The National Catholic Review

In this continuation of Jesus in Boulder, I want to look at the claim that Jesus did, on occasion, turn people away, as Fr. Breslin writes in a recent Lenten meditation. Then I want to discuss whether, if Jesus turned people away,  did he turn away their children in addition? First we must determine, is it the case that Jesus, in general, does turn people away? Fr. Breslin wrote,

"Actually Jesus did turn people away.  In Mark 5 Jesus healed the demoniac, and after the healing the man wanted to become a disciple.  Jesus said, No, go back to your own people and tell them all that the Lord in His mercy has done for you.  And when the rich young man wanted to follow Jesus, He told him, Go first and sell what you have and give it to the poor and then come follow me.  And in John 6, Jesus taught a very hard message so that most of those following Him turned away and would no longer walk in His company.  He did not soften His message so as to win them back."

I do not think any of these passages points to Jesus turning people away, though some of them might turn away because of an unwillingness to accept the whole of the Gospel. Jesus wants all people to come to him, but they must be willing to accept the truth.

In Mark 5, it is clear that the demoniac was a gentile who was healed by Jesus and now wants to “be with him” (5:18). Jesus does not refuse a disciple here, but rather sends this newly healed gentile back to his “friends" in order that he might "tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you” (5:19). Refused a disciple? I think not. I think he produced a missionary: “he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed” (5:20). This is a disciple who was sent, in Mark’s telling, to begin the gentile mission.

The rich young man turned away from Jesus’ teaching because he did not want to sell his many possessions (Matthew 19:22: “he went away grieving”), just as the disciples of Jesus turned away because “this teaching is difficult” (John 6:60). John makes it clear that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (6:66). In both cases, people turn away from Jesus; he does not send them away. I am not certain that any of these examples fit the situation. The only examples that fit are that of 1 Corinthians 5, as I wrote about earlier, and the related passage of Matthew 18:15-17, which speak of church discipline culminating in excommunication. In these examples, those within the community who refuse to follow the teachings of the Church can be excluded from the Church. This might be called “turning people away,” but there is a proper canonical process for this. This process, as far as I know, does not extend to their children, nor can you find any teaching of Jesus which rejects the children of those who have been "turned away".

 So, I grant that in certain situations, people are excluded from the Church, excommunicated, which I do not believe has happened to the parents of these two children. Let us say it does happen. Even in that case, why should this punishment of exclusion be visited upon their children, when they have done nothing wrong and Jesus calls upon us to accept the priority of the family of God? Indeed, he calls upon us not to “despise one of these little ones” (Matthew 18:10) and says that “whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). Note that these verses appear in the same chapter in Matthew in which Jesus speaks of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17). What have these children done? They have become pawns of the culture wars and it breaks my heart that this now takes priority over the kingdom of God.

