Friday, July 10, 2009

Private lives...

...and scandal.
I worked with a traditional Catholic fellow who once mentioned his concern over a young couple we both knew who as yet had no children, "They better say something or everyone will assume thy are contracepting." (I know!) I never, ever would have thought anything as to why a couple was childless until my friend mentioned that. He explained himself by insisting that a young, childless, married Catholic couple could be a source of scandal to others - as in the case of both holding jobs or going to school - if after a year or so of marriage there was no child or any talk of a family. He also felt they needed to disclose to their friends and families if they were experiencing problems conceiving - so great was the risk of an appearance of scandal as regards contraception. Personally, I believe it is no one's business.
Although I thought of this episode in connection with a story coming out of Canada concerning a homosexual man who lives with a male friend, albeit chastely, yet who was nevertheless ordered by his bishop not to serve Mass at his parish church:
PETERBOROUGH, ON, July 7, 2009 ( - Jim Corcoran, the owner of one of Canada's largest and most lavish spas, has launched a human rights complaint against the Bishop of Peterborough Ontario for refusing him permission to continue to serve as an altar server. Corcoran admits that he is homosexual and lives with another homosexual man, but says that he follows the Church's teaching and lives a chaste lifestyle. According to the Catholic Register, Bishop Nicola De Angelis asked Corcoran to accept his decision that he not serve on the altar based upon the bishops' desire to avoid public scandal. Corcoran is seeking monetary damages of $25,000 from the bishop and $20,000 each from 12 parishioners who complained to the bishop about Corcoran and his roommate having been invited by the local priest to serve on the altar at Masses. - Source
After reading sections of his blog and the piece in the Canadian Catholic Register, it appears as if the parishioners have problems with the pastor and Mr. Corcoran was caught in the crossfire. The pastor seems to be the one who invited the men to serve on the altar in the first place. In any event, I think it would be better for Concoran to be obedient to his bishop - the bishop is in charge of liturgy for his diocese - not the parish priest or an altar server. If 12 parishioners complained, the bishop obviously was seeking to avoid cause for greater scandal. Corcoran would do well to be submissive, or at least work things out with the bishop and the pastor privately. Of course that is much too much to expect of people today, isn't it.
Corcoran says that he follows the teaching of the Church regarding homosexuality and that he lives a chaste life with his friend:
“I’m a chaste homosexual and practise my faith,” he said. While Corcoran does live with another gay man, they are devout Catholics who refrain from sexual activity in accordance with church teaching, he said. - Source
Nothing wrong with that and besides, that is all the Church asks - aside from requiring same-sex attracted people to refrain from promoting the homosexual lifestyle. Which may explain further why the bishop felt it necessary to intervene - I trust the men themselves had no intention of doing that - flaunting their orientation or promoting it - however other parishioners may have understood it differently. This issue is not a matter of housing or job discrimination, but doctrine and the spiritual care of souls - scandal can drive people away from the Church, as this case may have already done. One dissenter explained:
“Dorothy and I know personally 25 or 30 who have left the church, are going to church elsewhere,” Ward said. “We know some of them who aren’t going to church at all.” - Source
That is no laughing matter, but unfortunately the incident has already become politicized and contentious. I noted on another blog that a commenter speculated as to the nature of Corcoran's chaste relationship, explaining the double-speak some gay activists use regarding chastity. They can separate chastity from celibacy, or propose same sex monogamy as living chastely. Hence if a person has a partner, they may think they practice chastity by refraining from outside sexual relations, as heterosexual married couples do, or they may avoid direct sexual contact yet indulge in mutual masturbation, pornography, what have you. Of course there is absolutely no way a faithful Catholic could define such an arrangement as a chaste relationship. Likewise, many people do not consider masturbation sinful either. It is. Additionally, some gay activists see celibacy as a separate issue from chastity - it is not - not for the unmarried Catholic at least. Because of such dissimulation, trickery and blatant error, a person can easily be deceived - both the deluded persons involved in such a friendship, as well as the curious looking in.
It looks to me as if Corcoran has fallen prey to the 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' reality zealous religious types can sometimes subject sincere people to. It is a fact of life. Nevertheless, one must avoid giving scandal at all cost. It is a tough life - sometimes people suffer for righteousness sake even at the whim of fellow Catholics. The lives of the saints are replete with such examples, founders of religious orders falsely disgraced and dismissed from their congregations, former prostitutes alienated and denied entry into religious life, and so on.
Besides, life isn't always fair. Divorced and remarried Catholics can't do a lot either - but they can attend Mass and pray and perform good works. That said, since Corcoran has brought a lawsuit I have to wonder if there isn't some sort of agenda motivating him at this point.
I think it is better to spend one's life in service to others out of love for Christ and with a clear conscience than serving Mass.


