Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When you don't have an argument, invoke Notre Dame

While this image is mainly to draw your attention, it's actually relevant to this blog post.
The Cincinnati Enquirer posted a column ("Pichler: Will Catholic contract drain teaching talent?") last night from Mr. Josh Pichler, who covers business news, weighing in on the controversy over the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's revised teacher contracts. Mr. Pichler tells us he's a 1996 graduate of Notre Dame; he doesn't say whether he is Catholic. I make no assumptions in this regard, either way.

Let's see what kind of argument he offers:

If you want to see how a Catholic institution makes the gay community feel welcome without violating its principles, check out a recent video produced by the University of Notre Dame.

The university promotes a message of not just tolerance, but acceptance, for openly gay students in the two-minute video released last week and narrated by school Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.

It features athletes from various sports repeating this message: If you can play, you can play. You're welcome at Notre Dame.

Well, the video is nicely done, but neither it, nor the article actually demonstrate the claim Mr. Pichler makes -- that Notre Dame hasn't violated its principles. He simply expects us to take his word for this.

But, let's go with what's offered: Notre Dame says "gay students" can participate in sports. How is this even relevant here? Is he suggesting that the Archdiocese won't let students with same-sex attraction play sports in our schools? (Not true.) Or is he suggesting that the Archdiocese won't allow teachers who have same-sex attractions? (Also not true.) He doesn't come out and make the accusation explicit; but it's hinted at. (Not nice.) And if he's not hinting that, then how is this relevant?

Ask any employer across the country and you'll hear about the war for talent. It's one reason Kroger, Procter & Gamble and Fifth Third Bank are among the sponsors for Cincinnati Pride 2014, the annual gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community parade and festival.

Fortune 500 companies want to make sure there's a large welcome mat for their employees. It's how they attract and retain their best workers.

OK, so now it really wasn't about gay students at Notre Dame at all. Instead, he seems to be comparing how big companies recruit gay employees, with the Archdiocese recruiting teachers? Is that it?

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is not a Fortune 500 company, but it has to attract talent and take care of its staff like any other organization.

Right -- so why do you bring up the example of large employers? What would you have the Archdiocese do that P&G and 5/3 do? You don't make the ludicrous suggestion of the Archdiocese sponsoring "Cincinnati Pride" -- because everyone would ridicule that notion. But what are you suggesting they do?

The archdiocese's new contract for its teachers – which forbids public support of gays in any manner – puts many of its employees who have gay friends or relatives in a horrible position.

Mr. Pichler might want to proofread his own column before sending it in; or else someone at the Enquirer made an embarrassing edit: "...public support of gays in any way."

So you think if any of our teachers has a gay student at, say, Notre Dame, and s/he plays on a sports team, and the athlete wins an award, the parent will get fired for posting this on his or her Facebook? Because the kid's gay?

Seriously, Mr. Pichler?

He goes on...

The archdiocese told The Enquirer that this year's contract says the same thing as previous contracts, which were half as long: Teachers will not publicly act or speak against Catholic Church teachings. Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said Monday that the contract's new language will not change.

But words matter. There's a huge difference between telling teachers they can't advocate for gay marriage in the classroom, and telling teachers they can't publicly support what the contract calls a "homosexual lifestyle" outside of school.

Imagine you're an archdiocesan teacher and one of your loved ones is gay, getting married and invites you to the wedding. Even if there's ultimately no risk to your job for attending, how would you feel about signing that contract? How would you feel about your employer?

Note the admission there: "Even if there's ultimately no risk to your job for attending..." Let's not slide past that so quickly. Is there risk or not?

My understanding, from various statements made by the Archdiocese in recent weeks, is that attending an event like this would not be in violation of the contract. Does Mr. Pichler know different? He doesn't offer anything here. He wants you to think the contract is that constricting, yet not actually make the accusation.

But let's look at Mr. Pichler's question: "How would you feel about your employer?"

That's actually a great question. Because it goes to the heart of the issue. How you would feel depends on...whether you agree with "your employer." Right?

