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The New Evangelization At Work?

Assumption Church is in Barnesville, Minnesota, a town about 30 minutes southeast on I-94 from Fargo, North Dakota. Fr. Gary LaMoine is the pastor at Assumption who (apparently) has decided that supporting same-sex marriage is grounds for being denied the sacrament of confirmation."If you want to be a Catholic, you have to be 100 percent Catholic.Thats 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 teens 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 werent 100 percent. I guess thats what shocks me, Shana Cihak said."

Well, that's one way to redouble the Church's support for the traditional legal definition of marriage.Although there's apparently a fine theological distinction at play here that escapes me. "Lennon said fellow students in his confirmation class liked the photo on Facebook, but they were still allowed to be confirmed. " Perhaps some of our more theologically informed readers could explain what the exact limit is for a faithful Catholic's opposition to a referendum question that the state bishops' conference supports. Is "liking" on Facebook okay, but posting isn't? Or is posting allowed, but not photographs? (And what does the Catechism have to say about this? Where do Catholics go to find out the rules?)For me the most amazing and inexplicably hopeful thing about the whole incident so far is that "...through it all, Lennon said his faith hasnt faltered. 'I dont want the church to be put down. I dont want the Catholic religion to be put down....


Commenting Guidelines

"We removed laws that criminalized adultery; the law is now silent. That is not the case with gay marriage."The law is *not* silent in Minnesota; it simply the opposite of what you imply.

As we have removed laws that prohibited adulteryJack,We removed laws that criminalized adultery; the law is now silent. That is not the case with 'gay marriage'.

The word "wacky" comes to mind when reading about this priest. His actions raise so many questions. Luke, there are no rules. Merely discretionary pastors. There are plenty of Catholic parishes which will confirm this candidate. As far as dealing with the "rules" is concerned, here is an extraordinary Catholic who seems to be quite effective while receiving suspicion from both the Catholic right and left.

The Sacrament of Confirmation is not a "religious rite of passage." Rather, we receive the graces of the Sacrament in order to be able to join and actively participate in the mission of the Church to spread the faith and be a witness for Christ, who is Love and Truth. (Acts 1:8) If one has a poor understanding of the Catholic faith, if he has a poor grasp of truth, including the truth of marriage, both civil and the Sacrament of Matrimony, if he is not willing to join in the mission of the Church, then he is not ready to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Further explanation and teaching for him are necessary.

This must be a getting ready for winter story.. Checking out Facebook pages of teens to check on their orthodoxy on SSM ??. If they did an orthodoxy check of San Francisco students' Facebooks, in SF, the home of the USCCB's Archbishop in charge of Catholic US anti- SSM, I guarantee that all Catholic High Schools and three Catholic universities in the Archdiocese would have to close doors by next semester. You may be able to bully people in the boondocks but everyone knows where, if you use bully boy tactics, you lose big time. I invite Bender to come on out and see if he can get an audience in SF Catholic schools. .

This priest fails to understand that all Catholics have the right to acess all the means of salvation. The Bishop needs to exercise some firm leadership with this priest and I would be shocked if he didn't correct this asap

Just think. If the RCC had some form of congregational governance in local parishes, this "pastor" would most likely be out on his a** very shortly after uttering this nonsense. But, of course, only the ontologically superior have the right to control everything in THEIR prish and the sheeple are just expected to roll over and go to sleep ... which way too many of them do. They want a smaller, purer and much QUIETER place; easier to snooze during mass and avoid reality while getting their tickets punched on a weekly basis.

now the family is not allowed to participate in Communion thereThey contacted the bishop, who apparently claimed not much could be done.

Why the snide reference to the New Evangelization? What does any of this have to do with the New Evangelization? And what's wrong with the New Evangelization?

"But now the family is not allowed to participate in Communion there, Doug said". This is just insanely out of line."Shana said she contacted Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Catholic Diocese in Crookston to see what her options were to appeal, but Hoeppner said not much could be done"A bishop can't do anything about who gets confirmed in his diocese? What nonsense. If this report is true, it's outrageous.

