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D.C. Archbishop cuts off his nose.

2009 December 16
by Gordon Reid

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the phrase “to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face”. Bitter, temper-prone children do it: mummy has insisted that they wash their face before they go to the party, but rather than wash, they sulk in their room and miss the party.

That’s roughly what the Archbishop of Washington has done on being told by the City Council that Catholic charities must pay benefits to gay employees who marry under the new dispensation, just like all other employees. Rather than do this “recognition of homosexual sinful lifestyles”, as he calls it, the Archbishop says he will close all Catholic charities, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, orphanages. Now that’s a big nose to cut off!

But the saddest thing about this is that it’s no skin off the Archbishop’s nose: it will be the poor and needy, the helpless and lonely who will be punished, so that he can make a moral point. And a pretty dubious moral point at that – I am sure the Catholic charities already pay married benefits to employees who are divorced and remarried, to employees who have had abortions, not to mention the 90 % of their employees who practice the “mortal sin” of contraception. But when it comes to equality of treatment for same-sex couples who have pledged life-long fidelity to each other, Archbishop Wuerl threatens to bring the roof down – even on those who have no roof.

I hope every charity likely to be affected by this spitefulness will rise up and continue their good work, even if they have to forgo the Church’s blessing. Let them thumb their nose at the Archbishop – at least they still have one!

32 Responses leave one →
  1. Ron permalink
    December 16, 2009

    Bravo, Father. The hypocrisy and meanness is breathtaking! Time the Episcopal Church turns the tables and proactively welcomes thoughtful, loving Roman Catholics to our “fold.”

  2. Fr Gregory permalink
    December 16, 2009

    Having spent many years (pre-ordination) in human rights law and advocacy, I’m quite happy to support the local branch of the KKK if it wants to establish a club only for heterosexual, white males who are not Jewish. What I’m not happy to do is to have the exorbitant taxes I pay subsidise the club. Churches and religious institutions in most countries are effectively subsidised by exemption from various federal, state and local taxes and charges (and, if they were honest, could not survive if they, like ordinary individuals and businesses, had to pay equally). On what basis then do they claim the right to discriminate against some of those whose taxes and charges support them? I’m always happy for people to take strong stands on principle – I’ll join the protest line to support their right to do so. But I don’t accept that the taxes of gay, black, Jewish women (for example) ought to contribute to an organization’s right to principles that treat these particular taxpayers as less than human. If affluent white (supposedly) heterosexual Christians want to run a club that keeps those who are not like them out, fine! Let them meet the full costs for the right to do so.

  3. Stephen permalink
    December 16, 2009

    I agree with this commentary 100 percent, Father Reid! As a Catholic, I suppose I have to see Archbishop Wuerl as a successor to the apostles, but let’s recall that the original twelve didn’t always represent the compassion of Christ either! Back in the 90′s, The Archdiocese of San Francisco tried this same type of saber-rattling when the city passed a major piece of Gay Rights Legislation. In the final analysis, the two sides must have reached some type of agreement, because I know Catholic Charities still does work for the city. Let’s hope its just similar grandstanding in Washington, DC, but its still digusting and bigoted!

  4. December 16, 2009

    And the cock crowed.

  5. Nick permalink
    December 16, 2009

    If you believe that these unions are harmful to those involved what he did was courageous since he can count on his flock to unofficially continue their care in these matters. Considering the “first five centuries” of Christians believed that the practice of homosexuality was harmful and codified that belief it is you that act outside of orthodoxy and, I might add, cowardly. Stand up the faith even out of season.

  6. Stephen permalink
    December 16, 2009

    It is NEVER cowardly to stand up for the rights of our fellow human beings!

  7. fr. bill permalink
    December 16, 2009

    As an Episcopalian, I want to point out that the (Episcopal) Diocese of Washington sought to have a homeless shelter cut off from city funds and closed because it was associated with the churches in Virginia who share the Catholic moral theology. Thats in the interest of not pointing out others’ motes when we have a beam.

