canon law

Catholic school wars (yet) again: Can teachers take public actions that defy church doctrines?

Catholic school wars (yet) again: Can teachers take public actions that defy church doctrines?

What we have here is another one of those stories that your GetReligionistas have written about so many times that we have crossed over into a state of frustration.

Can you say “doctrinal covenant”?

At this point, it’s clear that many newsroom managers just can’t handle the fact that the Catholic Church is not (in many zip codes) a liberal democracy, which means that many Catholic bishops still think their schools should defend the contents of the Catholic catechism. OK, maybe the issue is whether people in Catholic schools get to attack the faith in symbolic ways in public.

Once again, no one thinks that journalists have to endorse the doctrines of the Church of Rome. The question is whether reporters and editors know enough about the contents of these doctrines, traditions and canon laws to cover them accurately. At a bare minimum, journalists need to know that there are experts and activists on both sides of these debates, but that — in the vast majority of cases — local bishops, representing the Vatican, are the “prevailing legal authorities.”

So here we go again. Let’s turn to USA Today, for a rather one-sided story about this latest conflict: “Cathedral High School terminates gay teacher to stay in Indianapolis Archdiocese.” As you will see, this story is Act II in a larger local drama:

Just days after the Archdiocese of Indianapolis cut ties with one Catholic high school over its decision to continue to employee a gay teacher, another school is firing one of its educators to avoid the same fate.

Cathedral High School, located on the northeast side of Indianapolis, announced Sunday it is terminating a gay teacher in order to avoid a split with the archdiocese, which stripped Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School of its Catholic identity last week.

Brebeuf refused to fire its educator, who is in a public same-sex marriage.

Cathedral's board Chairman Matt Cohoat and President Rob Bridges posted a letter on the school's website announcing the decision to "separate" from a teacher in a public same-sex marriage. The letter is addressed to the "Cathedral family."

The archdiocese made it clear, the letter said, that keeping the teacher employed “would result in forfeiting our Catholic identity due to our employment of an individual living in contradiction to Catholic teaching on marriage.”

OK, let’s unpack this oh-so-typical conflict — yet again.

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Intermarriage on the rise: How does Catholicism view Catholic-Jewish weddings?

Intermarriage on the rise: How does Catholicism view Catholic-Jewish weddings?


Is it sinful for Catholics to attend a wedding between a Catholic and a Jew, performed by a rabbi?



But there’s much more to be said about how Catholicism views interfaith marriages. (The church is more open on this than those who adhere to Jewish tradition, as we’ll discuss below.)

An official U.S. Catholic website says that until recent decades “the idea of a Catholic marrying outside the faith was practically unheard of, if not taboo,” and such ceremonies never occurred publicly in a church sanctuary. Yet today, in some parts of the U.S. up to 40 percent of Catholics are in “ecumenical marriages” between Christians of differing affiliations, or “interfaith marriages” with non-Christians.

The site says “because of the challenges that arise, . . . the church doesn’t encourage” interfaith marriage but does seek to support such couples and “help them to meet those challenges with a spirit of holiness.” Under the law code that covers all Catholics worldwide, says a Canon Law Society of America commentary, there’ve been “extensive changes” in the direction of leniency in marriage rules since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and mixed marriages have become “more commonplace and socially acceptable.”

In Catholic belief, a marriage between a Catholic and a Jew (or someone from another non-Christian religion) is not a “sacrament.” Importantly, this doesn’t mean the church questions that the couple is truly married as a civil matter, nor does it express any disrespect toward Judaism, with which Christianity has such great affinity.

The technical term used in marriages with non-Christians is “the impediment of disparity of cult.” If an interfaith couple wishes a wedding in a Catholic church, canon law prescribes that the local bishop must issue a “dispensation” on the basis of “just and reasonable cause,” which occurs far more routinely than in past times.

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Chidin' Biden: Did bishops err in scolding Joe for gay wedding? Did RNS err in its guesswork?

Chidin' Biden: Did bishops err in scolding Joe for gay wedding? Did RNS err in its guesswork?

Did three American bishops defy a cardinal in criticizing Vice President Joe Biden? The Religion News Service sure makes it sound that way in a weekend story about Biden officiating at a same-sex marriage.

