Being at Our Sunday Visitor, with its national and international contacts within the Church, provides a perspective for saying that St. Vincent de Paul’s parish in Fort Wayne, Ind., is one of the best examples of what a Catholic parochial community should be.
Many reasons support this statement, such as the spiritual vitality of the parishioners — more than 10,000 of them on record — the rich Catholicity and dignity of its edifying liturgies, and its energetic programs, not the least of which is its school, enrolling 770 students.
Great proof of the parish’s effectiveness is the number of vocations it produces. Last spring, two parishioners were ordained to the priesthood. Another is being ordained a deacon this month and, God willing, will be a priest this time next year.
Good, solid Catholic families create vocations. Good, solid pastors are vital to the process of nourishing the faith of such families. St. Vincent’s is a model parish in great measure because of its energetic pastor, Msgr. John M. Kuzmich.
Msgr. Kuzmich is a gentle, joyful man of the Church, highly responsible, a humble and resolute servant and spiritual father of his people. He keeps St. Vincent’s and all its very many services humming.
This is the backdrop, or part of it, against which the following situation unfolds.
In late April, a decision, made carefully and diligently by Msgr. Kuzmich, stormed into local and national headlines.
The decision under fire was about a teacher in St. Vincent’s School who, it is alleged, had stated publicly that she had decided to resort to a procedure of in vitro fertilization to try to conceive a child. The Church sees this medical process as gravely immoral.
Believing that Catholic school teachers should be models for living as the Church understands what living should be, and told that this teacher had revealed her situation, Msgr. Kuzmich did not renew her contract. The teacher is protesting before the civil courts.
The courts will consider her case and rule according to civil law.
Above and beyond any judicial ruling is the atmosphere surrounding reports of this case. It has not been altogether friendly to Msgr. Kuzmich’s decision, although he has his share of supporters.
Rising from the culture in which we live, it reflects a reality in the culture, and Catholic culture, in this country.
In the American culture generally is the attitude that personal moral choices trump anything that any institutional religious authority may say, even within its own circles and functions. Wide is the opinion that institutional religion must yield.
As to the Catholic culture, this point of view also is widespread and gains momentum. Compounding everyone’s ability to see issues such as this dispute, among people overall but also among Catholics, is that the details — ethical, moral and many others — of medical practices now even widely chosen by people are simply unknown or not understood.
Catholic moral catechetics has not kept up with developments in science in all too many instances, but to be fair, many medical procedures are relatively new. (In vitro fertilization first succeeded in conception in 1978.)
Remember this cultural presumption and inadequate understanding of Catholic morality when watching this and other such cases.
Teachers in Catholic schools must show an awareness of, and respect for, Church teachings. Students, parents, the Church, and the future deserve nothing less.
God bless all those earnestly disturbed by these events. God bless Msgr. Kuzmich.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s associate publisher.