Today's "Gay Voices" page of the Huffington Post features video and and a story from a Minnesota priest, Fr. Bob Pierson, delivering a talk that absolves Catholics from any guilt if they vote "no" on an initiative that would preserve marriage as an institution that can exist only between a man and a woman.
You can watch the video here:
First, let us be clear that we have nothing but the greatest respect for the priesthood, since this little event begs the need to separate the officeholder from his office--and separate we shall.
Second, why in heaven's name does everyone seem to know that this priest is homosexual? (sorry, we won't be using the P.C. jargon "gay" here today). This is certainly more information than we need, it's a deliberate snub to the Magisterium of the Church and a poor example for all Catholics, especially children who desperately need more masculine role models in the priesthood. Yet "Fr. Bob" seems to be known all over the web as an "openly gay priest". Of course, that's no surprise since, after all we're discussing a priest from Minnesota.
Fr. Pierson's talk is so riddled with bandwagon appeals, straw arguments and false need statements that it would be too time-consuming to parse the entire text of his speech. However there are a few rhetorical fallacies here that are so blatant and, frankly so overused that they scream for correction. So with all due respect to the priestly faculties of Fr. Pierson, let us address two of the most glaring problems contained in his speech:
"Too Many of us have been taught to think of God in terms of God's judgment rather than God's tremendous love and mercy."
Actually, it can be argued that the exact opposite is true. The idea of accountability for one's sin and the imminent judgment of God has all but disappeared from catechetics since the late 1960's. Unless one ignores their parish's Director of Religious Education and purchases a Baltimore Catechism, their children are likely to hear of nothing but God's mercy with little or no mention of His judgment. And while God IS infinitely merciful, He also has an infinite demand for perfect justice.
And what does the Church say to us about God's justice when it comes to the sin of Sodom? Simply this: It is one of four sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance (along with willful murder, oppression of the poor and defrauding laborers of their wages).
It is also instructive to remember that in 1917, after showing three visionaries a glimpse of Hell, Our Lady of Fatima told them, "More sinners go to Hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason."
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in number 1782, 'The human person has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience, nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.'...A young theologian by the name of Joseph Ratzinger whom many of you now know as Pope Benedict XVI, put it this way in 1967 and I quote: 'Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even, if necessary, against the requirement of authority.' Our Holy Father taught in 1967 that we must obey our own conscience, even if it puts us at odds with the pope."
(Followed by smug, "gotcha" look and enthusiastic applause)
Fr. Pierson selectively chooses not to mention two important facts:
1) If he were to move on to article 1783 from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, he would read:
1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.
1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.
1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55
It is also instructive to review the General Catechetical Directory, published by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, which states in article 63:
Christian freedom still needs to be ruled and directed in the concrete circumstances of human life. Accordingly, the conscience of the faithful, even when informed by the virtue of prudence, must be subject to the Magislerium of the Church, whose duty ibis to explain the whole moral law authoritatively, in order that it may rightly and correctly express the objective moral order.
2) Yes, as a young priest, Fr. Ratzinger held some rather liberal views. However in 1968, he got a cold dose of reality that changed him forever. While a University professor in Tubingen, Germany, Fr. Ratzinger was appalled by the lack of clarity, disregard for truth and downright diabolical attitudes held by many of his students and fellow faculty members. Anyone who follows his writings can see that Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope Benedict XVI are very different characters than young Fr. Ratzinger. Or, as Winston Churchill once quipped: "Any 20 year-old who isn't a liberal doesn't have a heart and any 40 year-old who isn't a conservative doesn't have a brain."
Fr. Pierson is certainly older than 40--but let us not digress...
3) That statement from young Fr. Ratzinger has no magisterial authority.
Why a priest, who has the grave obligation to teach truth and morality to his flock, neglects to mention these points is troubling, to say the least. To try to make the pope appear as a maverick bucking the very authority the Church has given him is shamefully dishonest.
While there is much more that can be refuted in Fr. Pierson's highly-biased adventure in moral relativism, these two statements seem the most glaring to this blogger. However, Fr. Pierson almost begs for comment with one other point:
"It was in November of 2005 that I was offended to learn the Vatican had released a document that said gay men cannot be priest because they are, 'seriously obstructed from properly relating to men and women.' (snickers from the audience). I couldn't believe what I was reading. I knew that I was gay when I was ordained. Did that mean that my 21 years of ministry was a mistake?"
With all due respect to the priesthood, with nothing but reverence for the sacred office of the priesthood, it must be said:
YOUR 21 YEARS OF MINISTRY
COULD BE A MISTAKE.
A HUGE MISTAKE.
If you are not teaching the truths of the Church, you are abusing your sacred vows and duties as a priest. If you are mocking the teaching authority of the Church, you are abusing your office as priest. If you are ignoring the reality of original sin and misleading people with unnatural sexual orientations to believe that they can persist in sin and be all right with God, you are assisting the devil in bringing souls to eternal perdition.
The most hopeful thing about this video presentation is when the camera pans the audience: A largely geriatric crowd, typical of those who embrace the dying, "liberal Catholic" agenda. Biology will solve that problem. But this should, by no means make us feel any better either. What of their souls? Will no one teach them the truth before it is too late?
Fr. Pierson, God bless him, is not shepherding these people. He is doing grave harm to them, to himself and to the reputation of the priesthood. May he find the truth before it is too late.