John W. Martens


John Stehn | 3/19/2010 - 4:31pm
David:  As I said above, my intentions were pretty meager when I jumped into this thing.  That said, your concerns are not lost on me.  You make excellent points.  However, I give the Archbishop the benefit of the doubt, that he is acting in good faith, and is justified in his actions under Canon law.  I looked at the Canon Law blog of Dr. Edward Peters, and he hasn’t touched this issue as yet, perhaps for good reason.  I don’t fault the Archbishop for trying to protect the student’s at his schools from the moral perversity of our culture.  It is unfortunate though, that the side effect of doing so, is that the children are deprived of a Catholic education.  Perhaps their education would be a means of brining their parents to their senses.  Perhaps not.  And there is certainly no shortage of “ambiguity” in the admission policy indicated in his statement.  But I am not ready to call it hypocrisy just yet.
PS:  I am pretty sure that the use contraception is not considered an “unnatural vice” as the term is used by St. Thomas, and the theological manuals.  Also, sodomy is a sin that “cries out to heaven for vengeance”, where as simple fornication is not. 
David Nickol | 3/19/2010 - 12:25pm
John Stehn,
Actually, "scandal" was not given as a reason for ejecting the two children of the lesbian couple from Catholic school. One of the reasons was that the school would be teaching the children something different from what they learned at home (or at least this was the assumption of the pastor and the archbishop), and thus "confuse" the children. They might think they were being taught that there parents were "bad," so for the sake of the children, they should go to a school that accepted same-sex marriage. In other words, they would be confused by learning the truth in Catholic school, so they should go somewhere where they would be taught error.
Another reason was that the Archdiocese "partners" with parents to give their children a Catholic education, and the Archdiocese can't partner with those who do not accept the teachings of the church. Parents with children in Catholics schools are expected to live according to Catholic teaching. However, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese accept non-Catholic children of non-Catholic parents, so how exactly the partnering works in those cases is unclear, and exactly what Catholic teachings non-Catholic parents are required to live by has not been stated. 
It seems to me you are not defending the decisions made by the pastor and the archbishop. You are coming up with your own reasons for why you would not permit children of same-sex couples in Catholic schools. Perhaps you are suggesting that Arcbhishop Chaput is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, since you have not defended his arguments in this case. 
As things now stand, the lesbian parents are unlikely to appeal this case, since they were attempting to live a quiet life and - aside from doing an interview and issue a press release while remaining anonymous - they have expressed a wish to get this all behind them. Of course, I am sure some will condemn them if they don't pursue this (they really must not care about their children if the give up without a fight to give them a Catholic education) while others would condemn them if they appeal (they are trying to get the Church to bend toward their will, proving they were activists all along). The very worst has been assumed about them from the beginning, and I don't expect that to change. 
John Stehn | 3/19/2010 - 12:03pm
Nick:  You are employing a bit of moral relativism in your analysis.  The difference between divorced and remarried couples and homosexual couples is the difference between natural and un-natural sexual acts (fornication versus the unnatural vices).  There is no equivalency here.  A divorced and remarried couple, though living  in a state of sin due to their violation of Church law, possess the natural attributes of a marriage.  Such is not the case with homosexuals, whose public relationships are a direct assault on the natural moral law.  So to place these two unions side by side, and say that their difference is a matter of degree, is erroneous.  Unnatural sins are graver sins that natural sins, as St. Thomas teaches.
In addition, you mention couples who use birth control.  Though grave, these sins are private, and are matter for the tribunal of the Confessional.  The same cannot be said for cohabiting homosexuals, who openly manifest their privates sins, and their obstinate disregard for Church teaching and the natural moral law.
It seems to me that it is the combination of the gravity of the sins, coupled with their public obstinacy, that drove this decision.  If these two women lived separately, I think the Pastor would have acted differently, since we would be back to private sins.  But the public nature of their relationship raises this to the level of scandal, and that changes the equation, for lack of a better term.  Time will tell since, as I noted in my reply to Dr. Martens above, they can appeal this decision under Canon law.  I may be wrong, and it sure wouldn’t be the first time!
Finally, I believe the USCCB is an extra-ecclesial organization, with no authority over an Ordinary in canonical affairs.  For instance, any bishop can, at any time, mandate Friday abstinence year round if he so desired, which is the norm under Canon law.  And the USCCB would have no say in the matter.  If the mothers take this matter further, it will go to Rome.
David Nickol | 3/18/2010 - 6:03pm
I fail to see why the analogy to divorced and (civilly, non-sacramentally) remarried Catholic parents is weak. These women were living together quietly. A civil marriage is a public act, requiring witnesses, and recorded by the state. Why is it a weak analogy? If the Church is to send same-sex couples and their children into exile, why shouldn't they do the same to "bad" Catholics who have divorced and then remarried outside the Church? 
The answer of the pastor in this case is that there are no pro-divorce parades. But proponents of divorce don't need parades. They have already won all the battles. Only a handful of states don't have no-fault divorce. Half of al marriages end in divorce. We've already elected a divorced and remarried president (Ronald Reagan). 
