Saturday, May 24, 2014

Deception in Catholic Websites: Caveat Emptor

I have found it very disconcerting and disheartening to see the way in which many Catholic blogs and websites report on news concerning the Catholic Church. I expect secular sites to report on events regarding the Catholic Church in a way that will suit their own agenda. However, I would think that a truly Catholic blog or website would report and comment on anything Catholic with integrity. But to believe that, unfortunately, is to live in a fantasy world.

Following is one very concrete example of the skewing that can be found on "Catholic" websites. Pewsitters.com is a Catholic news website that tends to support an ultaconservative, traditionalist Catholic viewpoint. It is modeled after Drudge Report in that it links to various websites and blogs to report on news affecting Catholics. They seem to love to link to anything that shows Catholic hierarchy, including Pope Francis, in a bad light. The latest concerns Bishop Leonardo Steiner of Brazil. This was the link, the last headline at the bottom of this screen shot, "Brazilian Catholic Bishop backs legal gay unions":


Clicking on the link leads you to a Filipino website, GMA News [HERE]. Here we are given a few quotes from an unlinked to interview with the bishop. And it doesn't sound good:
There needs to be a dialog on the rights attached to shared life between people of the same sex who decide to live together. They need legal support from society," Leonardo Steiner, the secretary general of the National Confederation of Brazilian Bishops, said in an interview with O Globo newspaper published on its website Thursday.
The Church isn't the same through the ages. It seeks answers for the present time, using the Gospel as the illuminating force of its action," the bishop said.
The Church is always seeking to read the signs of the times, to see what must or must not change. The truths of faith don't change.
I did a little internet research and found Lisa Graas, who entitles her post "False reports that the Catholic Church in Brazil supports homosexual unions".  Lisa writes:
There is some reporting (AFP via Yahoo) that the Catholic Church in Brazil now supports same-sex unions. The reports are false. They are based on remarks made by Bishop Leonardo Steiner in an interview with O Globo. Bishop Steiner refers to supporting the basic human rights of homosexual persons, such as the right to employment and the right not to be physically assaulted. He did not say that the Church supports their unions. As Pope Francis has done, he refers everyone back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the basic teaching we must all hold to.
Lisa then quotes directly from the original interview:
GLOBE: Recently, Pope Francis said: “Who am I to judge a homosexual who seeks God?”. Today, the Catholic Church is open to accept his homosexual believers?

Bishop Leonardo Steiner: You could say that the Pope echoes the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the gay people: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Avoid it-will [ill will] towards them [and] every sign of unjust discrimination. ” We welcome with respect, compassion and sensitivity means walking and living with the homosexual person and help her understand, deepen and manage their condition. [That each is a] son and daughter of God is understood.

[...]

GLOBE: The Pope also wants to study homosexual unions to understand why some countries have chosen to legalization. This represents the beginning of a dialogue on marriage between persons of the same sex?

Bishop Leonardo Steiner: It is important to understand the unions of persons of the same sex. Is not a concern when it comes to any people. It is necessary to talk about the rights of ordinary life between persons of the same sex, who decided to live together. They need a legal support in society.
The reason this reads in such a clumsy way is because it is Google translated from the original interview, which is in Portuguese. You can find that interview link in Lisa's post and HERE.

Lisa summarizes the interview:
In other words, though the union itself cannot be supported, we must support the “rights of ordinary life” (basic rights that are natural to all human beings) that each of these two persons have a right to. They need a legal support in society in terms of their basic rights. This is not an approval of their union, but only of their individual rights even though they live together in an illegitimate union. For instance, I cannot assault a person just because I object to his being in a same-sex union. I cannot, however, show approval for that union.
Bishop Steiner is a member of the Order of Friars Minor.
As Lisa has pointed out, His Excellency is not in any way supporting same sex unions. He is pointing out that homosexuals should be protected from those who wish to do violence against them and other discriminatory practices, and reminding us that we need to treat homosexuals and all people with dignity and respect. With regard to changing Catholic doctrine, as Lisa points out, Bishop Steiner points to the the Catechism, which in no uncertain terms denounces homosexuality activity.
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Notice that the Church separates the person from the acts. We can never accept homosexual acts, but we must always accept those with homosexual tendencies. As can be seen, Bishop Steiner was quoting exactly what we find in the Catholic Catechism. To accuse him of wanting to change church doctrine is truly disingenuous. I expect this from secular websites, but from a website that purports to be Catholic?
 
Is there any chance that Pewsitter will link to Lisa Graas? Yes, and that will be when pigs fly.

Please do not accept everything you read on the Internet on face value, no matter where you find it. Always do a little more checking. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. Yes, there have been and will continue to be rogue elements among the hierarchy of the Church, but be very careful when you see this kind of reporting. The Church is founded on a solid Rock, and He will always make sure that we stay on that Foundation.


12 comments:

  1. You are good. You really do your homework and find the truth. Pewsitters is quite a misleading news portal - they editorialize storie in the way the post their 'headlines' and many onilners simply read headlines when the story may not otherwise hold their interest.

    Thanks for vetting the Lisa Graas story as well - I skimmed it but wasn't sure about it.

    The Internet is a dangerous place.

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    1. Thanks, Terry. The Internet is a very dangerous place. It can strengthen our faith or if we are lazy or are not constantly looking to the Holy Spirit for guidance, it can destroy our faith. One big red flag for me is when someone engages in bashing Church hierarchy. That is never of God. Honest critiques are one thing, but accusations and condemnation never are of God.

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  2. Very well done! and a good call out on the askewed reporting from Pewsitter. I know of more than a few Catholics that seem to take their findings as gospel.

