Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

The U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops Meetings In Baltimore, Sharing My Letter On Homosexuality & The Baltimore Basilica

Hello. For those of you who are returning to my blog, welcome back and thank you for returning….and to those of you who are visiting for the first time, welcome and thank you for visiting.

I hope this post finds you all in good health and spirits.

I just arrived back in Boston a few hours ago from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops fall meetings in Baltimore. There has been much public discussion about the meetings topics and agenda. Id like to share with you some of the events of the week, as well as some related reflections.

This past week at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meetings, the Bishops looked at different documents that various committees have composed; one on the ministry to people with homosexual inclination, another one on the preparedness for the reception of Holy Communion, another one on marriagenone of the documents pose new teachings of the Church.basically, simply trying to help our people have a deeper understanding of what is in the Catechism and what the teachings of the Catholic Church have always been.

We also worked on restructuring the Conference, trying to amalgamate committees, and planning for the futuretrying to be more flexible so that we can address the various pastoral needs of Catholics in the United States.

During these November meetings, there are always elections for presidents of committees and I was elected to be president of the Committee on World Mission. As president, one chairs the committee meetings and also has a seat on the Administrative Board, which is the board that gathers to write the agenda for the annual November meeting and does the business of the Conference between sessions.

Our Bishops from the Archdiocese of Boston were also in attendance for the meetings in Baltimore Bishop Irwin, Bishop Boles, Bishop Allu, and Bishop Edyvean joined us at the Conference meetings. Additionally, our two new Bishop-elects were at the Conference, Bishop-Elect Hennessey and Bishop-elect Dooher. They were presented to the whole body of Bishops at the first session on Monday morning. It was a chance for the presence of our new Bishops to be recognized.

Every year we sponsor a breakfast for Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary. We invite the Bishops to come learn more about the seminary. Fr. Peter Uglietto, Rector of Blessed John XXIII, joined us in Baltimore to speak with Bishops about the wonderful formation program we offer in the Archdiocese of Boston to train second career men who feel called to the priesthood. We have men from about 30 dioceses studying at Blessed Pope John. There were also a number of alumni of Blessed Pope John XXIII who came to the breakfast, including Bishop Paul Swain of Sioux Falls.

Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, Louisiana, also came to the breakfast. Archbishop Hughes was born, raised and ordained in the Archdiocese of Boston. He attended St. John Seminary and later returned to St. John for 24 years as a professor, Spiritual Director and Rector. We also had a Diocese of Fall River reunion of sorts, as current Fall River Bishop George Coleman and Archbishop Daniel Cronin, Fall Rivers 5th Bishop, joined us for the breakfast. As you may know, I succeeded Archbishop Cronin in Fall River during 1992.

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This year’s annual U.S. Bishop Conference fall meetings in session.

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During the meetings.

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View from the middle of the very large ball room where we they held the sessions.

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Another session picture.

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Bishop-elect Robert Hennessey and Bishop-elect John Dooher during the meetings.

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We host an anual breakfast for Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary each year at the annual Fall gathering and invite the Bishops to come learn more about the seminary.

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Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary’s Rector Fr. Peter Uglietto addressing the Bishops.

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Fr. Uglietto, Bishop Boles and Bishop Paul Swain of Sioux Falls.

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Archbishop Alfred Hughes.

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Fr. Uglietto speaking with Bishop-elects Dooher and Hennessey after the Blessed Pope John XXIII breakfast.

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Current Fall River Bishop George Coleman (standing) and Archbishop Daniel Cronin, Fall Rivers 5th Bishop.

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Blessed Pope John XXIII Rector Fr. Peter Uglietto.

In light of the recent political events and public discussions about marriage and homosexuality, I wish to share with you some pertinent reflections. I originally issued this message last fall, but I feel that its important to share my thoughts with you again at this time, as many of you may not have had the opportunity to read it:

Letter from Cardinal O’Malley on Homosexuality – Issued November 23, 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Churchs efforts to defend the institution of marriage has been interpreted by some as an indication of the Churchs hostility toward homosexual persons. The way that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts framed the issue is unfavorable to Catholics or others who do not oppose anyone, but rather support an institution which is the cornerstone of society.

Right from the beginning of this controversy I have called on all Catholics to rally behind the cause of marriage. It is encouraging that a number of Catholics who are homosexuals have expressed to me their conviction that marriage between a man and a woman is important for children and therefore for society.

The Churchs position is not based on an animus against people with a homosexual orientation. Each and every member of the Church is called to holiness regardless of their sexual orientation. The Church has often warned against defining people by their sexual orientation in a way that diminishes their humanity. Each person is a mystery, an irreplaceable treasure, precious in Gods eye. We are Gods creatures and in baptism we are His sons and daughters, brothers and sisters to one another.

