This commentary has been getting traction at HLI and among a few FB friends. I think Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro’s point is just plain silly.
(F)or those Catholics who cannot bring themselves to believe the formal teachings of the Church on life and family matters it would be more honest to leave the Church rather than betraying Her.
This commentary is astray on a number of fronts.
First, betrayal is a rather serious charge. In citing Pope Benedict, Msgr Barreiro considers the situation of Judas. But other apostles betrayed Christ. Peter denied the Lord, then abandoned him. Paul conducted a campaign of murder against believers. All three arrived at a moment of contrition. Peter and Paul knew there was a community willing to embrace them. In Peter’s case, he had a lot of company, but the women who did not abandon the Lord still accepted him. And Paul, though there was doubt as to his motives, was eventually received and revered by the early Christians. Judas’ problem wasn’t that he failed to leave Jesus earlier. It was his own sense of profound separation from the Lord and from the community that led him to feel first remorse, and then despair to the point of suicide. There are people all over the Church who are wrong on life and family matters. Some of them are active bishops. I may not like the sins they have committed, but I am obliged to love them. And I must admit, they are as much a part of the Body as I am.
Second, I think it’s extremely problematic for a person who dissents from Church teaching to actually teach the dissenting view. That is where a person should step back, not from membership, but from the role as teacher.
Third, we must all recognize that we are a community of sinners. Within the life issue of abortion, there are distinctions between a person who actively procures an abortion, and someone who might prefer that the ability to persuade others is within one’s skills, rather than place hope on a political system to outlaw some or all procedures. Many pro-life Catholics make a conscious choice to decline to associate ourselves with the political pro-life movement. And the Church does not obligate me to embrace particular political or social methods or to emulate behavior I don’t judge to be Christian. That might cause observers to rub their chins and say, “Hmm.” But adhering to the HLI line is not Gospel. As much as it might make some HLI followers “feel better” about the issue.
Fourth, Msgr Barriero is advocating a self-inflicted penalty even stronger than the one accorded to those who have procured an abortion. That seems drastically out of line.
In light of the challenges of evangelization, I have to wonder if this SCGS* meme hasn’t fallen prey to its own divergence from Church teaching: hopelessness. Believers don’t get to suggest who should be removed from the fold. That duty belongs to the Lord. Not a priest with “a doctorate in Dogmatic theology.” We may not like a pro-choice Catholic or a misbehaving bishop. But we are always urged to cultivate hope, and to avoid becoming like those Jesus did condemn, we likely need to apply hope to people we don’t think are suitable.
Speaking for myself, every baptized person has a place in the Church. Don’t ever let anyone suggest you’re better off elsewhere. Or certainly that we’re better off without you. God’s grace manages the truth of things great and small. No believer has any place making suggestions to leave. That role is reserved to God.
*Small Church, getting smaller