This is an uncomfortable time for Catholics, and all indications point to the fact that it’s only going to get worse.
The Church in San Francisco, led by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, is the latest indication of this unhappy truth. Nearly two months after the archbishop amended the teacher handbook for four archdiocesan high schools in order to clarify Church teachings on hot-button issues like abortion, homosexuality, contraception, same-sex marriage and in vitro fertilization, the community uproar has reached a boiling point, with city lawmakers passing a resolution asking the archbishop to back down. Should things continue to progress, the city very well could take legal action.
San Francisco is the latest in a growing number of dioceses that, in order to protect themselves from inevitable legal action when they attempt to enforce the teachings of the Church down the road, have opted to more explicitly lay out the tenets of the Faith and expectations of teachers and other employees in contract clauses and handbooks. All have received backlash from the community. The more such incidents occur, the more evident it becomes that this — the Church defending its own teachings in its own institutions — will be the battleground of American Catholics in the new millennium.
A recent development over what could only be considered semantics took place this month in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which faced its own morality clause uproar last spring. There, the diocese changed the clause wording from “public support” to “advocacy” in order to clarify what falls within bounds and what doesn’t. Get used to this type of tightrope walking — we’ll only be seeing more.
As Princeton Professor Robert P. George said during the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast: The days of “socially acceptable Christianity” and “comfortable Catholicism” are over.
“Powerful forces and currents in our society press us to be ashamed of the Gospel — ashamed of the good, ashamed of our faith’s teachings” on the sanctity of life and traditional marriage, George added, as reported by Catholic News Service. “These forces insist that the Church’s teachings are out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted — even hateful. These currents bring pressure on all of us — most especially on young Catholics — to yield to this insistence. ... They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all.”
As we face these growing challenges, though, it’s critical for us to keep in mind the call of the Gospel — outlined in the Catechism and emphasized by Pope Francis — to maintain an attitude of “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” Only then can we approach individuals with whom we disagree as a “field hospital,” where we can bring the light of Christ to those who need it most.