What Is Needed Beyond The First Step

I noted that CNS picked up Bishop Richard Malone’s retooling of the culturewar. Most unsurprising was this bit:

Brian Souchet, director of the diocesan Office for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, told Catholic News Service March 6 that some bloggers had summarized the news conference by “proclaiming that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland will not be defending marriage this go-round,” which he called “a gross misreading” of what the bishop said.

Indeed. We can’t very well have an important general retreating from the front. In secular war, you might get shot for that. culturewar is no different. The conservative blogosphere, be warned, will try to deliver something comparable to shooting, especially if it hurts more.

As I was reflecting on the General Directory for Catechesis earlier this morning, the bishop’s effort in Maine and those four criteria of “effective and authentic” adult catechesis came to mind. A pastoral letter and a web page are a start. I browsed through the letter. There’s nothing in it that’s wrong from the Church’s rational view. I don’t see where conservative bloggers are howling about it. Maybe it’s that the Church in Maine won’t be pouring oodles of money into politics this term

(Bishop Malone) said that in 2009 the diocese had supported the repeal campaign through television ads and by holding a special collection at Masses. In addition, Bishop Malone said he sent an appeal for contributions to nearly every U.S. bishop.

“We don’t have plans right now to do any of that,” he said.


The refocus on catechesis is a first step. But my problem with the efforts is that it is far from complete–neither effective nor authentic. And I think GDC 174 can illustrate why.

Does the Maine letter address “their condition as adult men and women, requires taking account of their problems and experiences, their spiritual and cultural resources, with full respect for their differences”?

The problems men and women find in their marriages is not due to what the homosexual couple across the hall or down the street might be doing. Couples have communication difficulties. Pornography is a huge burden, especially for men. Long working hours. Financial demands. Differences in upbringing. Family-of-origin issues. Addictions. These are the problems of modern marriage. I see very little in the Maine catechesis that attempts to “defend” marriage from within. It would be another thing, of course, if Catholics were being forced to marry those of their own sex. But it hasn’t come to that, yet.

Does the Maine letter attend “to the lay condition of adults, on whom Baptism confers the task of ‘seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s Will’, and whom it calls to holiness”?

There’s one mention of baptism in the letter.

Does the Maine letter encourage “the involvement of the community so that it may be a welcoming and supportive environment”?

Parishes might be providing opportunities for married couples, especially younger couples. And that would be very good.

Does the letter “ensure systematic pastoral care of adults, with which liturgical formation and the service of charity have been integrated”?

Some might say that political action in the world sort of covers the second aspect of criterion #4. But legal advocacy is justice, not charity.

I can think of several liturgical initiatives that might help support marriage.

  • – Do clergy include a renewal of baptismal vows before witnessing a couple exchange marriage vows?
  • – Does the parish recognize and bless couples on their anniversaries?
  • – Renewal of marriage vows at infant baptisms?
  • – Special occasions of prayer directed to the spiritual side of marriage?

Perhaps you can think of some more.

I’m glad the Bishop of Portland isn’t throwing money into politics. But throwing more effort into supporting the sacrament of marriage from the inside out might be wonderfully effective in the long run.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in General Directory for Catechesis, Liturgy, Ministry, Politics, The Blogosphere. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What Is Needed Beyond The First Step

  1. Defending marriage at this point – pardon me for saying this – seems a bit like looking at an enormous barn, devoid of a single cow, with said cows nowhere in sight, and saying that we must find ways to keep the barn doors closed and secure at all times.

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