Our local Catholic Church has been in the news lately. I wish to share with you two comments:
1) St. Stephen parish is proud of our Altar Girls. The Second Vatican Council in the 60’s moved our Church into a new era which helped us appreciate and join the liberation and inclusive movements which characterized our culture. For one San Francisco parish to choose to limit altar service to males only is not just their business. It hurts us all when it argues an archaic theology which discredits the value of girls’ service in the Church. It is an unhealthy and out-of-date theology as well as a serious misunderstanding of liturgy which draws an intrinsic connection between altar serving and priesthood. St. Stephen parish will not only continue to invite girls as valued altar servers but thanks all our servers for their dedication and selfless service to our community.
2) We also support and trust the teachers in our Catholic schools. They are a special gift to our faith community.
Our Catholic Church has the right and responsibility to insure that the Catholic faith is taught and upheld in our Catholic schools. I believe our administrators and teachers are already doing a wonderful job of doing just that, and are highly sensitive to the mission and teachings of our church. However, the Catholic faith encompasses a vast and comprehensive body of teaching: respect toward and promoting the dignity of all people, especially those left out, promoting economic opportunity for those marginalized by race or poverty, supporting care for immigrants, resisting the death penalty, combating the growing prevalence of gun violence, battling economic inequality: these and many other social teachings of our church are also part of the body of Catholic ethical teaching.
A pedagogy of persuasion along with mutual and open dialogue are the best avenues for teaching the faith. For the growth and development of faith should be a priority. We know from a vast amount of research and publications that authentic faith development moves through stages away from mere adherence to doctrinal statements to genuine encounter with the mystery of a living God. In a pluralistic culture as ours that values diversity and honest searching, it seems to me that persuasive dialogue and personal encounter are the best routes for faith development. I sense our Holy Father Francis is teaching that to us as well.
Here is what Fr. Harris, President of St. Ignatius High School, wrote in response to the new language proposed for the faculty and staff handbooks for the four Catholic High Schools administered by the Archdiocese: “We are heartened by Pope Francis, whose recent comments and efforts have pointed in the direction of inclusion rather than exclusion, of avoiding judgment and of looking at theological ideas in light of lived experience. We trust the working of the Spirit through the Church--meaning the faithful as well as the religious leadership--that asks us to seek continually to understand and apply what we believe.”
Wishing you and your family God’s continued blessings, I am sincerely yours in Christ, your pastor
Father Paul F. Warren