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As a group of concerned, faithful Catholics representing a significant number of parishes in the Diocese of Syracuse, New York, we felt compelled to write the following letter rebuking Bp. Douglas Lucia in response to his column in the Nov. 5 issue of our diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Sun. In his article, he defended a livestream visit by Fr. James Martin to a local parish to receive an award and give a lengthy talk in which he disparaged Catholic teaching on homosexual relationships.
In a private meeting with our group last year, our newly installed bishop gave us vague assurances that our concerns about dissident activities and decades-long inadequate catechesis would be addressed and corrected. More importantly, he told us in no uncertain terms that he would speak out against any visit to Syracuse by Martin and refute him publicly, upholding the Church's teaching on human sexuality. Bishop Lucia's article was evidence that he did not keep his promise. Bishop Fulton Sheen said that it is the job of the laity to make sure that our bishops act like bishops and our priests act like priests. Our letter to Bp. Lucia was written to call him to account.
Dear Bp. Lucia:
We wish to comment on your weekly article in the Nov. 5, 2020 issue of The Catholic Sun, "Let us accompany one another on the road of holiness to union with God." We were surprised that you spoke without correction of Fr. James Martin, S.J.'s LGBTQ stand. We believe Fr. Martin is advocating not just for homosexuals but of their lifestyle, which is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 7: The Sixth Commandment, paragraph 2357 — "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. Under no circumstances can they be approved." In the Catechism, paragraph 2359 states that "homosexual persons are called to chastity." When a heresy raises its ugly head, the Church should nip it then and there instead of allowing it to metastasize.
In your second paragraph, you state regarding Fr. Martin and Pope Francis that "neither is seeking to advance teaching that is contrary to Church doctrine. The approach both clerics are using is first and foremost a pastoral one." In all due respect, we believe this is misleading. Being pastoral is being truthful. What did Jesus say to the woman caught in the act of adultery? GO AND SIN NO MORE! That was a clear and unambiguous statement. That is truly being pastoral. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow, so saving souls cannot be deferred. The truth is what sets souls free. If we do not tell confused and sinful souls that there is an urgency to conforming their lives to the truth or confessing and seeking forgiveness, we are facilitating putting their souls into moral and spiritual jeopardy.
Using the word "pastoral" seems to be offered as the justification for either not teaching the truth or obfuscating the truth behind ambiguity. Fr. Martin prefers ambiguity to the truth. Intentional ambiguity hides the truth and causes souls to be lost. Truth leaves no one confused. Fr. Martin is misleading not only (Catholic) homosexuals but all Catholics and especially uncatechized Catholics. Jesus did not endure all that He suffered on this earth to leave us confused about anything. And Fr. Martin wishes the Catholic Church to bless homosexual unions.
We agreed with your statement that "every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity." The priest who is the stand-in for Jesus Christ on this earth, when he deals with sinners, which all of us are, forgives their sins but says, "Go and sin no more." We did not read that in what your article said. In Mark 2:17 Jesus says: "It is not the healthy who need a physician, but they who are sick." To be sick means you need to be healed. To be a sinner means you need to not only be healed, but the sinner needs to be seeking treatment.
Fr. Martin should guide and help homosexuals to understand that one's sinful behavior goes against his being created in the image and likeness of God and therefore must change his spiritually pernicious lifestyle. The priest does not ignore a person's grave sin. Pastorally speaking the priest "travels" with that person on his journey on "the less traveled road" in order to reach eternal salvation.
You said that regarding Pope Francis' recent quote on civil unions for homosexual couples, "in no way is the pope endorsing same-sex marriage." However, one of the first principles of Catholic social teaching is that immoral acts must not be given legal sanction, and in his support of civil unions, the pope is now on record dissenting from that teaching publicly and unambiguously.
Pope Francis has added to the confusion on the matter of homosexual lifestyle when he responded to a question about homosexual relationships, "Who am I to judge?" He did not speak with a clear statement. The implication is acceptance of sodomite unions. It is true that we are not to judge a person but we have the God-given right to judge behavior and when such behavior threatens one's eternal salvation, the priest and all members of the Mystical Body of Christ have the obligation to speak up and correct our brother/sister. That is in the Bible. If we do not speak up, we are just as guilty (Luke 17:3, Galatians 6:1, Ephesians 5:11, Matthew 18:15).
Your Excellency, because we see so much ambiguity spoken by the pope, will you specify for us if you would confirm and support the Church's teaching as enunciated by the former Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that "respect for homosexual persons cannot lead, in any way, to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions"?
Your article does not address the severity of Martin's statements or even the ambiguity of Pope Francis. You yourself said in November 2019 and this October, when some of us and others met you face-to-face, that you would speak publicly against James Martin speaking in Syracuse. The fact it was a technological appearance does not act as a loophole to your promise. We pray that you will tell All Saints Church to remove Martin's lecture from its website. We believe that your article gave credence to All Saints Church's highlighting James Martin and his heretical teaching about homosexuality. What you promised privately, you did not do publicly. Your article was proof of that.
At all costs, we must avoid error in teaching moral law (homosexual lifestyle, same-sex "marriage," abortion, cohabitation, etc.) and we must not fail to teach the truth, call out error, and not offer ambiguous and unclear explanations of the Faith. How can we become — and how can we help others become — saints if we and they do not know the Faith and our Church leaders seem to refuse to teach the Faith? There are bishops who have spoken out, such as bishops Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, and Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee. These and other bishops have stated that Fr. Martin speaks against Church teaching on homosexuality and promotes confusion on LGBTQ matters. Martin never speaks about chastity and is leading people to believe that wrongful behavior is not sinful.
There is no unanimity in our diocese regarding homilies and practices. One priest speaks out against abortion and gay "marriage," another remains silent, therefore, giving tacit approval to both abortion and same-sex "marriage." Another gives Holy Communion to Catholics only while others give to non-Catholics and whoever wishes to receive. One is open to dissident Catholic groups in his parish, another speaks against heretical groups. Where is the unanimity? Absolutes are just that — ABSOLUTES. They do not change with the times. Not the pope nor any of the Church hierarchy and certainly not bishops or any cleric can change church teaching. These heterodox priests have an agenda contrary to Catholic dogma. Are these priests reprimanded, especially when they remain disobedient? Would you give them an ultimatum? If they cannot adhere to Church teaching and dogma, thereby misleading their flocks, would you consider suspending them regardless if there is a shortage of priests? That is within the purview of your role as bishop.
We understand that you could expect leftist backlash, but that is what you signed up for when you accepted the nomination to become a bishop. We are standing with you to face those who lambast you. There are faithful Catholics who support you and crave a brave bishop. We will continue to support you as you stand up for the faith boldly like the Apostles, your predecessors, did so many years ago.
We shall keep you in our prayers.
Signatories' names were removed for sake of privacy.