The extreme individualism of our age is undermining the common good and fractionalizing the community. The Church wishes to call people to unity based on mutual respect and a commitment to the common good. We do not want Catholics who have a homosexual orientation to feel unwelcomed in the Catholic Church. We remind them that they are bound to us by their baptism and are called to live a life of holiness. Many homosexual persons in our Church lead holy lives and make an outstanding contribution to the life of the Church by their service, generosity and the sharing of their spiritual gifts.

We must strive to eradicate prejudices against people with a homosexual orientation. At the same time the Church must minister to all people by challenging them to obey Gods commands, the roadmap for a meaningful human life that allows us to draw near to God and to one another.

In the Gospel when the self-righteous Pharisees bring the adulteress to be stoned, Jesus says let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Then to make sure they got the point Jesus wrote their sins on the ground. The stones fell from their hands and they fled. Jesus said: Neither do I condemn you, but He added, Go and sin no more.

If we tell people that sex outside of marriage is not a sin, we are deceiving people. If they believe this untruth, a life of virtue becomes all but impossible. Jesus teaches that discipleship implies taking up the cross each day and following Him with love and courage.

It is never easy to deliver a message that calls people to make sacrifices or to do difficult things. Sometimes people want to punish the messenger. For this reason we priests at times find it difficult to articulate the Churchs teaching on sexual morality. We must never deliver the message in a self-righteous way, but rather with compassion and humility. It is important to express the moral teachings of the Church with clarity and fidelity. The Church must be Church. We must teach the truths of the Gospel in season and out of season. These recent times seem to us like it is out of season, but for that very reason it is even more urgent to teach the hard words of the Gospel today.

We know that friends and relatives of homosexual Catholics sometimes feel torn between their allegiance to Christ and their concern for their loved ones. I assure them that these goals are not incompatible. As Catholics we profess a firm belief in the dignity of each person and in the eternal destiny to which God calls us. Calling people to embrace the cross of discipleship, to live the commandments and at the same time assuring them that we love them as brothers and sisters can be difficult. Sometimes we are told: If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me. In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior.

God made us to be happy forever. That true and lasting happiness is accessible only by a path of conversion. Each of us has our own struggles in responding to the call to discipleship and holiness. We are not alone. Christ promised to be with us and has given us His Church and Sacraments to help us on the road.

At every Mass we pray that beautiful prayer before the sign of peace: Lordlook not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom. May God grant us that grace of peace and unity.

Devotedly yours in Christ,

Sen P. O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston

When we first arrived in Baltimore for the Bishops Conference, we were invited to take part in the dedication Mass on Sunday for the renovated Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption, the Baltimore Basilica. It was a wonderful occasion to showcase this very historic church, where so much of the history of the Church in the United States took place. In Maryland (“Mary Land”), which was the Catholic Statethe King of England gave to Lord Baltimorewas the one of the few places in the New World where there was religious freedom because the Catholics allowed other people to come practice their faith there as well.

Among the very outstanding families of that time, were the Carrolls of Carrollton. One of them, Charles Carroll, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Another Carroll, John, was the first Bishop in the United States. He was a Jesuit and founder of the first University, Georgetown. He was the one who actually began the impetus of building this cathedral.

Its out of the Baltimore Basilica that three Plenary Councils took place, with the First Plenary Council taking place in 1852. It was at the Third Plenary Council that the Baltimore Catechism was written. I believe that was the largest meeting of Catholic Bishops ever held outside of Rome since the Council of Trent.

For the first period in our history this was the only cathedral and the only diocese in the United States. In 1808, four dioceses were formed Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Bardstown. Thats why in two years we will be celebrating our 200th Anniversary in Boston.

Our first Bishop, Bishop Cheverus, came to Baltimore to be ordained a Bishop. He was ordained by Bishop Carroll. In those days, Bishop Cheverus was probably the only diocesan priest that was a Bishop in the United States. The first Bishop of New York was a Dominican and he died on the way to New York. Cardinal O’Connell used to say that he was his successful successor he didnt make any mistakes at all..lol.

Bishop Carroll was elevated to Archbishop in 1808, during the early years of the construction of the Baltimore Basilica. As I mentioned, he was the United States first Archbishop and he was responsible for Catholics in an area of roughly two-thirds of our country. He was certainly a visionary and founding leader of the United States Catholic Church. The Baltimore Basilica is official named the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Front exterior of America’s first Cathedral, the Baltimore Basilica.

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Inside the newly restored Baltimore Basilica.

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View of the altar area.

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Another view of the altar area.

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Altar – front view.

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View from the altar looking out at the pews.

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Closer look.

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The Cathedra – the oldest Bishop’s chair in the United States.

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Another view of the Cathedra.

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Archbishop John Carroll was a Jesuit. He was educated by the English Jesuits in Flanders with other family members. The Jesuits have been great supporters of the Baltimore Basilica over time and its recent renovation.

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A plaque listing Bishops consecrated at the Baltimore Basilica. Boston’s first Bishop, Bishop Cheverus, is listed on the plaque.

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In the basement of the Basilica, there is a small museum of sorts with many artifacts of the history of the Baltimore Basilica and the U.S. Church. This is a chalice given to Archbishop Marechal by Bishop Cheverus in 1817.

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A letter from George Washington to Catholics of the United States.

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An 1812 letter from Thomas Jefferson to Archbishop Carroll.

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Cardinal Lawrence Shehans Cappa Magnathe Great Cape.

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Also under the main Basilica area, there is a unique chapel called “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel.”

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Another view of the chapel beneath the Basilica.

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Hanging near the “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel” is a portrait of Benjamin Latrobe. Latrobe is credited as one of the leading founders in modern architecture in the U.S. He donated his services to design the Baltimore Basilica.

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“Life-size” statue of Jesus located a short distance from the downstairs chapel.

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Another view of the same statue.

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There is an “Archbishop’s Crypt” located next to “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel” under the Basilica, the final resting place of eight of Baltimore’s 12 deceased Archbishops, including Archbishop Carroll.

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Portrait of Cardinal James Gibbons, named Bishop of Baltimore in 1877, hangs in the Basilica.

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In the back of the Basilica there is a painting called “St. Louis Burying His Dead Soldiers.”

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Also hanging in the rear of the Basilica is a painting called “The Descent From The Cross.” The painting was commissioned by Louis XVIII.

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The Basilica’s grand organ.

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Beautiful art work on the ceiling of the Basilica.

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The artwork in the Basilica was very bright.

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The artwork on the ceiling inside the middle dome of the Basilica.

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The original Basilica paintings depicting each of the Stations of the Cross were restored.

“Picture of the Week”:

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Inside the Basilica, there is a bust called “The Blessing,” depicting Mother Teresa of Calcutta. On May 29, 1996 Mother Teresa Witnessed the profession of 35 of her Missionaries of Charity in the Baltimore Basilica.

With Thanksgiving Day next Thursday, I thought that I would make my post for next week on Wednesday, November 22.

In that post, I will have a message to all of our men and women from the Archdiocese of Boston serving in the military, their families and to our military chaplains.

Well, I hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable weekend. Until my post next Wednesday.

God Bless,
Cardinal Sen

29 Responses to The U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops Meetings In Baltimore, Sharing My Letter On Homosexuality & The Baltimore Basilica


Comments

  1. Comment by Graham Lake | 2006/11/17 at 18:36:02

    Your Eminence,

    I enjoyed reading your post this week following the US Bishops’ Conference Meeting and the beautiful photographs of the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore.

    Graham Lake
    London, England

  2. Ben
    Comment by Ben | 2006/11/17 at 20:07:33

    Your Emminence,

    I read your letter concerning homosexuality when it first came out. As one who has struggled with homosexuality for years, I appreciated it very much. I came to the Church as a convert who was scared and confused. I went up to a priest in Concord, MA before mass (I didn’t even know what “mass” was at the time) and simply told him my name and asked him if I could have some time to talk to him. He said yes and asked me to call the rectory that day. When I met with him and told him of my struggles I half expected him to kick me out of the rectory. Instead he was kind and supportive. He explained to me Church teaching in regards to sexuality and the virtue of chastity that all are called to. I began reading the Catechism. and discovered a Church that accepted me for who I was while still asking me to “take up my cross” and follow Christ just as it asks of all humanity. I found a church that treated me as an equal – with respect and as a full and complicated human being with dignity – not some label. For the first time I felt like I was being defined not by my emotions or sexuality but just by my humanity alone. That meant so much to me. I continue to struggle with sin just as all men do, but I wanted to say that I am grateful for a Church and an Archbishop that, through Christ, has treated me with dignity and has taught me to look beyond myself – to Jesus.

    Thank you,

    Ben

  3. Comment by Susan Lyons | 2006/11/17 at 20:39:54

    Dear Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you so much for your blog…I look forward to it every Friday evening.

    I am a convert and love the Catholic Church. Jesus sent you to us in such a difficult time for the church and you have helped us all so much. Thank You, thank you, Jesus, for sending Cardinal Sean to us.

    You are doing a wonderful job. I love the way you explain, via your blog, the weekly events, the history of the church, our Catechism and show us all those wonderful pictures.

    Your writings are beautiful…I feel like I am sitting here talking with a friend.

    Your friend, Susan

  4. Ann
    Comment by Ann | 2006/11/17 at 23:00:14

    Thank you Cardinal Sean for sharing these beautiful pictures of the Baltimore Basilica. I would like to see your wonderful letter published in the Boston Globe.

  5. Comment by Bob Meade | 2006/11/17 at 23:45:39

    Cardinal Sean, thanks for your blog. I admire your photos of the Baltimore Basilica.

  6. Comment by Br. Charles | 2006/11/18 at 09:12:44

    Thank you, your Eminence, for all of the pictures of the newly renovated basilica; they are an inspiring lesson on the history of the church in these United States!

    Thanks too for the letter on marriage and homosexuality. It helps me to notice that the current “confusion” about teaching (that some of you bishops pointed out while debating the current document) is not just about sex or orientation, but about remembering the fundamental theological dignity of the person and our responsibility to each other as creatures of the one Father. Thanks so much for this ministry.

  7. Comment by Jamie | 2006/11/18 at 10:25:44

    I am so thrilled and highly encouraged to see that you, one of our church’s orthodox priest’s (which I pray for more of every single day!) and a Cardinal as well are making such a heartfelt and sincere effort to truly communicate with those of us in Our Lord’s flock who so deeply desire to expand our knowledge and understanding of this, our Catholic faith, which we hold so precious. THANK YOU! Is it possible for me to email you, personally, directly. May God continue to bless you in all of your endeavors!

  8. Comment by Alexander Lee | 2006/11/18 at 12:11:58

    Your eminence,

    Hi, wonderful pictures that you have placed in your blog recently. I was browsing through the pictures of the recently renovated Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I happened to noticed the red and white umbrella beside the pulpit and wondering what is it, could your eminence perhaps explain the significance of the umbrella? I noticed the tassels on the coat of arms is red hence the Archbishop is a cardinal then. The pictures of the interior of the basilica is beautiful, nice paintings and treasures too. The “Archbishop’s Crypt” of the Basilica reminds me that of the late Archbishop Emeritus Dominic A. Vendargon, the first metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur who was buried in the cathedral itself as a fitting honour for him who was consecrated in the same cathedral that bears his cathedra. Do keep up the good work.

    Sincerely,
    alex lee
    Archdiocese of Kuching, Malaysia.

  9. Comment by Martha McGuire | 2006/11/18 at 13:22:48

    My dear Cardinal Sean,
    May the peace of our Lord be with you, dear brother. My name is Martha and I am the secretary at Immaculate Conception Church in Secaucus New Jersey, and this is my first time to your blog. I tend to be long winded, so I hope you are sitting comfortably. I reached your blog when I tried to find a web site or some info for St. Patricks in Brockton. My friend and our former priest Fr. Jose Abalon is the administrator there. I understand that you will be celebrating the Holy Mass on Dec 10 th with him. I hope you take some photos so I can see what he and his church look like. He has told me that it is a struggling parish financially, but he has great support from the parishioners who volunteer. He is so funny, because he said that he has a Spanish mass at noon and he mixes his Fillipino dialect with Spanish and lets the Holy Spirit translate. He said he thinks it works! This is truly a priest of the people. We were very saddened when he left us. Poor fellow, to be sent to an even colder state than NJ. He is always cold! If you ever want to give him a gift, you might consider electric socks to keep his feet warm. He must get lonely sometimes being in that big church all alone. I have not asked him yet how many parishioners he has, since I just began to correspond with him yesterday.
    I must say that there is something about these Neocatecuminale priests. I know of another one that was taken from us after his first anniversary as a priest, to the Cathedral in Newark NJ, a Fr. Giuseppe Fedele. I don’t know if it is my imagination, but there is a certain humble holiness, and joy within them. I don’t know what their formation is, but the Holy Spirit has a hand in it for sure. I know that wherever Fr. Jose is sent, he will be a great asset to Mother Church and all of Her children. Please greet Fr. Jose with a holy hug and kiss from me when you see him. I miss his smile and laughter. He is truly a “keeper”! He doesn’t know that I am writing to you, so he will be very surprised if you say hello from Martha from Secaucus.
    I have already gone on too long. There is much I would like to discuss. I was wondering about the decision regarding Eucharistic ministers not being allowed to clean the vessels. I am not an EM, I am a lector, but still curious about the decision. I also have feelings about your letter concerning homosexuality. I thought it was very good. I have a friend who is like my brother since childhood who is gay. He was so afraid that we wouldn’t love him anymore when he told us many, many years ago that he was gay. (I am 52) I love him with all my heart and he loves God. He has been abstinant for quite awhile after ending a long time relationship. I cannot abandon him. I know that Jesus will not abandon him either. I guess in the long run it

    will ultimately be between him and God.

    Oh for heaven’s sake, somebody stop me from talking! I will leave you for now dear brother. I would really like to speak with you again for there are other things I would like to share with you about my ….how shall I say it…..tangible encounter with our precious Lord. He has graced me with the knowledge of His existance in a way that words seem inadequate to describe and I can’t imagine why. For the longest time I asked, ” Why me? What do you want of me?” Then I stopped asking why and just said, ” Thank you Lord for this grace.” I will leave this for another time.
    Blessings to you dear brother. I hope we will speak soon. May the Lord bless and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you……….
    Joyfully in Jesus,
    long winded Martha

  10. Comment by Maureen Higgins | 2006/11/18 at 17:50:34

    Cardinal Sean
    Thank you for your letter. I appreciate your comment that any sex outside of marriage is a sin. In many years of working in a Marriage Tribunal I have found that premarital sex and infidelity after consent- heterosexual or homosexual- is the overwhelming cause of divorce and often grounds for a declaration of invalidity. Hopefully your letter and the grace of God will help us all to appreciate more fully the gift of human sexuality and valuse more deeply the morality and responsibility fo that gift, regardless of orientation. Failure to do so has resulted in pain, humiliation and destruction of many families.

    The Bishop’s conference has once again brought up the issue of celibacy. The priests I know that have shared their thoughts on the subject feel it’s a much bigger deal to the rest of us than it is to them. Likewise, the issue of marriage for priests. Do you find that many priests wish these changes would be made or is it really a bigger deal to everyone else?
    Great pictures!
    MHiggins

  11. Comment by Maureen Higgins | 2006/11/18 at 18:45:22

    Ooops! Sorry about the double whammy but the first one was floating out in blogosphere- I see it found it’s way
    MH

  12. Comment by Chris Dickson | 2006/11/19 at 00:53:35

    What a wonderful gift you have, Cardinal Sean, of taking difficult topics such as homosexuality (which would ordinarily be construed in somewhat negative overtones) and saying it in a loving, caring, compassionate light, while remaining firmly entrenched within the teachings of the Catholic Church.

    The Lord give you peace!

  13. Comment by Sharon | 2006/11/20 at 08:33:51

    Why was it decided to remove the stained glass windows from the basilica?

  14. Comment by michael g. b. | 2006/11/20 at 14:56:52

    The Baltimore Basilica per se does not impress me spiritually . . . but i do think that the “crypt chapel” or “crypt church” there IS quite spiritually an atmosphere conducive to prayer . . . i found this to be the same for The National Shrine in Washington D.C. – the crypt church there is such a peaceful and almost mideival atmosphere that the stones theselves call us back to God and to a spirit of prayer . . . but that is just my own personal “druthers” and no doubt many others are affected differently . . . still, to me it is still nice that there exists “some” places which by their very atmosphere bring us to a presence of prayerfulness . . . and quiet. :)

  15. Comment by Deacon Bryan Marabanian | 2006/11/20 at 15:03:51

    Cardinal Sean:

    It’s so refreshing to know that you are a man who favors open dialogue regarding the issues that impact Catholics in the United States and around the world. Thank you for providing the faithful with this avenue to publicly ask questions. Its sad to say that the perception of most people is that the members of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy do not favor dialogue but, rather, a “do what you’re told” mentality. This blog is proof that the perception of some is just that…perception.

    I must say, however, that I am saddened by the Bishop’s adoption of the pastoral norms guidling care for people with homosexual inclinations. Moreover, I am troubled by Roman teaching regarding marriage.

    To say that two people, who are made in the “image and likeness of God,” are not fully capable of loving each other in an acceptable way because of gender make-up seems, in my opinion, to be heretical. As an ordained minister of an Independent Catholic denomination I am surprised that an institution within the Apostolic Succession condones such divisive, mean-spirited views regarding this group of God’s people. I don’t believe it’s wise for any institution to place limits on God’s will.

    I find the Roman Church’s teaching regarding marriage, and your own words on the topic, to be quite confusing. You stated in this blog that you have been encouraging Roman Catholics to “defend the institution of marriage”. Perhaps you can clarify how not allowing a loving couple to have their love blessed by the Church’s minister is defending the institution of marriage.

