directly to us from God."

Everybody says that. Cardinals, bishops, priests, laity on both sides of the constitutional question raised in Minnesota, although some say that that "definition" doesn't need to be chiseled into a constitution.

But the "definition" is not a definition. There is no noun linked to marriage on the back end of the linking verb "is." A table might be between one man and one worman. The table would not be a marriage. One man and one woman might sign a business contract reflecting mutual interests; the contract is not a marriage. There might be a debate between a man and a woman. A debate is not a marriage. The aisle of the church may be between me and a friend's wife, but that wouldn't make us married.

Please, everybody, somebody: Marrriage is a WHAT between a man and a woman? Unless we know that, we don't know what we are talking about. And don't tell me, "You know what we mean" because I do not. And don't tell me the missing word is "intercourse" left out to avoid embarrassing seminarians because the result of inserting that word is not what the Church teaches or ever taught.
J Cosgrove | 11/19/2012 - 12:31pm
''how silly they appear to the media''

Fr. Coleman mentioned the Daily Kos and the Daily Dish,  These are the liberal equivalent of Ann Coulter and we know how much the Jesuits think of Ann Coulter.  The Huffington Post is a little more sensible but generally fairly left of the center.

Also when is the worth of something judged by the media?  We have ample evidence of the vacuity of the MSM.  So maybe that is an endorsement of good sense instead of silliness. Ordinarily something like this is on page 8 of the third section at the bottom of the page and used as filler but there are agendas on political blogs.
J Cosgrove | 11/19/2012 - 11:58am
''I am sure I am not the only devout Catholic in good standing''

What is a devout Catholic?  And in good standing with whom? 
Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 11/19/2012 - 10:18am

Below is the strange letter the strange priest wrote to his remaining parishioners.  
(I added emphasis to the bits I find most strange, most at odds with traditional teachings about the sacrament of Confirmation, and most revealing, imho, of the real reasons for this abuse.)  (And I still wonder why the bishop wasn't there to administer the sacrament.  What else is there to do in Crookston?) 


From: Fr. Gary LaMoine

To: Members of Assumption Parish, Barnesville

Reason: Recent celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation

Date: November 15, 2012

On Sunday, November 11th, the parish rejoiced in the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation with 20 men and woman of the parish. I congratulate all who entered the Church as full members and hope that their open commitment to live out their lives as Catholic Christians will bring them much personal joy and peace. It was a beautiful celebration and a great day.

The celebration of the sacrament was, however, surrounded by some controversy. A couple of candidates chose not to enter 
into full communion with the Catholic community because of their disagreement with the teaching of the Church concerning marriage. I use the word chose very deliberately since they verbally withdrew from candidacy in conversation with one or more of the teaching staff.

One of the candidates withdrew after defacing a pro-marriage sign and placing the same on his Facebook website. When I challenged the young man as to why he was doing this when he knew he was rejecting a central teaching of the Church, he affirmed his rejection of the teaching for personal reasons and said that he no longer wanted to be confirmed. This is in direct contradiction to what has been subsequently proclaimed by the candidate and his family. He and his family are saying that he was denied the sacrament. This is not true; the young man withdrew from the ceremony. Nevertheless, even if he had not withdrawn from the confirmation ceremony, I would have had no choice but to remove him from consideration given his rejection of marriage as we understand it. Rejection of the Church’s teaching on marriage is a very serious breach of faith. We believe that the teaching on marriage (that marriage is between one man and one woman for the purpose of creating new life), is a matter of divine revelation; it comes directly to us from God. Rejection of the teaching on marriage is, for example, similar to the rejection of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity or the rejection of the doctrine of Christ as being both human and divine. Marriage, divinely received, is a central belief. Intending to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation, while rejecting a central belief, is an absolute contradiction. One cannot embrace the faith of the Church in Confirmation while rejecting it at the same time.

It is to my dismay that what should have been kept an internal Church matter has now become a public controversy. To place this controversy into the public forum was the decision of the young man and his family; it was not my intention or the intention of Bishop Hoeppner who was informed about the situation shortly after the young man withdrew from candidacy. The Bishop and I now find ourselves harassed by the media, coming to my door at 9:30 PM last Wednesday for a newspaper interview and being called to give comment on a KFGO radio program. All this activity originated from the young man and his family. Agreeing to disagree and leaving it at that is not acceptable to the young man and his family. What this family hopes to gain is beyond my present comprehension.

I apologize to the parish for the actions of this family. I have personally spent much time talking to them face to face about their unwillingness to accept the teaching of the Church on marriage but to no avail. I can only say that I am willing to continuing the conversation, but not in the public forum. This I will not do.
Vince Killoran | 11/19/2012 - 10:05am
"Sure sounds like the kid isn't ready to be confirmed."

Talk about glib.  

Don't let your lack of information get in the way of a throwing out a half dozen half-baked judgements.

Marie Rehbein | 11/19/2012 - 9:43am
RE#16:  Whether or not this particular case is accurately documented, there is no debate about the following from #3, above: "The priest admits, however, that once he knew that Lennon supported same-sex marriage, and was unwilling to retract his views, that he would not have been able to confirm him."

Therefore, the point is that being in a homosexual relationship that one hopes to solemnize with a wedding is not the only situation that might draw scrutiny during the Confirmation process.  Now it's also supporting people who find themselves in such a situation that makes the candidate the enemy of the Church in some pastors' eyes.  If this is not the teaching of the Church, it should be dealt with so that it does not become a teaching of the Church.

Ultimately, though, Jesus taught about love and mercy; judge not lest ye be judged, etc.  It's not possible to educate children in the virtues of Christianity and then expect them to be so judgmental as the Catholic Church is being of people who want to make a life commitment to a partner of the same gender. 
Amy Ho-Ohn | 11/19/2012 - 8:23am
(FWIW, the noun is custos, custodis. Ruff is right. Hayes and Coleman are wrong.)

One has to admire the fortitude the pastor and parish have shown in this case. The family are obviously trying to engineer a media circus, looking for an opportunity to play Poor Bullied Little Victims up against the Big Bad Catholic Church in some kind of personal self-fulfillment melodrama. I'm impressed that nobody in the entire parish has lost his head and made any kind of threat or slur that the "journalists" could blow up into the talking point of the evening. Which you know they would, given half a chance.

Sure sounds like the kid isn't ready to be confirmed. Confirmation is a sacrament, not a sitcom audition. And as to the claim that the parents have been denied Communion, I'd bet a lot (any takers?) it's a deliberate misrepresentation.

David Smith | 11/19/2012 - 1:10am
It's an easy hit to choose the man-bites-dog story about someone in the headlines who's doing something you don't like. Better, by far, to go after the issue than to execrate the person who's making a dubious call.

If you think there's a dramatic rise in the number of priests and bishops changing canon law on the fly, document it. 


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