Sunday, May 17, 2009

Encouraging mortal sin: not a good preparation for marriage

Ever since my conversion to Catholicism I have been interested in issues surrounding the challenge of how the Church in America might be more effective in catechesis and evangelization, matters so important in helping people become closer to Jesus, that they might continue to move forward on the path to sanctity as their life unfolds.

In my opinion one of the most perpetually important things for an effective and ongoing transformation of a Christian society is the preparation of young people for the sacrament of marriage. A great deal of good--or harm--can be done by agents of the Church during the window of time before a couple is married. It is a special opportunity for healing, informing, correcting, and preparing a man and woman, thus enabling them to become better able to draw close to each other and to Christ through the many graces available in Christian matrimony. While there have been good things taking place in the area of marriage preparation, it seems to me that typical courses of marriage preparation in many American parishes still are mediocre at best, sometimes downright awful. Even so I do think progress is being made, though this progress is slow.

On the topic of poor marriage prep and in connection to the previous post, I want to bring to your attention the following. The same May 9 Miami Herald article as referenced in the previous post, included this:
In the process of counseling couples about to get married, [Fr. Cutie] has matter-of-factly said: "Look at the person sitting next to you. If you are not having the best sex of your life, they may not be the right person for you."

Now, this is outrageously horrid advice for a priest to give a young couple preparing for marriage. This is extremely grave matter. If this quote is accurate it would indicate that this priest casually brushed off mortal sin, and with a smile. And not only that, but he actually gave unmarried couples positive encouragement to continue in grave sin, thereby helping set them up for untold continuing and future damage to their souls. Rather than helping them grow in virtue and gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty and mystery of marriage in Christ, he helped them instead to become more accepting of mortal sin, affirming them in approaching it with casual indifference, and thereby contributed to their becoming more spiritually lethal agents of one another’s present and future suffering and degradation as persons. Such a priest, in the name of God, would in fact be leading others into deeper and deeper spiritual destruction. And this, probably at least in part from a desire to appear hip, cool, and nonjudgmental.

If the above quote is true and if Fr. Cutie's bishop (Archbishop John Favalora) knew of it, this alone should have been cause for him to be immediately removed from pastoral duties. Any Catholic priest who is so unfaithful to his vocation that he would counsel engaged couples that fornication is no big deal and thereby, because of his influence as a priest, strengthen them in an attitude that regards mortal sin as OK (hey, they should be doing it and having fun--as preparation for marriage!!!)--has become (whether he realizes this or not) an ally of the devil. And I do not easily say things like this. It is quite literally the truth. A Catholic priest should be the last person in the world who would ever give anyone a green light to act as though objectively grave sin were normal and unproblematic.

What does the Archdiocese of Miami think of this? Do other priests in the diocese do this sort of thing, or is this a tragic aberration from a diocesan norm of priestly fidelity to the teaching of Christ about marriage?

This is so serious an issue that on May 12 I emailed auxiliary bishop John Noonan, Director of Priestly Life and Ministry for the Archdiocese of Miami, asking him if he could confirm whether this quote was accurate. To date I have received no response.

Also, and again because of the gravity of this situation, I thought I should try to find out more about the source of this quote from the reporter who wrote the Miami Herald article in which it appeared--it is unattributed in the article. So, I emailed Lydia Martin at the Herald, asking her if she would name her source, or, at least reaffirm (or recant) whether she could vouch confidently for the authenticity of the quote attributed to Fr. Cutie. She responded to me by email on May 15. She wrote, "It would not be appropriate for me to name my source. But the source is a reliable one, or I wouldn't have used the information."

I thought I should include this email exchange (one attempted and one successful) in this post since Ms. Martin who reported the quote about which I am writing did not name her source. Charity demands that I should have made an effort to ask about the source of this quote before being willing to write critically about the one to whom it is attributed. Although not fully satisfactory, the response of the reporter to stand behind it and the silence of the Archdiocese seems to me adequate to assume it is probably accurate.

Please, let us pray there be no other instances like this of priests preparing couples for the holy sacrament of matrimony by the ridiculous and harmful foolishness of encouraging them to commit mortal sin.


Thank you for civil and well-considered comments!