Question 27



"People will go to another church because they don’t want to hear this."

Sad to say, not every parish is on the same page when dealing with matters of sexuality, marriage and the family. Some parishes simply ignore whatever is politically incorrect. They allow dissenting elements within the parish to determine what parts of the Gospel can be proclaimed there. This, in turn, means that forces within the secular society exert an influence over some parishioners, who bring that to bear upon the entire parish. Instead of being counter-cultural, such a parish becomes a mere reflection of the secular culture.

But this is the land of the free and the home of the brave. What is there to prevent a clergyman from proclaiming God’s beautiful plan for human love, life, marriage and family? We are not to worry about those who may reject the truth and leave. Our Lord did not change his teaching about the Eucharist when many in His audience found this a hard saying and walked away. He respected their freedom, and let them walk. But they had to respect His freedom also and His responsibility to proclaim the message the Father gave Him, which is for the life of the world. If all the clergy were clearly teaching good moral principles, then our people would not go shopping for the preacher who suits their ears.

"When the bishop talks about it, I’ll begin to talk about it."

One can understand why a priest or deacon would hesitate to take the initiative in teaching values that have been largely ignored since 1968. We have a right to expect our spiritual fathers, the bishops, to lead by their example in addressing these serious matters. This is their duty as moral guides and spiritual leaders of a diocese. They are to be the good shepherd for the entire diocese. But what happens if they do not speak out? Is the pastor justified in keeping silent? When we priests die, the Lord will not ask you "What did the bishop do?" He will ask, "What did you do? You are the pastor of your people."

Our priesthood comes from the Lord, not from another human being. Our obligations go to the Lord, before they go to any of His human representatives. God holds us accountable for what we do, for our choices and actions, and taking responsibility for ourselves and our people. True leadership means that we address the real needs of our times, regardless of what others are not doing. Reprehensible negligence does not justify other reprehensible negligence. Perhaps what needs to be done in a diocese where the bishop chooses not to address these issues is to have many of the clergy give him their assurance that they will support his giving a public teaching. Perhaps the bishop is concerned that if he takes any initiative in these matters, then his clergy will publicly refuse to comply, as happened when Humanae Vitae was first promulgated. Everyone admires leadership, but where will leadership arise? We think that the good Lord expects all of us to be spiritual and moral leaders. 

Cordially yours, 
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB