Saturday, August 6, 2011

Policies - Why Won't the Church Just Change Them?

New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan ( a St. Louis native), offered a great explanation on why the Church doesn't change its policy on matters that the majority of western Catholics disagree with - the indissolubility of marriage, same-sex marriage, ordaining only men, etc., etc.:

At times it – “the Vatican,” “Rome,” “the Pope,” “the Holy See,” “the Magisterium” — might even wish it could change certain teachings.  For instance, I would wager most bishops, priests, deacons, pastoral leaders, and maybe even the Holy Father himself has, at one time or another wished the Church could alter the teaching of Jesus that marriage is forever, and that one cannot break that sacred bond asunder.
But it can’t, because it didn’t make up the teaching to begin with.
So, plug in whatever word you want in the boilerplate headline: “Group Challenges Vatican on its Policy of __________________” — abortion, marriage, euthanasia, lying, stealing, artificial contraception, sexual acts outside of marriage, ordination of women — fill in the “flavor of the day,” but the headline is still inaccurate: these are not “policies” decided by some person in the Vatican; these are not “bans” put out by some committee.  These are doctrines, timeless teachings not ours to alter.

It sometimes seems as if many view the Church as a political institution, with a new pope or new bishop able to set out his own positions and priorities the way an incoming president or governor would.  Back in 2009, for instance, when I was appointed Archbishop of New York, I was asked by a reporter how my “policy” on gay “marriage” would differ from the “policy” of Cardinal Egan.  I tried to explain, as gently as I could, that the responsibility of any bishop is to clearly and charitably articulate the teaching of the Church, not to establish “policy” on which teaching he will follow and which teaching he will change.

1 comment:

  1. So true! I feel like I have this conversation a lot, and perhaps just as often with Catholics as with non-Catholics. The Church merely passes down and protects the teachings of Christ. It is absolutely NOT in her power to change dogma. Disciplines: yes. Doctrines: no. Hope you're enjoying what's left of the summer, Shane!