  8. December 17, 2009

    You make a fair point, Fr. Reid, about the hypocrisy of the archbishop’s willingness to be so exacting about homosexuality while ignoring other ways in which the archdiocese’s employee benefits likely already violate tenets of the Roman Church’s teaching – remarried persons, those using contraception, etc. On the latter point, I imagine that Catholic Charities are careful not to pay for health insurance plans that cover contraception, but I really have no idea. But either way, it does seem that the archdiocese is going an awfully long way to prove a point that doesn’t need to be proved this way. Paying for someone’s medical care hardly requires recognizing their union. The archdiocese could get itself out of this particular quandary simply by allowing for coverage of one other person and any dependents, leaving marriage out of it entirely.

    That being said, don’t you think that the DC Council is also “cutting off its nose to spite its face”? After all, the DC Council is contributing to this little stand-off by not creating legal exceptions for religious institutions, as has been done in Maine and New Hampshire and anywhere else where legalization of same sex marriage has been done by a legislature rather than by a court order. Frankly, I don’t see how a law without such carefully crafted exceptions passes constitutional muster.

  9. Robert federle permalink
    December 17, 2009

    Is your faith so weak as to keep you from publishing dissenting views and opinions? I’ll stand by my comments, my Faith, and my Church, in any forum! You and your ilk are the worst type of cowards!

  10. Rob Federle permalink
    December 17, 2009

    So tell me, what does your church believe in? If I decide for myself that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, can I be a member? If I decide that Holy Communion is just a symbol, can I be a member, What about the opposites? Will those views keep me out? What does your Church believe in? It works so hard to allow everyone under the big umbrella, that its faith is watered down. Prochoice? No problem, abort your children. Selfish with your wealth, it’s easy, just use contraceptives. It’s ok with us and God, we’ll just call it “saving the planet” The Roman Catholic Church, and its Bishops, have been consitent in its teaching for 2,000 years. So lay off of Archbishop Wuerl. He’s fulfilling the oath he took when he was ordained a Bishop, teaching the Truth that has remained the same for two millenium. Your lot could use more of him, and less of the types you’ve been prone to promote in the last twenty years. The truth is the truth, even when it is inconvenient, when it isn’t popular, when it’s illegal, and yes, even when it will lead you to your martyrdom. Read about St. Thomas More, or St. Edward Campion, and countless others who have told the truth, rathern than the convenient lie.

    • Tim Harwood permalink
      December 20, 2009

      Rob- What does the Episcopal Church believe in? Basically it is Unitarian Universalism living into great tension. You don’t have to “leave your brain at the door”. As a matter of fact you can believe anything you wish (so long as you don’t offend anyone). The Episcopal Church is the Church of What’s Happenin’ Now!

  11. Basil Roberson permalink
    December 18, 2009


    You must have a wonderful sense of humour if you think the Roman Catholic Church and its bishops have been consistent for 2000 years.

    I rather doubt they could make consistency over a twenty-year period.

  12. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 19, 2009

    Father, in a discussion about eligibility for married benefits there is logic in your comparing the claims of a same sex couple with the claims of a divorced and re-married oouple in asking who should qualify.

    But I can’t for the life of me see where abortion or contraception could have anything to do with whether a marriage is a true marriage making the couple eligible for marriage benefits. I think you just wanted to have three examples rather than one to try to butress your case.

  13. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 19, 2009

    Father you raise a legitimate question when you ask why the RC archbishop of Washington would threaten such drastic measures.

    In trying to answer that perhaps we should first remember that when dealing with issues concerning marriage we are dealing with more than merely a personal matter. When you officiate at a wedding you are acting on behalf of the Church and the State. The tiresome filling in and signing of forms and registers at every wedding makes that clear. Thus, on matters pertaining to marriage both the Church and the State have a right and a duty to voice their concerns.

    Bhy why take such a stand on the question of homosexual marriage?