    It is my understanding that for marriage to truly be defended and protected, it must be open and encouraged for all people regardless of sexual orientation or identity. For gay and lesbian couples to have truly loving, holy relationships, it is vital for them to receive the support of Church communities.

    When the Church turns people away from the sacraments because of accidents of gender or sexual orientation, the Church sins. Perhaps this is why more and more Catholics are understanding that their faith can be celebrated outside of the Roman Church in inclusive, independent communities.

    God bless you and your ministry.

    Deacon Bryan Marabanian
    Pastor, Holy Trinity Independent Catholic Church
    Chicago, IL.

  16. Comment by cindy | 2006/11/20 at 15:16:01

    Dear Cardinal O’Malley:

    Beautiful blog. The Catholic Church is so very rich. Our God is Love, but like any parent don’t you think there is a hell?

    Your thoughts

    Cindy

  17. Comment by Andrew | 2006/11/20 at 15:52:14

    Cardinal Sen,

    Thank you for your blog. I have one small point to make. Is it appropriate to speak of a homosexual “orientation”? Because the human person is fundamentally oriented toward the true, the good, and the beautiful, which is God, it seems incorrect to refer to an “orientation” toward something that is inherently disordered.

    Having said that, I want to say what a pleasure it is to find a Cardinal who reaches out to the faithful the way you do. How refreshing!

    In Jesus and Mary,

    Andrew

  18. Ben
    Comment by Ben | 2006/11/21 at 00:07:10

    I feel compelled to respond to Pastor Marabanian’s comments, though I am no scholar, minister, or otherwise – just an average joe…

    Pastor, you refer to “gender-make up”, “accidents of gender”, and “sexual orientation or identity” as if they automatically determine whether or not one engages in homosexual sex, whereby if we, in turn, somehow suppress this “inclination”, we are guilty of defying God’s natural order and will. The Church does not condemn inclinications, urges, or temptations. We all have urges of many different kinds. The question is – what do we do with them? Are we to give them full reign no matter what form they take? Do we sin against God if we deny ourselves some of our urges and inclinations? Christ calls us to self-denial – he taught self-denial wherever he went – he showed us self-denial in his passion.

    You say you are confused and surprised by Church teaching – which, guided by the Holy Spirit and preserved in Tradition and the Magesterium through Apostolic Succession, is in fact quite clear: sex outside of marriage is a sin. I don’t see what is confusing about that.

    You accuse the Church of being “divisive”, “mean-spirited” and not being “inclusive”. I am one who has struggled with homosexuality all of my adult life and I have never been treated by the Church with anything but respect, kindness, and dignity. Christ calls me to chastity just as he calls all to this virtue. For some, this means a call to marital chastity. For others, it is a call to celibacy. Neither way is free from difficulty or trial. For me, as for many, homosexuality is a cross – but just because Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, carry our cross, and follow him, does not mean that He does not love us. It just means that He is teaching us that this is the way we must follow Him.

    You accuse the Church of being heretical and seem to claim in your third paragraph special insight into His very will. Even with my limited knowledge of history, something tells me that we’ve seen this movie before… You will excuse me if I choose to follow 2,000 years of Church teaching as opposed to your “independence”.

    Ben

  19. Comment by Michael Hallman | 2006/11/21 at 03:34:52

    Your Eminence,

    Thank you again for a beautiful entry. I find myself often in the company of people who do not have the highest view of the Church, or of religion in general. In a way I am thankful, because my discussions with them force me to be able to elucidate my beliefs and the teachings of the Church, and I hope some day I may possess half of the gift you have. One of the biggest points that comes up when discussing the notion of homosexual marriage is why should my relgious belief be enforced as a law? I struggle giving a well thought answer on this. What they basically say is that if the Church is opposed to gay marriage, then the Church shouldn’t marry gays, but let the state do what it wants, because a state marriage is not a religious marriage.

    The truth is, while I usually mutter something about marriage being a social institution, I don’t really know how to respond to this. I was wondering if you could help shed some light on this? Thank you, and thank you for bringing such love and compassion to such difficult and challenging issues facing our society. God bless!

  20. GB
    Comment by GB | 2006/11/21 at 10:57:34

    “When the Church turns people away from the sacraments because of accidents of gender or sexual orientation, the Church sins.”

    Deacon Bryan, I think I’d be very careful in taking it upon myself to decide when the Church that Jesus founded & furthermore gave to Peter the power to forgive & retain, ‘sins’. To set yourself (no matter how enlightened) up as the judge of God is no small matter.
    As far as the issue of marriage goes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a theologian) to look at how men & women are made & figure out what God intended. Perhaps that’s why the “Marriage Ammendment” keeps getting solidly defeated every time its put to a vote by the American people.