  1. The Canadian Catholic Church is in such a mess, one wonders why this problem was allowed to flourish by this bishop.

    I, myself, have been copied on two complaint letters to the chancery here. I gotta believe that 50 times that many probably get sent there each month.

    What kind of Catholic would value the opportunity to serve Mass at $169,000? It seems to me that in my four or so years of serving back in the olden days, I might have received a fiver now and then for serving a wedding, but I doubt if it totaled $25.

    Do you suppose they pay servers in Canada?

    I mean, it's not like the Bishop prohibited him from attending Mass or receiving Holy Communion.

    And what's with this spa business?

    I think there is more to this story that we haven't heard yet.

  2. People's capacity for minding other people's business never ceases to amaze me. Your nosy acquaintance who was so worried about why a young couple was childless would do well to get a life. Same with those who were "sure" that two guys sharing living quarters had to be in an immoral relationship. Last time I checked rash judgement was a sin; these pharisees need to take the plank out of their own eyes.

  3. Ray - I honestly think the spa business is legit.

    Melody - I definitely know.

  4. There's got to be something else behind the whole story.
    I remember a priest was looking for an altar server, so I proposed a young man who was there. The priest's answer was: "No, he is engaged". I presume that he was being very prudent.

  5. Regarding the young couple, what about the possibility that they have been using Natural Family Planning?

  6. Nothing wrong with that and besides, that is all the Church asks - aside from requiring same-sex attracted people to refrain from promoting the homosexual lifestyle.

    Um, what about putting oneself in the occasion of sin?

    I knew a couple -- a man and woman -- who were civilly married, and the woman had been previously married, and could not get an annulment for that first marriage. The first husband contested it and won. But she and her second husband continued to live together. Every so often they would "fall" -- hence, had a child together. Whenever they would "fall" they would just go to Confession, get absolved, then go back to their situation. Isn't this scandalous?

    Or what about two heterosexuals who may or may not be engaged, living together before marriage? They may *say* and even *intend* to live chastely until then -- but is it prudent for them to do so? Is that not also scandalous even if they *are* abstaining from sexual relations? Not unlike your example of the two gays living together, no?

  7. Gette - Thanks for pointing that out. I never thought of it that way - but if they were sincere and had a good spiritual director or confessor, I would think two men living together could be a great support to one another as they endeavor to live a devout life of chaste celibacy - in fact I think in many cases it would be better than living alone. I tend to take people at their word.
    In my neighborhood there are a couple of lesbian households - one household I never ever would have thought the two women were lesbians, the other I knew because of the rainbow symbols and they are real butch, and sometimes bring the softball team home for beers in the garage. I have never once wondered about their relationships, for example, if they sleep together or not - nothing - until a neighbor mentioned she saw them kissing. I still can't bring myself to specualte on what degree of intimacy they have together, and I wouldn't even go there as to what that entails. If they went to Mass and Communion I wouldn't question it - if they did so wearing gay symbols in an effort to protest Church teaching, I would object.
    As for heterosexual couples, I have seen similar living arrangements and the couples live as brother and sister due to a variety of circumstances - prior marriage being the most common.
    On the other hand, couples preparing for marriage who live together would be at the highest risk for failure - since their urge is for one another - to put it Biblicly. Any sort of intimacy, a kiss, holding one another, a glimpse, etc., would most likely lead to sexual intimacy - so I can see where that would be difficult - especially for the young. Priests I know usually mandate a couple preparing for marriage separate if they share a house or apartment. I've never been in the situation so I can't speak to that.
    Sarah - That is always a possibility too. I myself would never have even questioned it however.

  8. Sarah, yeah. People just assume that NFP doesn't work, even though the science is sound and well-established.

  9. It seems to me that worrying about the appearance of scandal is to some extent an accommodation of sin - the sin that Melody mentioned - the sin of expecting the worst in others.

    As for putting oneself in the occasion of sin. There are couples who've overcome this, and I suppose there are those that haven't. Probably a matter best left between them and their confessor.

    What I like most about this Peterborough situation is that for a change, obedience and belief in church teaching is not an issue. I hope they manage to work out the other matters.

    On the childless couple... They also may be unable to conceive. I know of seven such couples in the city I live, and my social circle is tiny.

  10. Saul - excellent points - thanks.

  11. My husband and I were married 15 years before we had kids. We did not use artificial contraception. I can tell you, people did ASSUME that we were using contraception. Some even said vicious things to my father, who knew better but was still deeply hurt on my behalf.

    And, while the Church does allow the use of NFP, it is to be used to space children, not to keep from having them indefinitely. NFP can also be used if there is serious risk to the mother's health if she were to conceive a child (my situation now)...that's what a very good priest told me anyhow!