    The asnwer should be obvious. After centuries of savage discrimination and intolerance against gays and lesbians western society is suddenly at a tipping point. The struggle to move society towards applying a simple standard of justice and equity in dealing with people having a same sex attraction has turned into a torrent and the old standard of justice and equithy has been swept aside, to be replaced by complete and unquestioning acceptance, positive embrace, normalcy. It is in the persuit of that normalcy that both Church and State are being pressed to re-define the oldest social unit known to man, marriage and the family. There are still to be two spouses but these need not necessarily be husband and wife. Children should have two parents but they need not necessarily be mother and father. Only ten years ago the Lambeth Conference affirmed what had always been taught which was that homosexual activity is a sin. Now, so fast has been the torrent that the Church in North America is rushing to bless same sex unions without even having formally reversed the previous verdict.

    But on this matter as in so many other so called “social issues” of our times the Roman Catholic Church is less eager to rush in and embrace the decisions of our secular society. Rather, they choose to proclaim that which the Church has always and everywhere believed and proclaimed.

    So the battle is joined. It will surely be an epic struggle and it is within that epic struggle that we must judge the actions of the archbishop of Washington. Yes there are other evils. There will always be other evils and they must be fought but the archbishop of Washington and his brother bishops are fighting to defend the institution of marriage from a mighty attack and to protect the souls who would otherwise be led astray. Closing the charitable institutions is not a sign of the callousness of the archbishop. It is a mark of the crucial importance of the struggle.

  14. Tim Harwood permalink
    December 19, 2009

    Yes I too hope that charities make up any loss from this. But I also fully support the Archbishop’s stand. I guess articles such as this are expected from an Episcopal Church. You have the smells and bells down pat; pity that faith and morals seems to have escaped you.

  15. Stephen permalink
    December 19, 2009

    To Tim Harwood_Who are you to impugn the faith and morals of another person? or even another Church? Do you sit in the Holy Judgement Seat of Almighty God? Father Reid’s criticism of Archbishop Wuerl was based on the issues. Your comments were uncalled for, presumptuous, and mean-spirited!

    • Tim Harwood permalink
      December 20, 2009

      “recognition of homosexual sinful lifestyles”, mortal sin” of contraception, same-sex couples who have pledged life-long fidelity to each other. All these comments, lifted from Fr Reid’s post, are just based on the issues Stephen? I call them as I see them- Fr. Reid parrots the TEC party line very admirably, but his without doubt is very lacking indeed in morality and faith. And I am not judging him at all, but only this one article.

  16. John permalink
    December 19, 2009

    I think that D.C. has cut off its nose to spite it’s face. I for one applaud a bishop who defends the faith. I think the Church may have a 1st Amendment/free exercise argument should they opt to make it.

  17. Todd permalink
    December 20, 2009

    I find the Bishop’s actions appalling. Would the Apostles have done what this man is attempting to do? What type of Bishop or Priest hates others (homosexuals in this instance) so much that he would close charities, causing the poor, homeless, and orphans to suffer? Who is this man to make such a threat and, I assume, follow through on it?

    I have come across some very nasty clergy in my time, but none as nasty and contrary to his own vows than this man.

    • ambly permalink
      December 21, 2009

      It bring to my mind the verse ” We have a law, and by that law he ought to die”. I don’t personally blame the archbishop – this thinking, again in my view, comes from a Pharasaical reading of the law.

  18. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 21, 2009

    Todd: I don’t see the archbishop as hating homosexuals. What he is agsinsst is the normalization of a sinful lifestyle and if a homosexual lifestyle is sinful as Judaeo-Christianity has always taught then telling gays and lesbians it isn’t is doing them no favour.

    • Todd permalink
      December 22, 2009

      I understand your point of view, however I respectfully disagree. Furthermore, you used my post as a medium to bring up a debate on the homosexual lifestyle that you and I will never see eye-to-eye on as we both apparently have very different views on biblical scholarship and interpretation. What concerns me is that you used my words to condemn others as “sinful” while not addressing the “sinful” actions of this Bishop.