Or does Mr. Pichler recommend that among the things parents should do, when their children tell them they are attracted to the same sex, and are acting on that...is to sacrifice their own beliefs and values?

In this view, there is simply no possibility of a conversation like this, after the "wedding invitation" is given:

"My child, your father and I love you dearly, as surely you know. And you know that we're Catholics and that we believe what the Church teaches about God's plan for human sexuality. You know that's what we taught you.

"So this puts us in a tough situation. You know that. We love you, even though you know we don't agree with some of your decisions. We can't endorse all your choices -- and surely you can't expect that of us, can you?"

"No mom, of course not. But this is important to me."

"Well, let's work together on this. You don't ask us to compromise our beliefs, and we don't ask you to do that, either. How can we resolve this?"

And from that point on, the parents and the child figure out something everyone can live with, that (a) affirms love while (b) doesn't expect anyone to sacrifice conscience.

By the way, this is a common dilemma, and not just because of so-called "gay marriage." The issue comes up when Catholics marry outside the Church, and when Catholics who are married, attempt to marry again.

And after all, if we really take a marriage seriously, how can this not be a dilemma?

Let's take this out of questions of sexuality and whether people's failed marriages should be deemed as enduring (and thus preventing them from marrying without a decree of nullity).

Suppose a friend of yours has an unfortunate habit of making spectacularly bad choices, particularly in relationships. Can you imagine meeting that friend's new "significant other," and ever saying, "that person is bad news; you need to get away from him/her"?

I sure can. I've had couples come to me seeking to get married, and in the course of meeting them, I've seen huge warning signs.

You know what I do?


In fact, in our initial meeting, that's what I tell them I'll do. To quote myself: "because while it would be the easiest thing just to rubber-stamp this and send you along saying, 'it's their life, not mine,' I have a conscience, and I don't want to go to hell. So I'm going to tell you if I see warning signs."

I've never had a couple say that I was being mean and callous.

Because I assume Mr. Pichler is a decent person, I imagine he, too, might well see someone he loves embarking on a disastrous relationship; and in the end, saying, with great pain:

"I know you believe this is the right thing, but I simply cannot agree with you. And I cannot come and celebrate this. What would I be celebrating?"

So it all really hinges on something Mr. Pichler doesn't seem interested in: is the Catholic Church right about human sexuality? Is the Church right in saying that two people of the same sex attempting "marriage" is no marriage at all. Because it's contrary to God's plan for humanity ("unnatural"), it won't really lead to ultimate happiness. It cannot. It involves mortal sin -- which, if unrepented of, means eternal loss in hell.

And if I believed that -- and I do! -- then how can I be all smiles while this path in life is celebrated?

Mr. Pichler may not believe this; he doesn't say. But if Notre Dame really is the ultimate expression of the Catholic Faith ("You don't get more Catholic than Notre Dame"--uh, yeah you do; and Mr. Pichler really ought to be embarrassed to resort to this sort of bromide. Will he quote George Gipp and sing the Alma Mater next?), then he knows full well what the Catholic Church believes.

So I'd love to hear how he solves this problem. Unfortunately, he isn't interested in actually taking Catholic teaching seriously.

Which is why his argument fails. He thinks the Catholic Church should operate like Procter and Gamble. But as much as I appreciate P&G's contribution to our city, P&G isn't concerned with my eternal soul. The Church is.

Catholic schools offer an alternative to the public school system, and archdiocesan schools are lifelines to disadvantaged children across the region. The Catholic character of those schools – which is so much broader than the church's teaching on homosexuality, and so inspirational – is an important differentiator.

Another puzzling non-sequitur. Is Mr. Pichler suggesting that the Catholic Archdiocese needs to sacrifice its beliefs so as to serve better all those who want an alternative to government schools? Is that it?

Here's what I think Mr. Pichler is hinting at, without coming out and saying it. He's voicing the sentiment of two groups who, he imagines, are reading his op-ed.