  21. Comment by Michele | 2006/11/21 at 11:30:03

    Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I also think your letter was beautifully written and should be published in newspapers and read from all of the pulpits.

    Many of the faithful have fallen away from the unchanging teachings of the church. We need you to come out publicly against sin and promote the traditional morals of the Catholic Faith, which you do, but it is not reaching all ears.

    I would like to see you deliver a message here and there to the parishes in the Archdiocese as our priest dont often speak openly about these difficult and sensitive issues. I’m sure it is not an easy thing to do, but You have a gift that enables you to do this well.

    God bless you,

  22. Comment by Sean | 2006/11/21 at 22:37:24

    Your Eminence,

    As a parishiner of the Basilica of the Assumption, Baltimore, Maryland, it was our delightful pleasure to host you and many of your colleagues last week at the Bishops Mass. We hold our Basiliac with great affection and it was truly a joyous occasion re-opening it after two years of renovations. It is our pleasure to share this magnificent tribute to American Catholicism with our fellow Catholics from around the country and the world and we are delighted that you graced us with a visit. Thank you.

    Finally, please accept my congratulations on this blog–a wonderful way in which to reach many more beyond the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Boston. The beauty of the Church is how it has adapted to its environment within the traditions of the faith. While many suburban parishes are overcrowded, I often hear my Protestant firends and family members lamenting about how few come to their services. Despite the many challenging issues we face–along with the constant barrage of criticism–one cannot argue with the longevity of the Church. Faddish religions and ‘enlightened’ individuals will cross our paths, but we will continue long into the future so long as we remain true to our faith and to its origins.

    Sean P. Keller, KHS

  23. Comment by Chuck Antony | 2006/11/22 at 12:55:35

    Dear Cardinal Sean, thanks for your blog!

    Regarding homosexuality, I won’t quarrel with you or the bishops on the substantive issues (though I’d like to), but I have to wonder why gay people are referred to in such alienating language: — “homosexual persons,” “persons with a homosexual inclination” — instead of “gay,” lesbian,” or just plain “homosexual.” Surely we Catholics don’t call ourselves “Catholic persons” or “persons with a Catholic inclination” — we’re just “Catholics”!

    I know that the Church is reluctant to acknowledge that homosexuality is an essential attribute of a gay person’s true self, but the majority of gay people would disagree — and these are the very people you wish to reach out to! If you describe gay people in the same language they use to describe on one another, you might have a better chance of being listened to. I’m sure the bishops would never make the mistake of issuing a letter titled “Ministry to Negro Persons”!

  24. Comment by loretta goldsmith | 2006/11/22 at 13:29:54

    Thank you for this website. It fills me in a way I’ve been seeking. I’m not walking because of a foot injury and long to hear more, see more of our Catholic world. I read spirit daily but after that I try radio maria , medjugorje news, then what; now I’ve found your blog. Alleluia!

  25. Comment by Deacon Bryan Marabanian | 2006/11/22 at 22:21:04

    Response to statement #17 from Ben.

    Thank you, Ben, for engaging me in this dialogue. I have a few responses to your statements.

    “if we…somehow suppress this inclination, we are guilty of defying Gods natural order and will.” No where in my statement do I claim to know God’s will. I will say, however, that the “Natural Law” was made and is “enforced” by imperfect human institutions and, as such, it is subject to human inquiry, questioning, and evolution.

    “The Church does not condemn inclinications, urges, or temptations.” Neither do I. I do not suggest that any religious jurisdiction should be laissez faire on moral issues. What I am suggesting is that the issue of homosexuality is a non-issue. Any truly loving, committed relationship helps, in the eyes of my religious jurisdiction, people to become holy.

    “Christ calls us to self-denial – he taught self-denial wherever he went – he showed us self-denial in his passion.” Since when did self-denial always equal celibacy?

    “You say you are confused and surprised by Church teaching – which, guided by the Holy Spirit and preserved in Tradition and the Magesterium through Apostolic Succession, is in fact quite clear: sex outside of marriage is a sin. I dont see what is confusing about that.” The sex outside of marriage statement, in and of itself, is not confusing, Ben. What I find not only confusing, but heretical, is the fact that the Church would deny a sacrament (marriage) to a loving, committed couple. To imply that the Holy Spirit has preserved Church teaching from error is incorrect…unless the world is still flat.

    “You accuse the Church of being ‘divisive’, ‘mean-spirited’ and not being ‘inclusive’. I am one who has struggled with homosexuality all of my adult life and I have never been treated by the Church with anything but respect, kindness, and dignity.” If you were to take a survey of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Catholics, you will find that the overwhelming majority do not share your experience.