  19. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 21, 2009

    Ambly, get your facts right! The chief priests were quite right when they said, “we have a law”. That was not the issue nor was the harshness of the law the issue. The issue was that Jesus was not guilty of what the law forbade. I believe it was Shakespeare who said thta the devil could quote scripture to his purpose.

    • ambly permalink
      December 21, 2009

      Oh, I have my facts straight, but in my estimation (and what blogging and commenting are about is personal opinion), feeding the hungry and clothing the naked comes first before any jots or tittles. Shakespeare was quite right about many things.

  20. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 22, 2009

    Ambly, using the poor as a scapegoat for what is really one’s own desire goes back to Judas Iscariot. The jot and tittle to which you refer in this case is the moral law regarding homosexual acts. You suggest that feeding the poor is more important than obeying that law. But I’ve read your posts going back more than a week and I suspect that you would find anything to be mmore important than obeying that particular law. I suspect that you reject that law outright and you’re cloaking your rejection with the poor.

    • ambly permalink
      December 22, 2009

      Think what you will, Mr O’Rourke.

  21. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 22, 2009

    Todd, I did not condemn the “sinful actions of the bishop” because I don’t see how they can be sinful. As a bishop he is required to defend the Catholic Faith against all distortion by any and all means at his disposal.

    I live in Toronto. A number of years ago the RC archbishop of Toronto pulled all the Catholic charities from the “United Way” because the United way supported abortion. Catholics were urged not to support the United Way Campaign and a new RC organization was founded called “Share Life” which is the RC equivalent of the United Way. Share LIfe did well and that arrangement still exists today. The Roman Catholic Church has an enviable record of charitable works, not least in your country. I doubt that the archdiocese of Washington will let that tradition down.

    I referred to the homosexual lifestyle as sinful because that is the constant teaching of the Universal Church as well as of Judaism going back to Creation where the bond between male and female is first laid out.

    I’m curious, Todd. The teaching of the Church in this regard is a matter of record. Given the fact that the Bible ends with the Revelation of St. John The Divine in the first century AD, how can your Biblical interpretation and scholarship have any bearing on whether or not the Universal Church has or has not taught for two thousand years (approx)that a homosexual lifestyle is sinful?

    • Todd permalink
      December 23, 2009


      Let me begin by stating that I have studied Biblical Greek, Hebrew as well as Latin at Concordia University. I did not go through a discernment process NOR was I intent upon going to seminary. That being said, my thorough reading of scripture has taught me the following.

      1. Jesus says nothing about same-sex behavior and the Jewish Prophets were silent on the topic.
      2. Only six, maybe seven bible versus refer to same-sex behavior. And none of them refer to Homosexuality as it is understood today.

      You use the teaching of the church drawn from biblical scholarship to condemn homosexuality as sinful. Yet, you pick and choose your versus while ignoring the fact that many of the social and sexual practices of heterosexuals are also labeled as sinful. Please consider the following:

      DEUTERONOMY 22:13-22, MARK 10:1-12, LEVITICUS 18:19, MARK 12:18-27.

      In 1992, referring to science, the pope stated “Recent historical studies enable us to state that this sad misunderstanding now belongs to the past.” Unfortunately many men of science and medicine had been indiscriminately murdered by the church for their views. What if they church issued the same apology to homosexuals? Rather than condemn them, and attempt to drive them away (actions which you, sir, seem to support) the church should forgive them and “love” them as Christ commands (John 13:34-35), rather than demonstrate contempt. I’m not saying that your point of view is wrong; you are quite welcome to it. What I am saying is that it is not Christ-like and it ignores one of his most important commandments – to “love one another as I have loved you”.

      That being said, can we please just agree to disagree? I feel you are wrong, and you feel I am, please respect my opinion and point.