First are those parents who send their children to Catholic schools, not because they're Catholic, but because they are significantly better than government schools. Our schools are--for these parents--an affordable private school. The Catholic part is fine, if it's not too intrusive or doesn't cause them embarrassment at summer cocktail parties.

Second, I think Mr. Pichler is thinking of the business community, which has been very supportive of the inner-city Catholic schools, precisely as "lifelines to disadvantaged children." And I just wonder if he isn't trying to say, the business community may not be so supportive in the future if the Archdiocese takes this route. In other words, it's a threat.

To close out, Mr. Pichler decides to try an insult. He sets it up with a quote from Coach Swarbrick, who narrates the video:

"Because the university values LGBTQ students in the Notre Dame community, as indeed it values all of its students, the university is committed to fostering an environment of welcome and mutual respect that is grounded in its Catholic mission," Swarbrick says in the video.

Swarbrick has an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame, a law degree from Stanford and was a major player in the Indianapolis business community before taking his current position.

Apparently, he's not the kind of talent the archdiocese's schools want to attract.

See that? Now we know why the opening example was so key; it sets up this insult (that the Archdiocese just doesn't like gay people, unlike the Vatican-on-the-St.-Joe, Notre Dame) I mean, consider this: imagine this article without any reference to Notre Dame, which, for all the times he invokes his alma mater, brings nothing of relevance to the argument.

Here's his argument:

Notre Dame! Gay people are great!

You should be like the Fortune 500. They don't care what their employees believe and do, so why should you? It's not like what the Catholic Church says is, like, true or anything; it's just...

Hey, did I mention Notre Dame? Who's Catholicker than them? So there.

Anyway, you have great schools, and that's all the Fortune 500 cares about. Don't you forget it!

Go Notre Dame!

Update (5/16): I neglected to give a biretta-tip to Rich Leonardi for this column...


Tom said...

I'm beginning to believe that for many people it is simply impossible to hold the position that homosexual acts are gravely disordered, and homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered, while asserting that we must love them and treat them with compassion. They literally can't hold these seeming contradictions in their minds, so they opt out of the Church's teaching, in the name of "love."

In the modern world, if you are compassionate and "love" others, you must not be critical or "judgmental" of them, and by extension, what they do. But this view of love is seriously flawed.

If someone is engaged in behavior, or is inclined toward something immoral, it is not loving to enable them or to affirm what they are doing. But, for too many, that is the easy and "lazy" thing to do and permits those who believe it to escape having to face the necessity to love their neighbor by helping them, always in a loving manner, to identify and surmount the sins and disorders that we are all inclined to engage in. We are all in need of such love at many times in our lives. Our "neighbors" do us no favors by ignoring this reality.

Of course there are also many who believe that homosexual acts and inclinations are not immoral, including many Catholics.

Bob said...

People wouldn't water down chemotherapy, or diabetes medication, or a vaccine, or soup in a bread line, but people will mess with our Catholic Faith seven ways to Sunday, and expect us to thank them for it.

When you water down our Catholic Faith, you spiritually malnourish people. What part of that don't people get, for crying out loud?

Wayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wayne said...

Let me try that again without the spelling and grammar errors:

Well, said, as always, Father. I was in a discussion about this very topic the other day and the other person in the discussion said, "Well, what you do is who you are." I thought that claim was very telling about the though process of the culture today.

"Just let me be who I am."
"I was born this way."

We have lost the ability to make key distinctions between our being and our actions, as Tom pointed out and we are suffering nightly for that. Of course, this problem has always existed to some extent, but we haven't bought into it as a society until very recently.

Wayne said...

*that's suffering MIGHTILY (though suffering nightly may also work)

Diane J said...

Josh Pichler's article made my blood boil. Thank you, Father, for so brilliantly dissecting it. I have to admit, it terrifies me that the Catholic Church is going to start giving in to this nonsense. If that ever happens, where will Catholic people turn who have high moral standards?

Rich Leonardi said...

FWIW, Mr. Pichler has a pro-same 5ex marriage sticker on his car. He is a member of a parish on Cincinnati's East side and sends his kid to the parish school.