And if fidelity to Church teachings is essential to membership in the Roman Catholic Church, what about the vast majority of married couples who use artificial birth control, or the large number of people who feel they don't need to go to Mass each and every Sunday? How would you treat their kids?
John Stehn | 3/18/2010 - 5:09pm
Nick:  Fidelity to Church teaching is essential to membership in the Roman Catholic Church.  That is what distinguishes us from Protestants and other heretics.  For this couple to claim that they “do not see eye to eye with the Catholic Church on the issue of gay and lesbian relationships”; and in fact go further and boldly and publically manifest their disobedience toward Divine and Catholic moral teaching, as well as the natural moral law, makes their claims sound disingenuous.  Their public dissent from Church teaching, I think, provides ample evidence that they have no intention of reinforcing Church teaching in the home for their child, which is a scandal.
The analogy of divorced and remarried couples is a weak one, and is certainly not universal, as in the case of homosexual couples.  Finally, the fact that they apparently attend Mass every Sunday (I do pray that they abstain from Communion) is a good sign that there is at least hope for illuminating them regarding the gravity of their lifestyle, and the eternal consequences for them as well as their child.
John Stehn | 3/19/2010 - 8:26am
Dr. Martens:  Actually, I was referring to the end of the 9th Chapter of the Gospel of St. Mark, wherein Our Lord speaks of scandal which, from the point of view of those responsible for maintaining the Catholicity of the school, is a serious issue.  I believe that this admonition bears directly on the parent (and her partner), as it would on any parent whose behavior or lifestyle is so manifestly contrary to Church moral teaching that it would cause their baptized child to lose the Faith.  In a 2003 Instruction from the CDF, the Magisterium referred to this type of counterfeit “family” arrangement as an act of “violence” against children.
You don’t disagree with me on the Rule of Faith as applied to this situation do you?  You don’t believe that such a decision, on the part of the Pastor, as well as the Diocese, should be made via private interpretation of Scripture do you?  Since the mother and child appear to be a baptized Catholics, they will no doubt have recourse to an appeal, since Canon law is quite specific about Catholic parents having a right to a Catholic education for their children (Can. 793).  Knowing this, I cannot for the life of me conceive of how the Archbishop Chaput could stand behind this decision without having confirmed that he is justified under Canon Law to do so.
If it turns out that he is wrong, and that Church law requires that the girl be returned to the school, I will send you a humble email admitting my error.
David Nickol | 3/19/2010 - 7:49am
I see you still haven't found it necessary to familiarize yourself with the case under discussion, since there are actually two mothers (the lesbian couple) and two children (each the biological child of one of the mothers). 
As for the first class of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics you mention - those who are potential candidates for annulments - why not simply make it a policy that their children are welcome in Catholic school as long as they (the parents) are actively pursuing an annulment? 
As for all the others, it seems to me they are in exactly the same boat as same-sex couples. The only way to get back into the good graces of the Church is to cease living as married people. You say some of them may acknowledge their second marriage as invalid. Those who do, of course, are obstinately and knowingly persisting in grave sin, according to the Catholic Church, and yet you want to treat them with sympathy and compassion. There is no way to know, but I would imagine that actually most in this situation do not, in fact, consider themselves to be ''living in sin'' and do not teach their children that mommy and daddy aren't really married, just living together. 
You say: ''They don’t flaunt their situation, and they don’t try to force the Church to change Her teachings regarding divorce.'' This is a perfect description of the couple whose children Archbishop Chaput is expelling from Catholic school. The lesbian couple were not activists of any kind, and they made it clear they had no objection to their child being instructed in Church teachings about homosexuality. The only thing they were asking is that their children be allowed to go to Catholic school and be treated like any other children. 
Your clear assumption is that divorced and remarried couples may be ''bad Catholics,'' but they will raise their children to be good Catholics. However, same-sex couples are ''bad Catholics,'' and they will raise their children to be ''bad Catholics.'' Illicit heterosexual relationships seem to be tolerable, but illicit homosexual relationships must be dealt with harshly. 
You have not dealt with ''the vast majority of married couples who use artificial birth control, or the large number of people who feel they don't need to go to Mass each and every Sunday.'' And you have not dealt with the deep contradiction of saying to same-sex couples, ''We will baptize your children as long as we have good reason to believe you will raise them as Catholics, but we will not allow them in Catholic school.'' I would find no logical contradiction in your position if you held that children of same-sex couples should not be baptized in the first place, but that would put you in disagreement with the USCCB.
John Stehn | 3/18/2010 - 8:23pm
Nick:  There are many divorced and remarried couples who could, with proper catechesis and spiritual guidance, avail themselves of an annulment and, with sacramental penance and marriage, be brought into full communion with the Church.  This actually happens every year, in diocese throughout the world.  Such an option is universally impossible for cohabiting homosexual couples.  Their union will never be recognized by the Church.  Their only recourse is to terminate their un-natural living arrangements and seek spiritual help.  In addition, there are many divorced and remarried Catholics who accept that their new marriage is invalid, yet still try to remain in communion with the Church, hoping for mercy when they die.  These people may have committed these acts early in their adult lives, before they fully understood their faith and, though the regret it now, nevertheless, have families and want their children to be taught the Catholic faith.  They remain faithful to Church teaching in all other ways, and reinforce the Church’s teachings at home.  They don’t flaunt their situation, and they don’t try to force the Church to change Her teachings regarding divorce.