      If you want the poor and homeless to suffer to further your anti-homosexual cause please go right ahead and support this. I for one will not and cannot support such actions.

  22. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 23, 2009

    Todd, our acceptance of divorce and re-marriage has brougnt untold damage to society. The archbishop of Washington would be the first to agree with you on that. The sad truth is that Anglicanism, at least in North America, sold out on that about fifty years ago. But the fact that hetero-sexual morality is going down the tank doesn’t make homosexual activity right. It is precisely this kind of moral breakdown which the archbishop is trying to prevent. Certainly we Anglicans aren’t giving much witness. We hae followed the dictates of the world in our acceptance of contraception, divorce, re-marriage and abortion. Even the attempted ordination of women is based not on any theological compulsion but upon the secular feminist movement which was going at full force inthe 1970′s. Now that secular society is giving it’s blessing to homosexual activity and even starting to perform same sex marriage (it’s the law up here in Canada) TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada are rushing to get on board with same sex blessings which, I guarantee you will prove to be a temporary step on the way to same sex marriage. If you want to walk with Mrs. Schori rather than Archbishop Wuerl, Todd, feel free but I am one Anglican who won’t be joining you.

    As regards the Pope’s apology, that had to do with the divorce between science and religion. I notice no man of science has reciprocated and it was not only the Church’s fault by any means. By the way, which men of medicine and science were murdered by the Church? I can’t think of one. Can you? Personally. I think the Church has far more to apologise for with regard to it’s acquiesance in the treatment of gays. A lot more gay men have been murdered than any men of science and the Church stood by.

    Todd, no one, including the archbishop and certainly not me, advoctes hating gays and Lesbians. But silence in the face of immorality does not constitute love. Only “the truth cooked in charity” as St. Francis De Sales put it, does. That is really being Christ-like.

    Merry Christmas Todd!

    • Todd permalink
      December 23, 2009

      Scripture was never intended to be used to hurt others, however; those such as yourself who apparently consider themselves to be the “moral standard bearers of Christianity” use scripture to hurt others on a daily basis. I have nothing further to say to you, as you are the type of christian I make every effort to avoid.

      Be proud in your convictions and have a wonderful morally superior Christmas.

  23. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 23, 2009

    Todd, I didn’t quote a word of scripture. It was you who made references to whole passages from Leviticus and Deuteronomy etc. Likewise I said nothing to hurt you. I did however repeat what the Church has always and everywhere taught about homosexual activity.

    Obviously you don’t want to hear that so you are attacking me even though I never said any thing that ould be construed as attacking you. What happened to,”love one another as I have loved you”? I might add, in your previous posting you accused me of wanting the poor and homeless to suffer. Tomorrow evening before Midnight Mass I will be helping to serve Christmas dinner to the poor. Not that I’m rich.

    Todd, I think I know where you’re coming from and yeah, it hurts.It really hurts. I am by no means an example of moral perfection.

    But we all have our struggles in life.

    Once again, I sincerely wish you a blessed and happy Christmas.

  24. Francis permalink
    December 31, 2009

    I do not mean this to be provocative, but Canon Reid’s post (and numerous comments) raises the question once again about what exactly Anglo-Catholics (or at least those at S. Clement’s) believe, and how they get to decide. From what I can tell, you accept all of Catholic DOGMA (the Immaculate Conception, the real presence, purgatory, etc.), but you seem to take a pick-and-choose approach to MORAL theology. Why is that? I am not looking to pick a fight; I really just don’t understand.

    I believe that Archbishop Wuerl’s decision seems to be based on the principle that one cannot do what is objectively evil even if good may come of it (calling Saint Paul …). If “Anglo-Catholics” want to hold on to their Marian devotions and solemn Masses while rejecting the teaching of Scripture and Tradition – not to mention that of the see of Rome – on questions like homosexual acts and contraception, then – I am sorry – but it becomes sort of difficult to take you guys seriously.

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