The following comes from a March 10 email from one of our readers.
An open letter to San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera in response to his National Catholic Reporter editorial “Controversy in San Francisco highlights importance of Pope Francis, synod on family” from the lay Catholic group Ecclesia Militans of San Diego:
As your fellow Catholics, we pray that you will join Archbishop Cordileone in rejecting the immoral lifestyles so popular today. With the grace given by frequent reception of the sacraments, including Confession and Holy Communion, Our Lord will strengthen you to uphold eternal truth and to lead others to it. None of us can do it alone, but with God’s help in the sacraments, and with the help and example of likeminded family and friends, we can be strong and conform our lives to His will.
In opening yourself to grace through repentance and reconciliation, in choosing Christ and his Church over a culture of death and the lies of secular humanism and relativism, your courage will have an everlasting impact on your son, your family, and your community. Please let us know your decision quickly so that we may continue to pray for your new life, and support your decision.
We are undeniably dismayed by many of your statements in your recent National Catholic Reporter editorial. We also deplore your attack on Abp. Cordileone, your Catholic archbishop and spiritual father.
You describe you and your wife as “raised Catholic” and “beneficiaries of Catholic educations.” Unfortunately, you display a profound lack of true Catholic sensibilities and education in many of your remarks. This may not be your fault, as the Church has suffered from the “diabolical disorientation” spoken of by Fatima seer Sister Lucia, including poor catechesis, for many decades. You may not have been properly taught the faith.
If so, we would like to take this opportunity to provide some remedial catechesis.
To begin, homosexual activity is still an “act of grave depravity” (i.e., mortal sin) according to the Catechism and perennial Church moral doctrine. Therefore, as a Catholic, you were wrong to invalidate state marriage laws in 2004. Your duty as a Catholic was and is to uphold Church teaching on the exclusivity, sexual complementarity, and indissolubility of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, not to use your high political office to work against it.
As a Catholic, you should have no problem with Abp. Cordileone’s proposed “morality clauses.” What, precisely, is so “chilling” about his directive that Catholic teachers “conform their hearts, minds and consciences, as well as their public and private behavior” to tenets of church teaching that include “chastity” and “abstinence from all sexual intimacy outside of marriage” and that they refrain from “gravely evil” acts like “masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations”?
Yes, the Church still believes all those old-fashioned things about sexual morality, even if many people today do not. We submit that Abp. Cordileone’s directives are only “chilling” to those who don’t truly believe and live the Catholic faith and who are dedicated to the false god of progressive liberalism.
And why the shock over Abp. Cordileone’s additional requirements that faculty “affirm and believe” church teaching on “the sinfulness of contraception”; that they accept that “the fundamental demands of justice require that the civil law preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman”; and that medical procedures that assist in reproduction are “gravely immoral” for betraying spouses’ “right to become a father and a mother only through each other”?
Again, these requirements are only troubling to those who are poorly educated in the Faith, or who have purposely decided to oppose them.
You said: “Without a duty for me to respond professionally…I was liberated to contemplate the matter personally, and in many ways more meaningfully, as a Catholic and a parent.”
Dennis, ask yourself: Why are people Catholic? The answer is that Catholicism is true. Yet, you have spent your career as city attorney of San Francisco defending and promoting a lie—sodomy-based so-called “gay marriage”—and now you are promoting more lies by attacking Catholic moral teaching in schools as a parent.
You said: “As parents especially, we place a high priority on encouraging faithful Christian discipleship in our son, and we do everything we can to make sure he has the benefit of a well-formed Catholic conscience.”
Your son will learn much more from his father’s actions than from any teacher or schoolbook. A well-formed Catholic conscience includes the duty to uphold over two millennia of Church teaching against the current cultural tide of sexual anarchy—in short, to be counter-cultural. Is your son receiving such example and guidance from you?
You said: “But the controversy stirred up by the archbishop’s needless insertion of personal morality dictates into faculty handbooks highlighted to me the mounting challenges today’s Catholic parents face as we strive to make our church relevant in the lives our children will lead.”
We agree that “needless insertion of personal morality” is certainly challenging for “cafeteria Catholics” who wish to pick and choose which facets of Church teaching they agree with. But being a true Catholic requires you to conform your whole heart and mind to that of the Church.
Further, it is not your job or ours to make our Church “relevant” to anyone, including children. The Church has withstood more than 2,000 years of heresy and assault, and will continue to withstand them, because she is the bride of Christ, her Founder.
We suggest you read Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical Pascendi Dominic Gregis (On the Doctrines of the Modernists) and his Oath against Modernism to understand that the Church cannot conform to the “spirit of the age” in order to become more “relevant.” Church teaching is relevant and applicable throughout all ages, in all places, and for all people, and does not need to be updated.
You wrote: “But we should make no mistake that his generation (and those to follow) will view prohibitions on same-sex marriage with the same disdain my generation held for racist Jim Crow laws. For my son and his contemporaries, rejecting discrimination isn’t at odds with a well-formed Christian conscience—it’s the product of it.”
You mistakenly conflate same-sex so-called “marriage”—an outgrowth of mortally sinful homosexual behavior—with immutable characteristics such as race. Every true Catholic is rightly called to “discriminate” against homosexual behavior and its negative societal consequences, and indeed to “discriminate against” all sin!
The fact that, for your son and his contemporaries, “rejecting discrimination isn’t at odds with a well-formed Christian conscience—it’s the product of it” shows that your son and his contemporaries actually do discriminate against Catholic teaching.
You wrote: “So when church ideologues express disdain for contemporary society (as Cordileone often does) or bring disproportionate emphasis to the catechism’s most discriminatory and divisive elements (as Cordileone did last month), it risks losing a generation of Catholics quite unlike anything has before.”
Abp. Cordileone is doing what any good bishop is duty-bound to do: to teach, govern, and sanctify his flock. Your interpretation of his actions as an expression of “disdain for contemporary society” and characterization of his emphasis on perennial Church moral teaching as “the catechism’s most discriminatory and divisive elements” again shows your misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine.
The good archbishop is trying to lead a society run amok with moral relativism back to goodness, truth, and beauty. You should be applauding and supporting him, not mischaracterizing his actions in this way.
You wrote: “Catholic parents like my wife and me, who are doing the important field work of trying to instill Catholic values in our children, are grateful to Pope Francis for emphasizing our faith’s capacity to bring us together instead of divide us. But we could do without Cordileone’s efforts to seemingly teach the opposite.”
Cafeteria Catholics and most secular citizens who still have a conscience are very glad to hear the interpretation of Pope Francis’ teachings as related by the news media. However, Pope Francis has not changed perennial Church teaching.
Conscience is the seed of faith, the natural gift from God infused in every child. Free will, reason, and conscience are meant to lead us to Him, through our decision to love, serve, and obey Him. Ignoring the teaching of the Church in order to justfy self is dangerous to our eternal life with God, and can lead to sin which separtes us from both God and reason.
Using lies to deceive our children and lead them into sin is a most grievous and evil sin. Jesus said, “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (St. Matthew 18:6)
Abp. Cordileone is not teaching our children—or the adults in their charge—the opposite of Pope Francis’ teachings. Abp. Cordileone is teaching them the truth even if “itching ears” prefer to believe lies.
Again, Dennis, as your fellow Catholics, we pray that you conform your heart and mind to the Church to which you profess to belong. The inexhaustible treasure of Church teaching, which leads us to true holiness and happiness, is yours—if you will only prayerfully assent to it and turn away from false secular liberalism.
Sincerely in Christ,
Ecclesia Militans of San Diego