The mother of this child has brought this painful experience upon her daughter and herself.  If this awful situation isn’t sufficient for her to rethink her lifestyle choices, and seek spiritual help from Holy Mother Church, than it appears as though nothing will.  She is now making a choice between her daughters spiritual welfare, and her disordered emotional and/or carnal desires.  She needs prayers, not defenders.
David Nickol | 3/18/2010 - 2:31pm
John Stehn:
Apparently you are not familiar with the actual circumstances surrounding this case or with the USCCB document titled "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care." The children of the lesbian couple *were* being raised Catholic. That was the objection! They were in Catholic school!
Here is an excerpt from the couple's press release:
We were both born and raised in the Catholic faith. One of us went to Catholic school from preschool through high school, and the other attended a prestigious Catholic University. Our children’s grandmother and aunt were catholic school teachers for many years. Furthermore, our children are Catholics. They have both been baptized, and we take them to church regularly at Sacred Heart.  When we were allowed to have our children baptized (as recommended by the 2006 document ‘Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care’), we made a promise to raise our children in the Catholic faith. We now feel like our attempts at fulfilling this promise are being undermined by the Church itself. Although we do not see eye to eye with the Catholic Church on the issue of gay and lesbian relationships, we value what a Catholic education can offer our children from an academic, religious, and moral standpoint.
Exactly what difference is there between same-sex parents and Catholic parents who have divorced and remarried outside the Church? Should the latter not be permitted to send their children to Catholic school?
John Stehn | 3/18/2010 - 11:37am
David:  According to Canon law (CCL 868), the Church is under no obligation to baptize any child unless there is "a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion".  For same sex couples, it is clear that said hope is altogether and manifestly lacking.
It seems that Mr. Martens' comments place the burden of this child's loss on the Church, rather than where it belongs which is on the souls of the parent.  Rather than sift the Scriptures for justification of the pastor's decision, since we are not Protestants (I hope), someone should tell the parent to reflect on Our Lord's admonition to anyone who would cause unbelief in a child, in light of their lifestyle choice.  I recall something about "it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea".
David Nickol | 3/19/2010 - 2:31pm
John Stehn,
Once again, it is interesting that in defending the decisions of the Archdiocese of Denver, you are making quite a different case than the Archdiocese itself. Not once has it been argued that unnatural sins are graver sins that natural sins. The response of the pastor to the question of divorced and remarried Catholics versus same-sex couples was that there were no pro-divorce parades. This, it seems to me, is basically a political justification. The lesbian parents must be treated differently from those who are divorced and remarried because there is a gay rights movement but no pro-divorce movement. 
On the issue of birth control, I would mention again that one of the chief reasons given for booting the lesbians' children from Catholic school was that they would learn something different at home than at school. This was not an argument about public scandal. It was an argument about differences between what went on at home and what was taught in school. I doubt that pre-schoolers are aware whether their parents use artificial birth control, but I would be surprised if children, especially girls in later grade school, were all in the dark about whether or not their mother used the birth control pill. 
As for the standing of the USCCB, there status seems to change depending on the issue involved. Apparently they may be ignored in letters on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, but they are all but infallible on whether the House or the Senate version of health care reform prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortion. 
I think your contention that unnatural sins are graver sins that natural sins is not really relevant since, as I said above, it was not a justification given by the Archdiocese of Denver, but I have heard it said that Aquinas said it was preferable to visit a prostitute than to masturbate. It would seem to follow from the premise that unnatural sins are graver than natural ones, but it is certainly not what we were taught about masturbation in Catholic high school. I think there are all kinds of problems with maintaining that unnatural sins are graver than natural sins. But in any case, using artificial birth control is an unnatural sin according to Catholic thinking, is it not? So can we agree that children who find out that their parents use artificial birth control should not be permitted in Catholic school, since Church teaching might ''confuse'' them, and the school would be in the awkward position of teaching the children something different from what they learn at home, and might think they are being taught that their parents are ''bad.'' 
Let me point out once again that I am mainly interested in addressing the justifications put forward by the Archdiocese of Denver for their actions rather than your rather different justifications, not because your arguments are uninteresting, but because the reasoning of the Archdiocese doesn't make sense to me, and consequently I am trying to analyze it rather than figure out what other reasons one might offer for taking the same actions. 
David Nickol | 3/17/2010 - 10:09am
The principal question in my mind is how can the Church, on the one hand baptize children of same-sex couples on the condition that they be raised Catholic, and on the other hand deny the children a Catholic education? It makes no sense.
David Nickol | 3/19/2010 - 3:15pm