  12. Anonymous7:29 PM

    As an alter boy, I never appreciated my dad making me get up early on Saturday morning to go to Mass and serve. No one ever attended mass on Saturday, except for the nuns. My brothers and I always served at the Sunday mass as well as many other boys from the parish.
    Today, I realize what a honor it was to serve and how lucky I was to be so close to the alter when Father offered the mass.
    We might get $5.00 for serving at a wedding or get to drink some wine that was not used in the Mass or maybe Father would stop in at school and pull some of us out to serve at a funeral. Or serving at Mid-night Mass, What an honor!

  13. Monica - that is hurtful - so you know what it means to suffer for righteousness sake, and your detractors did not.

  14. It works both ways. Previously, people were critical because they thought we were using contraception and now there are a good number of "CATHOLICS" who are very critical that we aren't. Since I'm not supposed to have more children because of the serious risks, my own godmother feels it her duty to tell me to have my tubes tied about once a year! Not to mention the others who tell me I need to use contraception because I have to think of the children I already have...what would they do without me? It's funny how people, even members of my great big Catholic family, are so free with their advice in these matters.

    Oh, and since we only had two kids, a son and a daughter, late in our marriage, there are those who are certain we used contraception!! Weird Catch-22.

  15. People are in each other's intimate business too much. I have enough trouble keeping myself in a state of grace to spend my time wondering who's using Contraception, who's using NFP, and who's dallying around when they shouldn't. Curiosity can be so morbid.

  16. TJ Newman5:24 PM

    This whole situation is seriously messed up.

    0. The facts as I understand them is that Mr. Corcoran has SSA and that he also follows the Church’s teaching on chastity. The following is contingent on this.

    1. Then there are some parishioners who apparently have all manner of lurid fantasies, assumptions, presumptions, and spare time on their hands, and because of their mental state and not Mr. Corcoran’s actual behavior are “scandalized”. Don’t people realize the untold numbers who are driven out of or kept away from the Church because of prejudging, scandal mongering, gossiping, busybodies. I, one man, personally know dozens upon dozens. This is the real scandal. It keeps people from Christ. It also gives ammunition to the revolutionaries in the Culture Wars. Some righties can be their own worst enemies some time…just as some lefties have become (unawares) all that they despise.

    3. Unjust or not, Corcoran’s should defer to his bishop’s instruction. Not doing so and further escalating to the HRC is hugely problematic. Is it the old ‘I will not serve’ translated into politically correct thought and rendered ‘I demand my right to serve?’

    4. Then on top of the Church being hauled before a kangaroo court, Bishop de Angelis is losing out on a huge teaching moment:

    a. He could teach the scandal mongers that it is they who cause scandal.

    b. he could teach that having SSA isn’t the sin, nor is having it the worst thing in the world.

    c. He could hold up Mr. Corcoran (or some other person) as a positive example.

    c. I hate the word homophobia, because it is profoundly abused, but he could show that yes, some people do get needlessly and most unhelpfully twisted at the thought of SSA.

    e. He could bring light to darkness…bring the hidden and festering secrecy into a genuinely open and caring community so as to transform shame (which in this context can only lead to either despair or to reactionary pride) into humility and hope.

    f. Every bishop could do this today.

    The Body of Christ, and the world that we are supposed to be a light in, have become poorer because of all that is being done and left undone here.

  17. This is all complicated by the fact that Corcoran mentioned his "same-sex partner", not his "same-sex housemate" all over his complaint.

    I lived with two straight male housemates (I suppose one was always chaperone to the other one; in fact, one of them was a superly observant Catholic who worried about me spending so much time with my out-of-the-house boyfriend, so he probably would make a great chaperone), and I never, ever, ever, referred to either one as a "partner."

    Corcoran is trying to have it both ways. (No pun intended.) To the Catholic Register he says he is chaste, and to the Human Rights Tribunal he says he has a same-sex partner.

    You can see why the parishioners might be concerned.

    Meanwhile, Corcoran's sense of entitlement has to be read to be believed.

    My sympathies to all Catholics who are gossiped about if they don't have a baby within a year of being married. Very sad.

  18. Seraphic Spouse, thanks for your very helpful distinction between "partner" and "housemate".

    The two situations are very different. To make critical assumptions (much less remarks) about a couple's childlessness is busybody-hood and sinful, plain and simple.

    A SSA couple living together (or a heterosexual couple living together) is inappropriate and cause of scandal. There's no question about "giving them the benefit of the doubt" -- whether or not they are intimate together is important, but not the determining factor here. Besides scandal, we're talking about diving into the deep end of "near occasion of sin." We've all heard of concupiscence, right? I can't imagine a reliable confessor ever endorsing such an arrangement while counseling someone on preservation of purity.

  19. Roz - you may think you know what you're talking about - but you don't.

    Older same sex friends who have lived together for years who find themselves coming back to the Church and the sacraments, accepting Church teaching and living in accord with it, have no problem living together. Many divorced and remarried couples who can't be married in the Church do the same - they live together like brother and sister.

    It is rather presumptuous of you to challenge a 'reliable confessor' in the direction of his penitents.

    Therapists think they know so much.


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