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  3. Seems to me the bishop is indeed showing support for gay unions:
    "...It is necessary to talk about the rights of ordinary life between persons of the same sex, who decided to live together. They need a legal support in society.

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    1. The bishop is following the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says, homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

      Treating people with respect and dignity does not mean supporting their sin. See how Christ treated sinners as shown in the Gospels. He socialized with them and treated them as equals, which was condemned by the Pharisees. The Bishop, by his words, agrees with Jesus Christ.

      The Catholic Church does not support the sin of homosexuality and neither does the bishop. It is vital to separate the sin from the sinner.

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    2. stevendallas,
      I believe we should not forget how homosexuals were treated in the US not too long ago.
      They were subject to harassment and even brutality without any protection of law. In fact, often the law itself was the instrument of their suffering.
      Even this black mark on our own history pales on how some other countries even now despicably treat homosexuals.
      No Christian could in good conscience ever allow homosexuals (or anyone else) to be treated this way.

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    3. CiB,
      The problem is this bishop is also advocating for the legal rights of gay unions, why else would he have mentioned their living arrangements. This is not in accordance with Church teachings. As I said before, Pewsitter is correct in their assessment.

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    4. Have you read my post? This is what the bishop said when asked about same sex unions: "It is necessary to talk about the rights of ordinary life between persons of the same sex, who decided to live together. They need a legal support in society.". He is talking about the rights of the individuals, not the same sex union itself. As he said this is a concern when it comes to any people. And as Lisa Graas explained, "This is not an approval of their union, but only of their individual rights even though they live together in an illegitimate union."

      The Church's role in the world is to bring souls to Christ. We must always reject sin, but as Our Lord showed us in the way in which he related to people, we must never reject the sinner. This is a very fine but vital distinction that we all must learn.

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  4. Sorry, I'm just having trouble understanding how you make the leap from the Bishop saying in response to a question on gay unions (emphasis added): "...It is necessary to talk about the rights of ordinary life BETWEEN persons of the same sex, who decided to LIVE TOGETHER. THEY need a legal support in society" to the conclusion that the bishop is not talking about rights of those in a civil union. Just a quick google search shows that you both appear to be the only ones on the internet that came to that conclusion. Why would he say the rights BETWEEN two homosexuals, if he only meant individual rights? Based on the bishop's own words, Pewsitter looks correct in interpreting this as support for gay unions so they can have certain legal protections. By the way, this bishop in his interview also seemed to imply the Church may evolve over time in recognizing gay marriage.

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    Replies
    1. Steven, the problem here is separating the sin from the sinner. You think that because the bishop accepts the sinner, that means he also accepts the sin. Read the gospels, and you will see that Jesus never turned any sinners away. He allowed a prostitute to wash his feet, which was completely forbidden in "proper" society. Zachaeus was a tax collector, which basically amounted to being a professional thief, and yet Jesus called him out specifically to go to his home. There are many more examples of this throughout the gospel, right up to Our Lord's last moments when he forgave Dismas, the thief on the cross.

      Our Lord always treated sinners with utmost respect and dignity. This is what is called for in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and this is repeated by the bishop.

      And just where in the interview did the bishop say the "Church may evolve over time in recognizing gay marriage"? He said, "The Church is always seeking to read the signs of the times, to see what must or must not change. THE TRUTHS OF THE FAITH DON'T CHANGE."

      Since His Excellency also quoted from the Catechism which says that homosexual acts are disordered, you are the one making a major leap in trying to impugn the bishop with such an accusation.

      Both Lisa Graas and I have quoted directly from the interview, giving the statements in context. No other websites have done that. It is truly a mistake and downright dangerous to let others tell you what to think. Listen and read on your own and and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to guide you in your judgments.

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    2. I'm not saying that this bishop accepts the sin of homosexuality, but rather he is throwing his support behind gay civil unions so they will be provided certain legal protections. That's why he said this is not an issue with others (meaning married couples). As far as my comment that he "seems" to imply that Church teaching may evolve regarding gay marriage, you left out this passage: ".....Brazil, home to the world's largest Catholic population, has allowed gay marriage since May 2013.... At the time Brazil's bishops opposed the decision, but Steiner said the Church was constantly evolving." No bishop, the church is not going to evolve on this issue. Yes the truths of the Church don't change, but why doesn't he plainly explain what those truths are, instead of all the vagueness and doublespeak? Obviously, there's nothing I can say that will get you to admit Pewsitter was correct, so we'll have to let your readers decide. Thanks for the chat

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    3. I have made some headway. You now admit that Bishop Steiner does agree with Church teaching that homosexuality is a sin. That would totally negate your argument that he is in favor of gay unions. You still do not see the difference between accepting the sinner and rejecting the sin. (I think I see a blog post in this). As you say, we will have to leave it to each reader to decide.

      You are right, of course, that the teachings of the Church do not evolve. But our understanding and application of the teachings does and must change over time as we grow. The ultimate goal of the Christian life is to become one with Our Lord, and that is to become one with Love, for God is Love. That involves constant self correction on our part as we are guided by the Holy Spirit.

      One great example of how the application of Church teaching has changed is given to us from Pope St. John XXIII. I have quoted his opening statement to the Second Vatican Council many times:

      "We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity."

      Bishop Steiner is showing great mercy towards those trapped by the sin of homosexuality, saying they must be treated with respect and dignity even while rejecting the sin in their lives. Mercy, not condemnation, will draw people to Christ and His Gospel. That was the message of Pope St. John XXIII, and that is the message of the Church today.

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