What does any of this have to do with the New Evangelization? Actually, a great deal. As Pope Benedict has noted frequently (and as Pope John Paul II did when he first used the term outside Nowa Huta in 1979), the New Evangelization began with the Council, most especially Blessed Pope John's opening address, wherein he stated that "The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and expounded more effectively. . . . What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith, without forfeiting that accuracy and precision in its presentation which characterized the proceedings of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. . . . What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms."A major concern of Pope John XXIII, and hence of the New Evangelization, is a defense of Catholic teaching, of preserving the truths of the faith that have been handed down to us, and finding more effective ways to correct the many errors and misunderstandings that people might have about the truth of Church teaching, which would necessarily include the Church's teachings on marriage, not to mention the teaching on the purpose of Confirmation and a person's duty and obligation therein.Thus, if someone has a fundamental misunderstanding of the faith, and thus is unable to join in the mission of the Church, but instead has a desire to think and do his own thing separate from or in contravention of what the Church professes, then as a matter of truth and charity, the Church has an obligation to further teach him, to do a better job explaining things, before administering the Sacrament of Confirmation to him.This young man has a fundamental right to learn and know what the Church teaches and why she teaches it, rather than simply pass him along as if this is merely some social rite of passage. And if after learning that and understanding it, he does not want to safeguard and defend the faith that has been given us, as stated by Pope John, if he does not wish to profess to the world what the Church teaches and has always taught, but instead wants to oppose the Church, then in all good conscience, he should not be requesting the Church to provide him the Sacrament.

It's strange how a disagreement about whether a particular civil contract should be defined in a state constitution is considered a fundamental element of the faith.

In normal times I would dismiss this as a hoax. But we hear such weird things about the Catholic church these days that it's becoming hard to tell.

In the immediate enthusiasm after the Second Vatican Council, the priests of a church in Chicago did a quick-and-dirty renewal while waiting for the contractor to move the altar and do the other heavy lifting. Among other things, they removed statues from their niches along the sides of the nave to focus more attention on the altar. After a week or two they restored the statues because parishioners were stumbling or wrenching their shoulders when they reached out to rub the saint's foot for good luck and their hand encountered nothing but air.Rubbing "the saint's foot" for good luck fits the definition of forbidden superstition in the Catechism (2110-2111). A moral theologian can rule on whether it is a separate offense to do it unconsciously or whether the original sin of starting the habit covers all the rubs, but I think even Bender would agree that it would have been counterproductive to pay for injuries while attempting to talk those parishioners out of their superstition. And no priest currently on earth could have convinced them there was anything out of line in the practice anyway.I bring up this deviation in our pre-Vatican II past (although watching the gyrations some of our older parishioners perform at the holy water font, I am not sure our past is even past) to note that social media are going to multiply the ways in which we can discover the weird faith practices and ideas of our brothers and sisters. It is unlikely that pastors will get very far using sites like Facebook as a surveillance satellite to spot deviation and enforce preservation of the truths of our faith.

Another reason not to be on Facebook!

May the good Father needs a little sabbatical or a retreat. He surely needs some rest to help calm and stabilize his mind (and soul).

Bender: thanks for your exposition. I admire your abilities as a teacher of the faith. Your comment deserves a much longer response than what I'm able to pull together right now. But for now, I'd ask you to consider this:You write, "This young man has a fundamental right to learn and know what the Church teaches and why she teaches it, rather than simply pass him along as if this is merely some social rite of passage"I agree wholeheartedly that Confirmation is not a mere social rite of passage. But neither is it a board exam which one must pass in order to receive his membership card. Confirmation is the opposite of a final exam: it is a sacrament of initiation. Initiation connotes beginning. What is more likely, more prudent and more merciful: that separating this young man, and his family(!) completely from the faith community is going to bring about a change of heart (if one is needed; that question is critical and needs to be explored at greater length than I have time for right now); or that the strength given by the grace of the sacrament, to sustain his and his family's life as part of a community of disciples, is going to support and guide him in his Christian life?I think there is no question that the latter is the better way here.This young man seems to be on fire for the Catholic faith. He seems to have been evangelized already. It's worse than a shame that any pastor would seek to douse that fire with an over-scrupulous application of sacramental criteria. If his faith is not yet perfect, then a pastor can help guide him toward perfection. That won't happen if the young man isn't part of the flock.

