Thomas Williams reports here on newly appointed Brazilian cardinal Leonardo Steiner who believes gay sex between non-Catholics isn’t wrong. He thinks non-Catholics are not bound to Catholic moral teaching. This is certainly true when it comes to adherence to Catholic doctrine and discipline–for example belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary or obligations for Mass attendance, but when Catholic moral teaching derives from natural law it is something imposed not by the Catholic Church, but by the natural order itself. One might just as well say that non-Catholics needn’t worry about stealing because, you know, that “Thou shalt not steal” thing is Catholic.
I know I’m only a convert, but I have to admit to constantly being astonished by the level of ignorance, stupidity, incompetence and blindness not only of many Catholics in the pew–but also of those in high office. Not only those in high office politically, but also in high office of the church herself.
In his article Williams lays out very clearly the simple teaching of the Catholic Church: homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and same sex unions are “in no way analogous to marriage.” This teaching is rooted in natural law and is obvious from nature and common to all humanity. To say this is only part of Catholic belief and therefore not binding on all people is the kind of mistake a seventh grader might make. Honestly, that’s being unfair (at least) to the seventh graders in my parish. They would know the difference, and they would do well to invite Cardinal Steiner for some catechism classes.
That this comes from a Brazilian is not surprising. The once fervent Catholic Church of Latin America is ruled by men like Steiner–and no wonder the church in Brazil is hemorrhaging member to the Evangelical Charismatic mega churches. When they go there the multitude of former Catholics abandon the sacraments, but they gain a version of Christianity that believes and proclaims….well….Christianity.
Evangelical Pentecostals do not have the fullness of the faith, but they have the core of the faith–that is a real belief in the power of God at work in the world, the truth of the divinely revealed Scriptures, the redeeming work of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and the power of his resurrection. They subscribe to historic Christian values and uphold historic Christian morals. With Catholic leaders like Cardinal Steiner (and we could name a few other red hats) no wonder Brazilian Christians increasingly turn their backs on the Catholic Church.
Now, those who would like me to play it safe and hold back from criticizing someone so obviously my superior as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church ought to think clearly. This is a case of the boy in the crowd and the emperor’s new clothes. Forgive me if, in my naïveté I blurt out, “But his eminence is not wearing anything at all!”
To be fair to Cardinal Steiner, he is making the argument that the Catholic Church should not impose its standards on a secular society. and I agree with him, however we don’t have the power to do this even if we wanted to. If the secular power chooses to allow same sex unions and any other moral abomination, then it may do so. The role of Catholics is to continue, with love, compassion and clarity to proclaim the truth, and more than that–to live the truth so that we might be a light to the world–a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. When it comes to the question of our treatment of persons who experience same sex attraction, the catechism is also clear: they are to be welcomed “with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”