Monday, June 10, 2013

Against a culture of 'ritual purity'

Normally, when I see articles in the ongoing 'speaker wars' where various people are up in arms about the views of some speaker scheduled to appear at some Catholic institution I pass on with a shrug to other more pressing matters. However an article I saw today from LifeSiteNews (h/t Mark Shea) was different, not because of its content but because of the speaker it was referencing.

I know Father Greg Boyle.

For the past eight years I have been a detention minister at two Los Angeles County Probation Department youth detention facilities. And once a month, like clockwork, Fr. Greg joins us to say Mass for the young men--just as he does at the more than two dozen other probation facilities and juvenile halls in L.A.

Now, Fr. Greg and I are not best friends or drinking buddies. I can't say that I've ever asked him about his views on gay marriage or women's ordination. After hearing eight years of sermons and a number of his talks, I can't say that I've ever heard him talk about those topics. After hearing his views, I have to say: "I disagree with him." Yet I am not shocked or scandalized. "California Jesuit expresses progressive opinions" is hardly a news-worthy headline.

What I do know about Fr. Greg, however, is that he has spent more than two decades preaching the Gospel to gang members and prisoners--trying to convince them that God still loves them, that he doesn't look at them and see 'bad people' but sons and daughters. I also know that he isn't just talking about gang issues. He runs one of the best (if not the best) gang intervention program in the United States, Homeboy Industries. He has personally kept hundreds, if not thousands, of people from being locked up in jails or being killed on the streets of Los Angeles.

I don't know about you, but I think that such things might just be worthy of a Catholic Charities speking engagement.

Oh, I know, I can hear the complaints already: "but you are ignoring the Gospel in favor of social justice activities!" No, I'm not. I fully believe in what the Church teaches regarding marriage and holy orders. However, I also think that painting someone with a broad brush as a "dissident priest" is unhelpful. Fr. Greg isn't a "dissident priest"--he's a good priest who holds some wrong opinions. We aren't going to help remedy the wrong opinions by creating a culture of 'ritual purity' where we try to shout down a priest who runs a successful Catholic charity when he is invited to talk at a Catholic Charities event.

If we want to change Fr. Greg's opinions about marriage and holy orders, we would be better off spending our time looking for charitable ways to express the Church's doctrines that answer the objections he expresses rather that walking ahead of him shouting "Unclean! Unclean!" Doing the later just helps further polarize American Catholics by forcing people to 'pick teams.'

Question: If the Holy Father can extend kindness and appreciation even to atheists who do good for others, can't we do the same for a devoted Catholic priest?


  1. This isn't ritual purity but doctrinal purity, there is a difference. Being in favor of these things is HERESY, which separates someone from the Church.

    1. The question, Anonymous, is what we do with a person who espouses these errors given that they are so prevalent. Most of the people I have known who hold them firmly believe that they are doing so because of the Gospel. They are wrong, but they are sincere--materially but not formally heretical to make an important distinction.

      Our focus should be on addressing and correcting the errors, not in voting fellow Catholics 'off the island' like some kind of game of ecclesiastical 'Survivor'. We cannot afford to create an environment where it is 'us versus them': there are too many good, if confused, souls on the 'them' team that will be further alienated from Christ and His Church.

  2. Actually Fr. Greg IS a dissident priest, because he disagrees with matters that have defined definitively by the Church- MORALS. Perhaps you missed the day they taught that in your diaconate program?

  3. Sorry to hear that Munz/Mendenhall is closing. My parents both worked there for many years when I was a kid.

  4. I was thinking of how I wanted to word this. Anonymous, this by no means is an attack on you. Granted, I am just finding my way down this road and on my own journey, but isn't the overriding message that God loves all of us regardless? Atheist and Pious, Gay and Straight. While the love involved in a Gay marriage is illicit, isn't the love involved still a good thing? While we're on that topic, isn't the problem in most people's minds really the sexual aspect of the relationship? I have my own views on both Gay marriage and women being ordained, but they're really irrelevant because the post is really a call for unity instead of judging someone based on our own personal beliefs.