I think "Cupcake" has identified the problem, and folks like Bender who defend a black-and-white approach to these kinds of social issues are going to end up in a dying church. There is a difference between being for SSM through civil channels--which allows gay couples to protect their assets and property, gives them rights of visitation in sickness, and rights of survivorship in death--and full-blown sacramental church marriage, which is still defined as an indissoluable union between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and rearing children. Same-sex civil marriage, in my view, simply recognizes a social reality and, if homosexual activities are not in violation of any state law (like, say incest, polygamy, or bestiality), then extending legal rights to their union does not seem unreasonable. Why can't it be taught in confirmation that a Catholic who is called to marriage is expected to follow a much narrower path? Certainly those of us trying to live within the confines of a Catholic marriage requires considerably more sacrifice, compromise, and soul-searching than any secular notion of marriage does. They are not the same. It seems to me that the Church expends far more effort inserting itself into the secular legislative process than it does trying to strengthen the faith of those who are trying to follow its teachings. It would be interesting to know how many sacramental marriages are left foundering without recourse to healing because parish and diocesan resources are being wasted on opposition to gay marriage legislation?

Molly Roach: that's very funny - and true! :-)

To Anthony Andreass:If the priest indeed needs a retreat/sabbatical, then so do a number of the bishops, such as Dolan and Myers, and their chief spokesman Dr. William Donohue of the Catholic League. What this priest from Minnesota said and did is not outside the mainstream of how the leadership of this church thinks. The bishops and seminaries created men like LaMoine, and will continue to do so. God help the Roman church...

Its strange how a disagreement about whether a particular civil contract should be defined in a state constitution is considered a fundamental element of the faith.Its even more strange that a Catholic would dumb down a sacrament to the level of a particular civil contract...

Another thought - what if the kid were holding a sign that said he supported the death penalty? Would he be denied the sacrament?

@Jim Pauwels (11/15, 11:11 pm & 11/16, 9:20 am) Please excuse the poorly chosen headline. (Alas, it was the best I could come up with at the time.)As for evangelization in general and the New Evangelization in particular (note: I claim no expertise in either), I think your comment earlier this morning (in reply to Bender) is a lovely example of evangelization: clear about the faith and your understanding of it, also clear about the pastoral virtues of prudence, mercy and a careful consideration of what approach is most likely to enliven the fire of faith already alive in Lennon Cihak (and, presumably, his friends and classmates).I say this "half in fun, whole in earnest" (as the saying goes), but maybe in addition to your new role as advice columnist (long live the Magic Conch!, there's a role for you as teacher in the practice of evangelism in dioceses across the country.

I think the creepy thing is that this priest was checking out the Facebook pages of the kids in the confirmation class. Is that appropriate?

The priest wasn't "checking out the Facebook pages of the kids in the confirmation class." He "was shown" the boy's page.

1) Strange priest and, imho, an even stranger bishop:"The mother did say that Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Diocese of Crookston informed her that if Lennon stood before the church and denounced his support of same-sex marriage claims, he could be confirmed."(Does he have to wear sackcloth and ashes?)2) Why is Confirmation now delayed so long? In the early Church, it was administered with Baptism. After Trent, it was made available to children who had reached the age of reason. Now, 17? And why has the bishop, the ordinary minister of the sacrament, ceded his responsibility to the priest?3) The watchdog groups who inform on priests, teenagers, etc., are among the reasons many Catholics leave the Church, imho. The spies intimidate everyone.

I actually find myself agreeing with both Bender and Jim Pauwels. Lennon does have an opportunity to be a full member of the Church. And the Church also has an obligation to educate him in the faith. But if he has a fundamental misunderstanding of marriage, confirmation is one of the few moments where the Church has the opportunity to provide this education. And Lennon, as a member of the Church, has an obligation to be open to the teaching AND conform to it. Otherwise, professing Catholicism means basically nothing.And a fundamental misunderstanding of the sacrament of marriage is IMHO in a completely different realm than misunderstanding the teaching on the death penalty.

Initial understanding and use of modern communications with pastoral wisdom appears to have been another topic, like the equally ubiquitous economy, which the bishops assembled this week were to have addressed. Mentioned were "social media, blogging and cellphone technology". Cdl. Wuerl withdrew the proposed document because of the need for further work toward a more comprehensive document by the committee chairmen for doctrine, evangelization and catechesis, and canonical affairs and church governance. Perhaps the next draft will resolve new technological-theological issues like those Luke notes.

" He was shown the boys page.'I can't imagine being in a parish/community that would have members 'showing crap' to the pastor and a pastor being willing to act on the 'showing'. The usual totalitarian experience is to have neighborhood reporters, "ears' to report on neighbors. The sick part of Catholic culture is prone to encourage this crap. Shame shame shame. This kind of activity was encouraged when the Minnesota Archbishop sent out 200,000 DVDs [at what cost] denouncing SSM.

