A Moral Minefield

Courtesy of Life Site News

'A man who caused great turmoil in the Catholic Church in Canada has been shown kindness and forgiveness by the very bishop against whom he launched a human rights complaint. 

In June 2009, Jim Corcoran, a man who self-identifies as 'gay', launched a complaint seeking $25,000 in damages from Peterborough Bishop Nicola De Angelis, after he and his homosexual partner were forbidden from continuing as altar servers at St. Michael's Church in Cobourg.

It is believed that this was the first case in Canada to be accepted by a human rights tribunal relating to the internal governance of the Catholic Church. The case led to fears of serious repercussions for the Church's freedom in Canada. Throughout the public scrutiny of the case, which gained international attention, the bishop remained firm in his resolve not to permit the human rights mechanism to interfere in Church matters.

But in May, Corcoran dropped the complaint without terms or conditions after meeting with the Bishop and praying with him. Last Sunday, Bishop De Angelis said Mass in the troubled Cobourg parish and afterward went to the home of Jim Corcoran where he had supper with Corcoran and his mother.

In previous conversations with LifeSiteNews, Corcoran explained that he felt the situation at the parish was uncharitable toward him. He noted that while he did live with his long-time homosexual partner, they maintained celibacy and his mother lived with them in the home.

In his homily at the Mass, Bishop De Angelis spoke of the "sad and avoidable division" in the parish. He recalled the Church's teaching against slander and spoke about respecting "the dignity of each person, regardless of our differences in language, colour of our skin, religious belief, sex, sexual orientation, marital status."

However, the Bishop also preached on the Church's teachings on "faith and morals" coming from the authority of Christ. "The Church proposes it doesn't impose," he said. "Nobody is forced to be a Catholic. If you choose to be one, you cannot pick and choose what to believe."

Both Corcoran and the bishop have decided not to speak to the media about the case. However, the bishop's office provided LifeSiteNews with a copy of the notes from the homily. Corcoran and his partner, who were originally asked to serve at the altar by parish priest Fr. Allan Hood, are no longer permitted to serve in that capacity as the bishop previously explained it was causing scandal in the community. However, at the Mass on Sunday, Corcoran and his mother were asked to bring the gifts (the bread and wine used) up to the altar.

In the final analysis, the alarming aspect of the controversy was seen to be the possible involvement of the Human Rights Tribunal, rather than Corcoran's attempts for a satisfactory resolution to what he believed was an injustice suffered by his partner and himself.

Suresh Dominic of Campaign Life Catholic told LifeSiteNews last month, "We're very thankful for the resolution of this case." Dominic added: "From the outset it had much less to do with Jim Corcoran than with the Human Rights Tribunal thinking it could tell the Catholic Church how it should run itself. I pray we don't see more of that, but given the direction these Tribunals have been going, I would not be surprised to see it again."'

A moral minefield indeed. What a bizarre fiasco. My main concerns are:

1. Why did the layman/laymen 'come out' as gay 'partners', with all the connotations that that brings, to the whole congregation, if they are indeed chaste friends while being Altar Servers? Do they have an 'agenda'? If they are chaste then surely they are just ' very good friends'. Don't 'rock the Barque' boys!

2. Why did the Priest walk into this minefield and assume that just because the two men are 'gay' that they are sexually active? Our Blessed Lord warned us to beware the 'yeast of the Pharisees' who judged by appearance. Sexual orientation is not the same as sexual activity. That is indeed a sin of detraction. Just because the rest of the congregation are thinking it too, does not make it not a sin of detraction and a gross slander of the just. Church teaching makes clear that while the orientation of homosexuality is an objective moral disorder, the orientation of itself is not a matter or sin either mortal or venial. Slander is not made less sinful because of the number of people thinking it at the time or making the unfounded allegation.

3. Why did the layman seek damages in the first place? Being an Altar Server is not a job, but a vocation. It's not like he's working for American Express. Surely he should just have shaken the dust from his feet and walked away from this parish, if, indeed, he is innocent of wrongdoing with his 'partner' (such a horrid phrase) in the eyes of God?

4.  Why did the bishop preach on not picking and choosing articles of faith in respect to this case? Is he calling the gay chap an heretic on account of his sexuality alone? Has the bishop not read the Catechism of the Catholic Church which explicitly asks for compassion, respect and dignity to be accorded to homosexual persons? Has he not read the bit about homosexuals being called to embrace the Cross and there being no reason why they should not advance in the love of Christ and grow in holiness while acknowledging that they find their condition a trial?

5. Why am I gossiping? Have I nothing better to do? I know nothing more of this case than what has been published, but is it not possible that these two men were aided and strengthened in their celibacy because they were Altar Servers? I know and I understand why and how this happened and I understand about the danger of giving off scandal on the Altar, but really, could this whole situation not have been handled a lot better!? Perhaps it is all a part of the modern re-definition of relationships that is to blame. Once you admit your orientation nowadays, people are bound to assume you act on it. Then they find out you're living with a guy so they assume you're shagging him even though you are both looking after your dear old mum. Initial suspicions for the fiasco must fall upon the congregation, some of whom will have been holy, some of whom will be liberals who don't give a toss and some of whom will be pious frauds. You'll find all three in every congregation. Anyone would have thought it were a baptist church!

6.  We are all, all of us, rightfully, expected to accept the Teaching of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in its fullness. This Teaching can never be diluted or changed, but that goes for those who are Guardians of it, as well as those who are its recipients. The Teaching of the Church is that homosexual acts are gravely immoral and mortally sinful. The Teaching of the Church is that homosexual persons are called to chastity. The Teaching of the Church is that homosexual persons are treated with compassion, dignity and respect.


Philharmonium said…
Why am I checking your blog? I presumably have even less to do!!

I think the priest in question gave the perfect summary of the matter though:

"Nobody is forced to be a Catholic. If you choose to be one, you cannot pick and choose what to believe."

That statement should be read out as a preamble to any debate where someone is squaring up to have a pop at church teachings - it would certainly save them the bother of arguing themselves hoarse while missing the whole bleeding point of Catholicism!

p.s., Laurence, I don;t think the man did actually accept the cheque for 25 grand in the end - the article seems to suggest that he dropped his litigation after a very humble and sensitive entreaty from his priest (who sounds like a thoroughly nice bloke).

Right, I'm going to find something productive to do with my evening before my wife gets back home!
Altar Server said…
I think this story illustrates against your own position on this matter, actually Laurence.

This guy was asked by the parish priest to take over looking after the declining group of altar servers and by all accounts he did a very good job. He did not volunteer his sexual orientation but rumours started that he was gay and after representations to the parish priest he admitted he was gay but celibate. The parish priest allowed him to continue. Many of the conservative/traditional groups within the parish then started a campaign to have him removed and went to the bishop who then instructed him to stand down.

No wonder the man felt agreived. He was in good standing with the church and did a good job. The scandal was caused by those that publically attacked him and undermined his position and good character. The conservative leaning bishop should have stood up to the pressure from some of the less tolerant parishoners. There was no reason in canon law why this man could not have continued serving the church. Instead he, his family and others were needlessly alienated by those typical traddie types who want to be more catholic than the Pope!
Interesting analysis. From whom have you obtained this information?
Please don't make this story out to be a 'conservative/traddie' people hate gays story. I think that that analysis is BS.
I hope that analysis is BS.