Monday, July 4, 2011

Message from Bishop Terry R. LaValley

The following is a pastoral letter from Bishop Terry LaValley of Ogdensburg, New York. It addresses the seriousness and the implications of the New York State Legislature's bill to legalize same-sex marriage. He also speaks to his concern on what might follow from this unprincipled sanction.

As for me, I believe the result will be that legal, political, and social pressures will mount in order to challenge the Catholic Church's right to teach on the morality of homosexuality. The gay-rights movement and patrons of any bill to legalize same-sex marriage will, as they have in the past, demonstrate little respect for free speech rights if it means silencing the critics of their lifestyle. Legal or political action against the spoken truth of marriage will be under the guise of "hate speech."


Message from Bishop Terry R. LaValley: June 25-26, 2011

Friday’s passage in the State Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage is deeply disappointing and troubling.

While the Catholic Church clearly teaches that we always treat our homosexual sisters and brothers with respect, dignity, and love, we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though I realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against our churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

I worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization. Our society must regain what it appears to have lost—a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.

I am grateful to all those legislators who bravely resisted doing the politically correct thing, and voted against this tragic legislation. What I personally find so troubling is the number of those elected officials who publicly profess fidelity to our Catholic faith but whose public stance is at odds with a fundamental teaching of the Faith. Unfortunately, some members of our own faith tradition see no problem with what’s just happened.

With the grace of God, I, we, have much work to do in educating and helping to form consciences. From this sad moment in our State’s history, let it be our prayer that we witness a new appreciation for authentic marriage as understood by our Catholic faith and revealed to us by God through nature. No act of government can change that.


Comments: So-called Catholic politicians such as NY governor Andrew Cuomo do not fear the disciplinary measures of the Church in America because there is a reluctance to use them even among the most solid of our pastors. However, with this reluctance came increased dissent, disunity and contradictory messages among shepherds, evangelists and teachers of the Faith. Inevitably, this breakdown resulted in a social and political order opposed to Christian values.

What were the disciplinary measures the Catholic Church used to exercise towards "Catholics gone wrong?" Here are just a few passages from the Apostles and Church Fathers which indicated what course the Church did take; a course which we as Catholics have departed from and in some respects no longer understand.

New Testament:

Jesus says: "If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector." (Matthew 18:17)

St. Paul says to St. Timothy (both bishops): "Reprimand publicly those who do sin, so that the rest also will be afraid." (I Timothy 5:20)

"I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people...Purge the evil person from your midst." (I Corinthians 5:9,13)

"For there are also many rebels, idle talkers and deceivers, especially the Jewish Christians. It is imperative to silence them, as they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what they should not." (Titus 1:10-11)

The Apostle John says, "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to dominate, does not acknowledge us. Therefore, if I come, I will draw attention to what he is doing, spreading evil nonsense about us." (John III: 9-10)

"Yet I hold this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, who teaches and misleads my servants to play the harlot and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her harlotry. So I will cast her on a sickbed and plunge those who commit adultery with her into intense suffering unless they repent of her works." (Revelation 2:20-22)

The Fathers of the Church:

Pope St. Leo the Great told his bishops in the fifth century that "those who refuse to share in our discipline cannot share in our communion." (Letter IV)

Pope St. Piux X on Pope St. Gregory the Great: “Gregory rebukes the bishop who, through love of spiritual solitude and prayer, fails to go out into the battlefield to combat strenuously for the cause of the Lord: ‘The name of bishop, which he bears, is an empty one.’ And rightly so, for men's intellects are to be enlightened by continual preaching of the truth, and errors are to be efficaciously refuted by the principles of true and solid philosophy and theology…”

St. Augustine: "There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition."


Please keep in mind that the Church's principal duty on earth is to prepare souls for eternity. By distinguishing the unfaithful (those who willfully dissent and cause scandal) from the faithful, she, at the same time, prepares the world for the ultimate separation of the goats from the sheep on Judgment Day. (cf. Matt. 25) The ancient disciplinary practice of the Apostles and the Church Fathers whereby obstinate sinners were excluded from the Communion of the faithful followers of Christ was an act of mercy! It signaled to the sinner that he or she was in danger of being excluded from the heavenly banquet. And on a larger scale, it preserved the integrity of the Church's unity and mission.