Was the Pro-Gay Marriage 17-Year-Old Denied Confirmation For “Not Being 100% Catholic”?
Liberal Catholics are tut-tutting that a priest in Barnesville, Minnesota denied confirmation to a 17-year-old because, supposedly, the young man “supports gay marriage.”
CatholicsUnited posted their reaction to the story on Facebook: “Being 100% Catholic also means loving one another and not judging others.”
Fr. James Martin, SJ, posted on Twitter: “If you deny the sacraments to those who favor same-sex marriage, you must also deny it to those who fail to forgive.”
Erik Burgess of Inforum, who wrote this story, claims the message that was sent here is “If you want to be Catholic, you have to be 100 percent Catholic.”
Let’s see if that’s the whole picture. Here’s how Erik presents the facts:
If you want to be a Catholic, you have to be 100 percent Catholic.
That’s the lesson one family here learned after their 17-year-old son was denied confirmation after the priest at the Assumption Church here found a pro same-sex marriage post on the teen’s Facebook.
The decision by the Rev. Gary LaMoine to deny the religious rite of passage for Lennon Cihak in mid-October shocked his mother, who said her son has gone to church every week and volunteered around the community in preparation for his confirmation this year.
“You kind of know the Catholic beliefs, but I never thought they would deny somebody confirmation because you weren’t 100 percent. I guess that’s what shocks me,” Shana Cihak said.
But the details which follow tell a different story.
First, the 17-year-old didn’t just post something “pro same-sex marriage” on Facebook, he posted a picture of himself holding a pro-marriage sign he vandalized:
The story doesn’t tell us where he got the sign. Did he steal it, like the hundreds of pro-marriage signs that were stolen in Minnesota leading up to the election? We aren’t told.
Second, the priest didn’t just summarily deny the young man confirmation. He called the young man’s mother and had a conversation with her. What was discussed? She doesn’t say.
Third, the young man’s father told the reporter: “(The priest, LaMoine) was talking about ‘God doesn’t believe in this.’ Well, God created Lennon.”
Okay, so what does the boy’s father mean by “God created Lennon” — that Lennon is practicing a gay lifestyle? (Gay advocates love to claim that God must want gay marriage because He created gay people). Or does this line mean the father thinks that because God created someone who disagrees with the church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, therefore the Church is wrong?
And does the reporter think it’s important to clarify if the young man in question was told he could not receive confirmation because he opposes a central teaching of the Church publicly or because, in addition, the young man also made it clear to the priest that he does not intend to follow the Church’s teachings in his personal life?
None of these issues are addressed.
The father also claims that the entire family is not allowed to participate in Communion at the parish. I really doubt that’s the case but again, the father just makes that claim and the article moves on. The mother has announced she plans to never return to the Church. So does this sound like a Catholic family that would be amenable to hearing the priest’s reasons for denying or delaying their sons confirmation until the issues are worked out? Not to me.
The young man’s reaction to the whole situation and why this happened is this: “It’s just the way the priest has things running. He’s so strict. He won’t loosen up about things.”
So, in this young man’s view, the Church’s position on marriage and sexuality is based purely on the fact that it “won’t loosen up about things.”
Has anyone raised the possibility the reason this young man may have been denied confirmation is that he exhibits a woeful lack of understanding of the Church he is part of and the sacrament he is about to receive?
Now go back and re-read the two reactions to this story posted by CatholicsUnited and Fr. Martin, SJ. They are seeing the same facts I see and presented, and yet obviously came to a very different conclusion. Under their view, as they express it, the young man in question still has the right to receive confirmation and the priest has no right to deny or delay it. According to this liberal view, priests are simply sacrament-dispensers with no free will or responsibility to pastorally inform or assist their parishioners.
So was the pro-gay marriage 17-year-old denied confirmation for not being “100% Catholic”? In a way, yes. But the real question is, for liberal critics of the priest’s decision, what percentage Catholic does someone have to be before they are ineligible to receive any sacrament they desire? 15%? 5%?
I’d love to know their thoughts.
In the meantime, how about this novel idea: how about we don’t rush to judgement, especially judgement of the priest’s actions and motivations?
Those trying to figure out exactly what happened to a teenage Catholic scheduled for Confirmation consequent to his posting a pro ‘gay marriage’ photo of himself on Facebook will not, I fear, find in secular press reports (amid their hyperboles and irrelevancies) much useful information about the incident, but it seems like something along those lines happened in Minnesota. So let’s set out some points.
Catholics have a basic right to access the sacraments (Canon 213). The burden is on ministers to justify withholding sacraments from Catholics who seek them “at appropriate times, properly disposed, and not prohibited by law from receiving them” (Canon 843). Hmm . . . “properly disposed.” Canon 889 § 2 states that to receive Confirmation licitly one must, among other things, be “properly disposed” for the sacrament. Hmm.
Well, what about this “proper disposition” requirement?
Generally “proper disposition” is not a question of internal disposition (such as interior faith, fervor, or grace) but rather of external disposition (public demeanor, dress, and conduct). The state of a would-be recipient’s soul is not determinable, of course, but his or her attitudes and conduct are observable (we’re talking Facebook, no?), and potentially actionable. If a pastor, charged with the custody and celebration of the sacraments left to the Church by Christ, has solid reason to doubt the liceity of his conferral of a sacrament on a given individual, he is within his authority to delay, or even to deny, that sacrament for so long as that sad situation lasts. His decision is, of course, reviewable by ecclesiastical authority (not by the media) and such authority (with access to all the facts) might reach a different conclusion. But one starts any review with the above canons clearly in mind.
In another context I wrote about the risk of invalid (not just illicit) Confirmation on rebellious teenagers. See my “Invalid confirmation due to contrary intention of the recipient”, 2007 CLSA Advisory Opinions at 68-70. Such concerns should be assessed here as well.