An Unheard Lamentation

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, will be the “Grand Marshal” of the 2015 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade — the first to feature openly homosexual groups marching under their own banners. Here are the Cardinal’s thoughts on his decision, with some bracketed commentary provided by the folks at Rorate Caeli:

“I have no trouble with the decision [to promote acts against nature and Catholic doctrine at the parade] at all,” Cardinal Dolan said at an evening news conference announcing his appointment as grand marshal. “I think the decision [to promote acts against nature and Catholic doctrine at the parade] is a wise one.”

Some Catholics — mainly traditionalists, but some conservative neo-Catholics as well — have expressed disappointment, nay, outrage over Dolan’s decision to effectively endorse homosexuality and the so-called “gay rights” movement. In response, neo-Catholic pop writer Elizabeth Scalia reminds us dry, legalistic Catholics that “Dolan is Charged to Model Christ, not the Pharisees.” That claim, which has been echoed in various neo-Catholic circles over the past several days, has prompted a small wave of Internet memes, social-media postings, and blog posts calling attention to the firm stance Dolan’s predecessor, John Cardinal O’Connor, took against the inclusion of homosexuals in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Again, some further thoughts from Rorate Caeli:

Oh, well, how “neoconservative Catholics” change their minds with the winds of every social upheaval! Once, Cardinal O’Connor was a hero for them. Now, what he defended (the unchanging and unchangeable doctrine of the Church on family, natural law, marriage, and true Catholic presence in the public square) is dismissed as “pharisaism”. Remember that the Church had to wage a court battle against political power in New York City merely to defend that position 21 years ago — in Boston, that battle reached up to the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled in favor of the right of a parade-organizing group with a Catholic identity to protect its Catholic message. Now, capitulation to the new prevailing mores, without even a court fight, is instead considered what “Jesus” would do — when the real Jesus, as Saint John the Baptist, stood firm for Truth, even unto death, “and death on a Cross.”

Such is the neo-Catholic way. When they should be joining their traditional Catholic brethren in lamenting the loss of firm moral leadership in the Church, they are engaged in lame apologetics for capitulation while taking swipes at those faithful who refuse to discard the truth for a fleeting shot at cultural relevancy. How sadly their attitude contrasts with that of another Prince of the Church, Francis Cardinal George of Chicago. In a recent column for his diocesan newspaper, “A Tale of Two Churches,” George had this to say:

Throughout history, when Catholics and other believers in revealed religion have been forced to choose between being taught by God or instructed by politicians, professors, editors of major newspapers and entertainers, many have opted to go along with the powers that be. This reduces a great tension in their lives, although it also brings with it the worship of a false god. It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressure. It takes a deep faith to “swim against the tide,” as Pope Francis recently encouraged young people to do at last summer’s World Youth Day.

Swimming against the tide means limiting one’s access to positions of prestige and power in society. It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers. Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.

While one might quibble with the note of defeatism that rings through the Chicago Archbishop’s words, there can be no doubt that George is seeing the present crisis with a far clearer eye than at least one of his ecclesial peers. Note, too, how the good Cardinal from Chicago leans on the words of Pope Francis to justify neither indifference nor relativism, but rather strength and fortitude in the face of growing darkness. While it is a great blessing that our Holy Father’s teachings on the wealth, poverty, and the global economy are being taken up and defended by faithful Catholics all over the world, one cannot help but mourn the sad reality that far too many other statements issued by the Sovereign Pontiff of the universal Church are interpreted as calls for laxity in the name of a perverted understanding of “charity.”

The “Dolan Situation” (and its apologetic fallout) is just one of many reasons traditional Catholics feel increasingly alienated from the “mainstream” of the Catholic Church. Despite the fact many neo-Catholics believe everything can be reduced to liturgical snobbishness, the reality is that more and more Catholics who remain moored in the indefectible teachings of Christ’s Holy Church are now seen as backwards, out-of-step, and unloving. The traditional Catholic lament over the loss of an authentic Catholic witness in contemporary society is not sour grapes; it is an honest, heartfelt expression of mourning over the present state of the Church, the decline of society, and the loss of millions of souls to the Zeitgeist. So long as lamentation does not become an occasion for despair, then it is well and good that Catholics of all stripes intone it so that they may not only remind themselves and the forthcoming generation of what used to be, but instill as well the resolve to restore what has been lost, not for their own triumph, but for the greater glory of God.