Publications such as Time magazine, The New York Times and the Boston Globe want to see the moral voice of the Catholic Church scaled back, if not completely silenced, on key social issues. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in the current debate over homosexuality -- an issue that has become increasingly difficult to talk about in the public square.
Just ask Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who stands almost alone within the media in discussing even the existence of homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood as an ingredient in some of the sex-abuse cases of recent decades, and in the seminary and clerical culture where abuse of teenagers all too often went unpunished in the past.
The issue is, of course, broader than sex-abuse scandals. In both the Denver and the Boston archdioceses, schools have recently been faced with decisions about whether to accept in private Catholic schools the children of openly same-sex couples. It strikes me as quite apparent that a school run by a Catholic parish should be free to choose to not take on such a challenge.
I acknowledge that not every Catholic school lives up to its mission of evangelizing. It is also true that some parents send their children to Catholic schools for the scholastic quality or for the mere safety Catholic schools provide as compared to what public schools offer. But a Catholic school that is being truly Catholic and fulfilling the religious portion of its mission is going to have an obvious problem with an openly gay couple being partners. The same-sex couple at the Christmas show, for example, is a lot more scandalous to what the school is trying to teach about morality than the divorced couple -- simply because the scandal is much harder to avoid. There will be hurt feelings all around; the most charitable thing for the school to do may simply be to not accept the child of, say, two lesbians into the school in the first place.
You can certainly disagree with me on this -- or with the forthright shepherd Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, or with the next Catholic school principal or pastor who has to make a call on the application of a so-called alternative family. But the school should nonetheless be free to make that decision about the identity of the school and how best they can serve all of the children in it, as a matter of religious liberty.
The outcry about these decisions to say "no" underscores the broader problem strong cultural forces -- notably, the media -- have with the moral voice of the Church. It's not just Pope Benedict that they wish would pipe down; it's also the local parish school. They are encouraging an environment in which even Catholics feel awkward about letting a Catholic school be Catholic. And they are using victims of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests -- priests who were themselves being unfaithful to the Church in an especially shocking way -- as cover for their own moral agenda.
This is what Time magazine recently did, when it announced on its cover that "Being Pope Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry." That headline simply doesn't pass the laugh test. Christianity itself is a redemption story. Christ Himself, the faithful believe, came precisely because we sin -- and believers are implored to say "sorry," in a sacramental way, in the Catholic Church. The Pope himself -- on the matter of what he has called the "filth" of the crimes committed by abusing priests -- has been forthright in asking forgiveness, and talking about the need for redemption and renewal in ways that even Time had to begrudgingly acknowledge. When Time magazine and The New York Times and the others work to try to depict the current pope as part of the problem rather than as part of the solution, they display their agenda -- an agenda that may be fought out in a local Catholic parish school near you, sooner rather than later.