Everyone in the Detroit area knows that the daily Detroit Free Press is reliably liberal. But I must give due credit to the paper for publishing a column by Peter J. Cataldo, reseach director for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. The Feb. 15th column is the clearest exposé that I have seen of the distortions surrounding stem cell research.
Cataldo exposes three myths permeating talk about such research: 1.) that the only type of stem cell research is embryonic; 2.) that embryonic research is the only hope for using stem cells to treat diseases; and 3.) that the Catholic Church opposes all stem cell research. The reality that undermines all three myths is adult stem cell research which does not involve killing human life in the form of human embryos, which has been used to treat "56 different diseases," and which the Church does not oppose at all. In contrast, Cataldo notes that, so far, there are "no clinical treatments" available involving embryonic stem cells. Cataldo deserves our thanks for challenging an unthinking society with truth.
But then there is another Catholic story in the same issue of the Free Press that presents the opposite of Cataldo's genuinely countercultural courage. Instead of defending the faith and challenging society with the politically incorrect truth, Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton has instead sown confusion. I have hesitated in the past to speak about Gumbleton; but, since he and his media sympathizers show no hesitation in continuing to sow scandalous confusion in the minds of Catholics, I must no longer hesitate.
The newspaper article gives a reprise of Gumbleton's liberal activism to coincide with his reluctant, but required, submission of his letter of resignation to the Vatican on the occasion of his 75th birthday.The article repeats Gumbleton's favorable view of priestly ordination of women as being a matter of "justice." But justice is a matter of what is owed to someone. The Church does not owe anyone priestly ordination. God does not owe anyone priestly ordination. Instead, justice really means, in this case, that we owe to Christ due respect and reverence for his choice of males only as apostles. The Church cannot change Christ's choice, just as the Church cannot change Christ's choice of water for Baptism or his choice of bread and wine for the Eucharist. Bishop Gumbleton has confused what we have received from Christ with contemporary cultural politics.
The article also reports that Gumbleton has assured his own family that a gay man living a sexually active gay lifestyle is not in danger of God's judgment. Now, it is true that no one can say whether and to what extent God will hold any individual person subjectively culpable for any sin, even a grave sin. At the same time, no one, including Bishop Gumbleton, can responsibly broadcast the general (and very dangerous) statement that a person engaging in objectively grave sin will not be held accountable by God. Gumbleton just doesn't have the ability or the authority to make that general statement. But the situation is similar to the stance he has taken on priestly ordination: substituting his own personal opinion for the consistent and universal teaching of Christ's Church. He is playing God. Not even a bishop can do that.
What I propose is the opposite of the media image of Gumbleton the activist gadfly. Instead of being countercultural, Gumbleton's activism is quintessentially a matter of knee-jerk left-wing political correctness. He is in effect carrying water for the left-wing academic and media elites of this country. In contrast, Peter Cataldo has decided to challenge those same elites. Ironically, Gumbleton has proven the wisdom of Vatican II in a way that he likely never anticipated: the faithful activism of lay persons like Cataldo and others is essential and can even make up for clerics who sow confusion. Deo gratias.