To Bruce:If the boy were to say "I do not believe that God is a trinity", or "I do not believe that Jesus is God's Messiah" or "I reject Jesus' teaching on love of enemies" or "I refuse to believe that Jesus rose from the dead" then we would have reason to argue that he is not prepared to be confirmed. That he expressed an opinion on a matter of civil law,(and, by the way, the definition of marriage in the Catholic church is not in the league of dogma, but rather moral teaching,) is not a sufficient reason to bar him from a sacrament. In fact this priest's actions have caused scandal, and that is arguably a violation of canon law. Your assertions about the death penalty seem to suggest that it is self-evident that this subject is in a "different realm." It is not self evident, and I would refer you to John Paul II's clear and unambiguous teaching re capital punishment.

It is very different to say that the state should support civil marriage for gay people and for one to say that the Church should allow gay marriages itself. Where Church and state intersect is always tricky business and given how much heat (and how little light) there is when people talk about gay marriage, I think it is COLOSSAL mistake to deny a teen confirmation because he simply posted something in support of civil gay marriage. I wonder if this priest really wants to know how many of his clerical confreres support gay marriage? Maybe they should not have been ordained? Most of the priests I know support it, but then again, I hang around with an unruly crowd

Intimidation keeps everyone in line: the bishops, the priests, religious, the laity, etc. (See, e.g., Joan Chittister's article at NCR this morning.) Everyone is afraid. Those whose livelihoods depend on the Church have good reason to be afraid of what the stood pigeons will report. And those who believe their eternal fate depends on the good will of someone who is clinging to his job/palace because of fear are up a creek.

Regarding the comments about the priest seeing things on facebook: at least in our deanery, it is common for youth ministers (and sometimes priests) to get friended by the kids who are doing confirmation preparation. The kids usually have NO filter, and it often gets them in trouble when they willing write things on their facebook walls that would make any minister (or parent) shudder. See also the updated AP story from this morning, where the priest says the kid wasn't denied confirmation, but won't comment any more.

Although nobody has mentioned the "E" word (excommunication), the poor lad is of age to be excommunicated. It is age 17. Hope that this isn't in 'cards' for him.

Just more of the idiotic legacy of JPII, who apparently succeeded in selecting only men like him in temperament for promotion to the episcopate, and knowing that his clones would likely ordain to the presbyterate only those guys who would "suck up" to their bishops.Fifteen and more years ago, our cathedral pastor informed our congregation of pew spies and of the more conservative guys being ordained.JPII cloning is alive and well in the Church of Rome.Fear rules.

Surveillance and sanction in the name of purity of the faith a la Fr. LaMoine with a 17-year old deserves some thought. A picture of Lennon's incriminating yard sign is now disseminated worldwide, online from North Dakota. The story comes to the East Coast from Minnesota via San Francisco. If one of the defining elements of scandal is publicization, some forethought is warranted before turning a molehill into a mountain these days. Facebook is one of a very large number of venues where Catholics can be found speaking out this afternoon about the Church in its many aspects, publicly, with worldwide accessibility and retrievability (e.g., see above). Some serious disagreements with the Church can be noted. Who have obligations in defense of the Faith to report and to punish appropriately these offenders? The question seems more suited to George Orwell, who already thought about it, than to Bishop Hoeppner and confreres, who obviously haven't.

" --- sacramental church marriage, which is still defined as an indissoluable union between a man and a woman for the **purpose of procreation and rearing children** ---"I wonder how many priests preach this to those couples who present themselves for marriage and are obviously beyond child-bearing age? Or those couples about whom the priest might have a suspicion that child-bearing doesn't fit into their "social and career game plans"? Or those couples, one or both of whom are embarking on second marriages and already have children to raise?

"Its even more strange that a Catholic would dumb down a sacrament to the level of a particular civil contract"And it's even stranger that Catholic would attempt to equate a civil contract that imparts civil benefits, rights and responsibilities for ALL citizens, irrespective of religious bias or prejudice, with what may be considered by many of those citizens as irrelevant nonsense that has no bearing on their lives.Or as has been said before: stop trying to turn a silk purse into a sow's ear." -- what if the kid were holding a sign that said he supported the death penalty? Would he be denied the sacrament?" What is the sign said that Obama is a socialist foreign-born Muslim? I suspect that, in that pastor's eyes, he would have been a hero, but that's only speculation.

