UPDATE: Important update below.
The unwritten story about the vote to legalize gay marriage in New York last month was the role Catholic dissent played in letting it happen.
In this revealing video, Catholic State Senator Jim Alesi (a Republican from Rochester NY who voted for same-sex marriage) tells a party hosted by the Human Rights Campaign (the wealthiest gay rights organization in America) how his Catholic parish and pastor celebrated his vote to redefine marriage (while harming society and threatening the Church with legal penalties, by the way):
I think this line by Sen. Alesi reveals his woeful lack of catechesis:
“The best story is the reverend on the right that was praying for marriage equality, the reverend on the left that was praying against gay marriage … they were praying to the same God, that created a dilemma for God and it created a dilemma for me. He Said ‘Jimmy, you’re on your own.’ I think we did the right thing.”
Gay marriage creates a “dilemma” for God? I know Sen. Alesi told this story as a joke, but come on. God tells us “we’re on our own”? Again, how woefully inadequate (and offensive).
It’s not surprising that that Sen. Alesi hails from the Diocese of Rochester. It’s probably the most heterodox diocese in the United States, and this is directly due to the (mis)governance of Bishop Matthew Clark.
This is a diocese where priests use super-soakers during Mass. There are blogs dedicated to cataloging the woeful liturgical and doctrinal abuses that take place in that diocese. A member of the Rochester diocese wrote to me:
The Diocese of Rochester, NY, led by Bishop Matthew Clark has created an environment where many Catholics felt they were obliged to support SSM legislation. Many outside of NY find that a ridiculous statement, but nevertheless it is true. Homosexuality has been subversively (and even openly at times) endorsed by our local Church hierarchy. I’ve heard that the diocese of Albany is as bad with Bishop Hubbard. I can’t speak of the other dioceses as that’s beyond my realm of understanding. [...] To these bishops (Clark and Hubbard) [this] isn’t merely a question of logistics, it is a question of faithfulness and attempting to change the Church.
I agree with the author that Bishop Hubbard’s (lack of) governance is a problem as well.
My regular readers will know that I’m not a fan of “bashing” bishops. But this is an extraordinary example and we can see the direct proof of Bishop Clark (and Hubbard’s) dereliction of episcopal duty in Senator Alesi’s ability to vote for redefining marriage (and all the harmful consequences that entails) while simultaneously deluding himself that he is in good standing with his pastor, his bishop, and the Church.
Sen. Alesi’s story of the “reverend on the right … and the reverend on the left” perfectly illustrates the scandal caused by the leaders of the Church when they send mixed messages. The devil doesn’t win our hearts by convincing us of evil, he does so by convincing us that we cannot or do not know the true good – that God has left us “on our own.”
We see this agnosticism about moral norms perfectly illustrated by Sen. Alesi’s answer explaining what he thinks his job as a legislator includes (and doesn’t include):
It’s not our job to be moral, it’s our job to be functional as a legislature. So religion cannot enter into this in any way, shape or form.
What we see illustrated here is a perfectly malformed conscience. And the great scandal is that Sen. Alesi’s pastor and bishop have done demonstratively nothing to properly form it.
As Catholic laypeople work to set our own house in order, personally and publicly, bishops must equally commit themselves to setting their episcopal community in order. The witness of the Church is undermined and fractured whenever the unity of faith is abandoned by individual bishops.
And, by the way, the witness of the Church not only to her own faithful, but to all the people who issued peals of laughter in response to Sen. Alesi announcing that God has nothing to say about human affairs.
Update: It’s come to my attention (through many alert readers) that Sen. Alesi is probably a member of a schismatic parish (Spiritus Christi) that was formerly part of the diocese of Rochester (as Corpus Christi).
I am not aware of the full history, but it appears Bishop Clark failed to take action against the heterodox practices taking place at the parish (women “celebrating” Mass, gay marriages, etc) until Rome intervened. A local source claims there are still ties between the schismatic parish at the diocese. If anyone has more information please add it to the comment box. Here is what a local source wrote to me about the parish:
The mess at Corpus Christi rests at the feet of Bishop Clark because he failed to take real action to stop what was going on. Also, because of his frequent endorsements of the parish as a model community. One can’t claim that Bishop Clark was too weak of a leader to put a stop to Callan, because on multiple occasions the bishop invoked his authority to suppress traditional Catholicism and orthodoxy.
There’s a deep lesson here, I believe – once the unity of doctrine is abandoned by a parish, pastor or even –heaven forbid — a bishop, the bonds of unity with the universal Church have already been so weakened that they aren’t practically Catholic anymore. Going into schism is then simply naming the dissolution that has already taken place in reality.
Maybe an image will convey more than a thousand more words (via Cleansing Fire):
Is this the pastor on Alesi’s right, or the one on his left?