    “Christ calls me to chastity just as he calls all to this virtue. For some, this means a call to marital chastity. For others, it is a call to celibacy. Neither way is free from difficulty or trial. ” Just because Christ calls you to celibacy doesn’t mean he calls all homosexual people to celibacy. To place total faith in a teaching simply because the Bishops of the Roman Jurisdiction tell you to do so might be seen my many theological experts, especially those in Independent and Anglican Communions, as foolish. The fact is that there are many Churches within the Apostolic Succession who accept into the fold gay people and have helped them sustain not only a wonderful relationship with God and the Church but also with their spouse.

    “For me, as for many, homosexuality is a cross – but just because Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, carry our cross, and follow him, does not mean that He does not love us. It just means that He is teaching us that this is the way we must follow Him.” Of course Christ loves you just as he loves all people. And, it is true that each of us has a cross (sometimes many) of our own. Most reputable Christian psychologists will agree, however, that homosexuality should not be considered a cross to bear but, rather, a natural path to holiness.

    “You accuse the Church of being heretical and seem to claim in your third paragraph special insight into His very will.” I do accuse the Roman Jurisdiction of being heretical but do not claim any special insight into God’s will. What I do say is that it is not for me or anyone else to place human limits on God’s will. That, Ben, is entirely different.

    “Even with my limited knowledge of history, something tells me that weve seen this movie before You will excuse me if I choose to follow 2,000 years of Church teaching as opposed to your ‘independence’.” My goal is not to gain followers by posting to this site, Ben, but to engage in open dialogue about this issue with a Roman Bishop to gain more understanding and insight into the Roman jurisdiction’s teaching on this topic. While you would always be welcome at the table of my community regardless of your relationship status, I do not wish to engage in any form of “pew stealing”. Enough people are coming to my community on their own, I don’t need to be an active recruiter.

    God bless you and those you love.

    Deacon Bryan Marabanian

  26. Comment by Deacon Bryan Marabanian | 2006/11/22 at 22:33:39

    Response to statement #18 from GB

    Thank you for responding to me, GB.

    “Deacon Bryan, I think Id be very careful in taking it upon myself to decide when the Church that Jesus founded & furthermore gave to Peter the power to forgive & retain, sins. To set yourself (no matter how enlightened) up as the judge of God is no small matter.”

    GB, I’m not quite sure what you’re implying here but there are a few things I need to clear up. 1. Christ gave the apostles the power to forgive and retain sins, not just Peter. The Roman jurisdiction is not the only Church with that authority. 2. No where in my previous statements do I set myself up as a judge of God. I’m not quite sure how you were able to interpret that, but that was never something I stated either directly or indirectly. 3. Just because I disagree with the teaching of the Roman jurisdiction doesn’t make me a bad person. There are many other Catholic denominations (Independent Catholic, Episcipal, Old Catholic, Polish National Catholic) who disagree with Rome on theological and social issues. This is the reason for open dialogue — to undersand each other.

    “As far as the issue of marriage goes, it doesnt take a rocket scientist (or a theologian) to look at how men & women are made & figure out what God intended.”

    That you feel comfortable contradicting hundreds of thousands of medical and psychological professionals with such an insulting, ignorant statement only adds validity to the arguments of those in support of Church recognition for same-sex relationships.

    Deacon Bryan Marabanian

  27. Comment by Deacon Bryan Marabanian | 2006/11/23 at 04:11:31

    Response to statement 22 from Chuck Antony .

    Well said.

  28. Comment by Marty Tantum | 2006/11/24 at 12:11:36

    wow! Poor Cardinal Sean. If he had to respond to everyone of these very impressive comments, he’d be responding forever. However, I just want to say that I am impressed with the dialogue generated by Cardinal’s blog and it’s great to know that we have people of good faith challenging each other’s position without denigration or insults.

    Long live Christ the King!

  29. Comment by Mary Three | 2006/11/25 at 13:27:37

    Your Emminence,

    I belong to another diocese halfway across the continent, but I come back to your blog every week. Thank you so much for your pastoral letter on homosexuality and marriage. I felt you were speaking directly to me when you acknowledged the dilemma experience by friends and family of homosexuals. I have a dear friend who will soon participate in a homosexual ‘union’ ceremony, and have struggled with how to tell him I cannot attend. I have fumbled for words to express my love for him, yet my regret over his choice. He was raised as a Catholic, and his lifestyle is causing so much pain in his family.

    Thank you for clarifying so beautifully what it means to love the person while desiring that he turn away from his sin. Thank you for reaching out to all God’s people through this blog, and making yourself so available to us.


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