David Gibson of RNS has apparently been watching for Catholic reaction since Biden officiated at the wedding of two White House staffers. When that reaction came, it wasn't where he expected:

The Catholic hierarchy was notably quiet, however, until Friday (Aug. 5) when three leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops posted a statement clearly directed at Biden and criticizing him for presenting "a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth."
"When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics," wrote Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who was joined by Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone, and Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
Malone is chair of the bishop’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth and Wenski is chair of the bishop’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Heavy hitters all, to be sure. (Full disclosure: I freelance for the Miami edition of The Florida Catholic, published by the state's bishops including Wenski.) But as the article notes, the list does not include Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Biden's shepherd. 

The RNS story is alert and respectful (the last is not always a given these days in mainstream media). But it just may take one or two guesses too many, in an article not marked "opinion" or "commentary."

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Muslims praying in Catholic churches? For starters, journalists need to define 'pray'

Muslims praying in Catholic churches? For starters, journalists need to define 'pray'

Raise your hands, gentle readers, if you are familiar with this old saying: "There will always be prayer in public schools, as long as teachers keep giving math tests (or pop quizzes, etc.).

Actually, I don't know about you, but I did most of my public-school praying before Latin exams, and I was not praying in Latin. But I digress.

I shared that old saying simply to note that it only makes sense if the word "prayer" is defined as students sitting silently at their public-school desks praying for help. I would imagine that teachers would frown on a Catholic student getting out her rosary and reciting a Holy Mystery or two out loud. Ditto for students in a religious tradition that asks them to humble themselves with a few deep bows or prostrations. Burn some incense or light a few beeswax candles? I don't think so.

So what, precisely, does it mean to ask if it is acceptable to Muslims to pray in a Catholic church? I ask that question because of an interesting Religion New Service piece that ran the other day, with this headline: "Italian bishop tells priests not to let Muslims pray in churches." Here is the overture:

ROME (RNS) -- An Italian bishop has clashed with a pair of priests who want to invite Muslims to pray inside their churches in a bid to promote tolerance in a diocese in Tuscany.
“The deserved, necessary and respectful welcome of people who practice other faiths and religions does not mean offering them space for prayers inside churches designed for liturgy and the gathering of Christian communities,” Bishop Fausto Tardelli of Pistoia said in a statement. ... They can very well find other spaces and places,” Tardelli said.
The bishop was responding to pledges by two local priests, the Rev. Massimo Biancalani and the Rev. Alessandro Carmignani, to welcome 18 Muslim refugees by giving them space to pray inside their churches.

Note the emphasis on giving the Muslims "space to pray."

This raises all kinds of questions. Religion-beat pros, how many can you think of?

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New York Post scrimps on lots of important facts in Womenpriests story

New York Post scrimps on lots of important facts in Womenpriests story

The Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement is something lots of people feel strongly about. Opinions range from it being the best thing ever to happen to Catholicism, very broadly defined, to it being utter fraud.

Debates about press coverage of this movement have fueled waves of GetReligion posts over the years, far too many to list them. I am not joking. For starters, is it Women Priests, women priests, WomenPriests or Womenpriests? The group's own website says the latter. The words "Roman Catholic" are in the organization's name, even though these women have received ordination into their own movement, which has no standing with canonical Catholicism.

Partisans on both sides might agree that if a mainstream reporter writes about the movement, it helps to know the basics. A few days ago, a New York woman, who was ordained within the movement in 2014, had acid thrown in her face.

No, this was not South Asia, where such outrages happen in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh along with Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This was New York. The New York Post began as follows:

The man who attacked and seriously burned a Queens woman Wednesday night-- splashing her in the face with a Drano-like substance -- snuck up and ambushed her as she walked alone to her car, law-enforcement sources said.
“Can I ask you something?” the assailant said, before hurling an off-brand drain cleaner in the face of Dr. Alexandra Dyer, an ordained priest who has devoted her life to helping others.

The writer doesn’t identify Dyer’s denomination anywhere high in the story, leaving one to wonder if she was an Episcopalian, Lutheran or in some other category. Things get more confusing further on.

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