Thursday 18th October 2018

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February 9, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: In a recent reply about the Alpha program, we said that all we knew about it was what appears on the Alpha website, namely, that it is a 10-week course about basic Christian teachings, with small groups usually facilitated by a layperson, and that it includes a retreat. It claims to serve “as a refresher course for practicing Catholics and a point of re-entry for lapsed Catholics.” We said that the value of such courses would depend on the materials used and the knowledge and orthodoxy of the facilitators conducting the sessions.
We have since received some very thoughtful comments from a woman who took part in the Alpha program in her Catholic parish in Michigan and who did not think it was of much help either to practicing or lapsed Catholics. We thank her for her insights:
“I attended the Alpha program here. The hype for several months was as you had written and more. It sounded good to about 125 of us, including a few Protestants. In the offering was the ability to increase our knowledge of the Catholic faith. The program was presented by a ‘Church of England’ minister, usually clad in jeans and a sweatshirt. He was friendly enough, but the red flag was why a Protestant. The Bible quoted from was the New International Version, which is the Protestant version of the Bible, stemming from the King James Bible.
“We were broken up into groups, with a facilitator at each table ready with a list of questions to encourage discussion. This was absolutely the best part. As Catholics, we were able to share experiences of our faith in our lives, how Jesus, His Mother, the angels and saints, the rosary, etc., helped us in difficulties, self-improvement, and anything else life can throw at you. It was great. Protestants were learning more about the Catholic faith just by listening to us! There were so many wonderful stories. The leader would try to get us ‘back on track’ with the questions provided, but to no avail. The questions were in no way as stimulating as the stories. One led to another. Everyone was sharing and developing a closeness.
“The weekend retreat was rather ‘sprung’ on us at the first or second session we attended. The sign-up for the program had pretty much committed us to attend. One of the major enticements was free food. The retreat was similar to a charismatic experience with laying on of hands for healing and speaking in tongues. No priest was involved. It was supposed to be a walk with the Holy Spirit.
“But to continue with the Alpha program itself. If I were to follow it as directed, I would soon believe that I need only go to Jesus directly to confess my sins and, as long as I had a relationship with Him, I was a shoo-in for Heaven, according to the minister and the films. As a Catholic, if I followed this program, I would wonder what would be the need for the confessional, or an altar, a Victim, and a sacrifice. Where does the priest fit in? Protestants weren’t learning anything different from the program than what they already knew, except from the questions we answered at the table.
“Those Catholics who went the first time, oblivious to the traditions and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and not seeing what was happening, signed up to go again. The door pretty much hit them in the face when they were told after the first couple of sessions that there would be no more sharing of stories, that the questions needed to be followed. Many left.
“I believe it was deceitful that the advertising left out the fact that it was a Protestant program. On questioning the Catholicism of the program, we were told that a priest has designed such a program for Catholics down in Detroit and that the last session will be all for Catholics. Well, the last session was our priest speaking for five minutes on we are Catholics with a little ‘c’ and receive Sacraments with a little ‘s,’ and then back to a usual session.”

Q. There was a recent article in The Wanderer about a priest who revealed to his congregation at Sunday Mass that he was “gay.” Celibate but “gay.” And his bishop approved his actions. What does this mean? — J.P.H., Pennsylvania.
A. It means that the homosexual lobby has gained another Catholic priest who is a critic of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, one who not only “came out” to his parishioners but then wrote a lengthy defense of his stand in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper that is anything but “Catholic” and is only too happy to promote those who dissent from the Church’s moral code. In his NCR article, the priest falsely claimed that God creates people to be homosexual and said that by taking this step, “I promise to be my authentically gay self. I will embrace the person that God created me to be. In my priestly life and ministry, I, too, will help you, whether you are gay or straight, bisexual or transgendered, to be your authentic self — to be fully alive living in your image and likeness of God.”
Having a same-sex attraction is not a sin, and those struggling with this attraction deserve “respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” in the words of the Catechism (n. 2358). But “homosexual persons are called to chastity” (Catechism, n. 2359), as is every person who has an attachment to any sexually disordered behavior, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Notice that it is the behavior that is disordered, not the person, and the person, of whatever sexual persuasion, is “called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and…to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (n. 2358).
Where in this supposedly courageous declaration of his sexual attraction did the priest call for chastity or a renunciation of sinful behavior? The word “sin” was not mentioned at all, not even when referring to “bisexual or transgendered” people. Oh, the bishop, in supporting the priest’s “telling his story,” did say that the story “reminds each of us of God’s call to continue to grow in understanding and to live holy, chaste lives,” but that was drowned out in the applause for the priest. Might those listening to this priest come to the conclusion that they can act on their inclinations in order to be their “authentic selves”?
What could the bishop have done to defend Church teaching when one of his priests publicly declares himself to be “gay”? He could have invoked “immutable Christian moral principles,” said Fr. Jerry Pokorsky of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Great Falls, Va. In an article in The Catholic Thing, he listed the following principles:
Acknowledge that he is afflicted with “same-sex attraction” (SSA).
Admit that SSA is an inclination toward mortal sin that if not restrained will lead him and others to eternal damnation.
Identify and renounce any physical expression of SSA.
Properly define celibacy to include Christian chastity that precludes all sexual activity in thought, word, or deed.
Invoke scriptural references condemning sodomy (cf. Genesis and St. Paul).
Renounce the use of the word “gay” because it is a political term that has its roots in the homosexual subculture.
Apologize for encouraging others to publicly reveal their mortally sinful inclinations (the Eighth Commandment protects natural secrets).
After a careful inquiry, said Fr. Pokorsky, “the superior should release a public statement of clarification, prohibiting the priest from his homosexual activism and taking further personnel action according to the demands of Catholic morality and canon law. Would a media firestorm ensue? Probably. But the superior would courageously confirm that the studied ambiguity of the gay agenda promoted by the priest is a lie.”
Noting that during the Rite of Ordination for priests, the bishop says, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment,” Pokorsky said that “priests — and everyone — are in a constant state of change, for the better and for the worse. Fulfilling the duties of Holy Orders or any Christian vocation with true moral integrity is a lifelong task.
“If we are going to find our true and final happiness in Christ, we must not only recognize and understand our sinful inclinations, but make firm and constant efforts to overcome them. ‘Celebrating’ those inclinations simply makes no sense — whether the inclination is same-sex attraction or any other deviation from God’s plan for us.”

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