One other rather small point. Even if I were to claim remarriage after divorce was morally equivalent to being in a same-sex relationship, that would not be moral relativism. Moral relativism isn't about how you rank sins. It's about saying things are wrong only because people consider them wrong, not because they are objectively wrong. 
Also, I think we are talking about the concept of "intrinsic evil" here, and there can be intrinsic evils that are small, and evils that are not intrinsic that are extremely grave. Any lie, for example, is intrinsically evil, even if it's, "Why no, honey, that doesn't make you look fat," or, "Mmmmm! This is delicious. Can I get the recipe?" 

John Stehn | 3/19/2010 - 1:21pm
David:  First, sincere apologies for calling you “Nick”.  I have no idea where that came from.  Second, my intention from the beginning was to comment on what seemed to be a Protestant (“What Would Jesus Do?”) / sola scriptura approach to glean the “right” answer to this conundrum, as well as to point the accusatory fingers away from the Pastor and Archbishop, and back to the source of this unfortunate situation, which is the parents of these children.
The parents in question have much more to worry about than various groups condemning them.  Persistence in their lifestyle, without repentance,  will result in condemnation by Almighty God.  The fact that they attend Mass on Sunday is an open invitation for the Pastor to reach out to them, and try to get them to properly form their consciences, and avail themselves of sanctifying grace, which is the only thing that can save them, or any of us for that matter.  In a large metropolitan area like Denver, there is no doubt a local chapter of “Courage”, which could offer the support of other homosexual Catholics who are trying to live according to Church teaching.
The ultimate goal here isn’t to get their children into Catholic school, it is for all of them to be brought to the Beatific Vision at the end of their life.  And that won’t happen if they persistently live in a manner which is contrary to Church moral teaching.
John Stehn | 3/18/2010 - 3:31pm
John:  I am saying that "sola scriptura" is a Protestant thing.  The Church teaches that Scripture is the remote rule of faith, while the Church's Magisterium is the proximate rule of faith.  And the decision of whether or not to allow the child into the school is to be made according to the Church’s teaching and Canon Law, not one’s personal interpretations of Scripture.  I am not, of course, saying that one shouldn’t appeal to Scripture to explain the reasons for the rejection.  However, that can’t be the sole justification for the decision, as I stated above.
If the children are baptized, then the Church duty is to attempt to form the conscience of the mother (both for the sake of the child as well as her own soul) regarding her un-natural “lifestyle” .  And let’s not forget the obligation the Church has to the other children in the school, who would be scandalized by the infamy of the lesbian couple’s public display of immorality.

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