That he expressed an opinion on a matter of civil law,(and, by the way, the definition of marriage in the Catholic church is not in the league of dogma, but rather moral teaching,) Brian,Your premise, civil law and not dogma, are fundamentally incorrect. The Church believes and teaches that marriage was given to humanity by God - one body (Gn 2:24) or one flesh (Mk 10:8, Mt 19:6) - and this is a dogma: Marriage is a true and proper Sacrament instituted by God. The other 6 sacraments are also dogma of the Church.Since marriage is instituted by God, it is impossible for the Church to change its terms: an indissoluble lifetime commitment. From the Church's perspective, that also makes it impossible for any government to change the terms as well, since conformity to God's will is fundamentally necessary for human flourishing. That makes any civil law tinkering with marriage terms unjust, since the government is attempting to exercise an authority which it does not and cannot possess. And according to Augustine an unjust law is no law at all." But, as we all know, God gave us complete freedom to act, even if it is contrary to our own best interests and his Will.Finally, JPII's clear teaching on capital punishment is not a dogma of the Church.

"Since marriage is instituted by God, it is impossible for the Church to change its terms: an indissoluble lifetime commitment."Moses is laughing at you.

Bruce:According to the standards established by God himself, as recorded in the Old Testament, a marriage could be between a man and a woman, or a man and several women, or a man and his first cousin, etc., etc. Your appeals to scripture leave much to be desired. For example, regarding marriage, you assert that scripture is clear and the church simply follows what God has ordained and instituted. However, Jesus himself forbade his disciples from taking oaths, yet Catholics love to make each other take oaths; Jesus forbade divorce, yet we do not exclude from the sacraments those who divorce. Jesus unambiguously preached non-violence, yet the Church has found a way to justify the use of violence. So why is it that while Jesus himself "instituted" these teachings, the church has unilaterally opted to to ignore them? But with marriage however, defined as a sacrament not until well into the second millennium, you make baroque appeals that rely on an extremely literal interpretation of scriptures that are, in a number of cases, ambiguous and contradictory.

Can we assume that Fr. LaMoine is investigating his remaining parishioners - at least those who were old enough to vote - to make sure none of them who voted wrong on the referendum enjoys any sacrament to which they may have been looking forward? Surely his constancy would demand at least that.

What if I rise up and preach against The Tim's new push for Fish on Fridays? Will I be banished to the outer reaches of hades?

Bruce,The part of marriage that the state of Minnesota is concerned about is not a sacrament. It is fundamentally only a special legal contract. The Church and the state have separate responses to life's major events. A birth certificate is not a baptismal certificate, a marriage license isn't a Catholic marriage, and a death certificate isn't a funeral. A vote on whether to incorporate a definition of marriage into the state constitution is not a vote to change the sacraments.

Brian: for your edification (you can thank me after reading this):

It is fundamentally only a special legal contractCupcake,That is what the state wants you to believe. It may not, in fact, actually be what it is. And our church teaches that it is actually not a special legal contract but something much more. In fact, the proponents of gay marriage also believe it is something much more or they would be satisfied with civil unions, but they are not. So your entire premise is incorrect.

Your appeals to scripture leave much to be desiredBrian,It is still dogma.

@Bruce (11/16, 5:20 pm) What's your understanding of Minnesota's civil recognition of marriage between two Lutherans, or two Jews, or of interfaith marriages, or or marriage between those of no faith? And how does that intersect with the Church's sacramental understanding of marriage?

Cupcake --Interesting analogies. (You ever think of going to law school?)

Confirmation is not only a reaffirmation not only of one's baptismal vows, but as I recall, requires the entire parish is to renew their vows and to promise to support young candidates in their faith. So what boils my blood about this situation is that some smug parishioner, instead of looking for ways to help these kids understand the faith and its teaching--and given that most young people believe gay marriage is OK, wouldn't this be an issue that the parish would take special pains to address in confirmation classes??--decides to nark out a kid for what he's got on his FB page.It strikes me that this is not an indictment of Assumption's entire confirmation program (and its failure to adequately transmit the teachings of the Church), but the charity of its parishioners, and the pastoral abilities of its priest. I think this poor kid and his family deserve our prayers. And the priest and whoever took it upon themselves to rat the kid out need them even more.