Bishop Chaput, Homosexual Parents, and Who We Really Are
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput made the courageous decision this week to prevent admission to Catholic schools for the children of couples who flagrantly live a lifestyle contrary to the Church's teaching on sexuality.
The archbishop carefully explained that the parochial schools list among their entrance requirements that their families must live in full cooperation with the mandates of the Catholic Church; such a requirement provides for an atmosphere of coherence, harmony and progress in comprehending the tenets in which the Catholic families of Denver have chosen to raise their children. As the Archbishop explained further, the presence of children from dissenting families would inhibit the ability of Catholic teachers to explain the Church's moral teaching freely in their classrooms, and would risk exposing such children from dissenting households to a sense of confusion and derision. One version of the story is available here. The relevant statements made by both the Archbishop and the director of the school in question are available here.
At first glance, the Archbishop's decision will seem garishly counter-cultural; it might even provoke some to worry that the Archbishop is ignoring the Magisterium's stern warning that all forms of social prejudice against homosexual persons are to be avoided (see The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357-2359). In response to such attacks, we recall that the Church recognizes that the disorder of practiced homosexuality is, with all forms of unchastity, a sin against the Church's members and the Church's God; to assert and enforce this recognition is a thing entirely different from exercising unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. And on a civil level, it is incumbent that the public recall that it is the natural, proper, and Constitutional right of a privately funded, self-directed institution to limit its membership according to its determination of appropriate behaviors.
I applaud Bishop Chaput because I have been thinking this week about America's allegedly greatest theologian, Stanley Hauerwas. Stanley has a provocative little 1993 article entitled "Why Gays (as a Group) are Morally Superior to Christians (as a Group)." In this article, Stanley points out that the American gay community has a stronger sense of identity, coherence, loyalty, and ethos than most American Christians. They have a clearly defined moral compass and agenda. For what they believe and do, they are frequently rejected by conservative elements in our modern culture. And, they have been willing to suffer for what they stand for. Stanley's point is that the same can hardly be said for the larger community of American Christians, whether it comes to our position on sexuality or war or education, and he lambasts us for it.
It is American Catholic bishops like Chaput who prove that this is not necessarily the case, and that Christians (as a Group) can (in the Catholic community at least) demonstrate that we believe in something, that we can and will act in certain ways, and that if necessary, we will suffer for it- perhaps as well as our homosexual fellows in this weary world have done. The Church stands for something; good Bishops like Chaput will not let us forget it.