Fox News reports that Cardinal Dolan, in an interview with David Gregory of Meet the Press, claims that the Church was “outmarketed” on the issue of gay marriage. From the report:
Asked why the church is losing the argument on gay marriage, Dolan responded, “Well, I think maybe we’ve been outmarketed sometimes. We’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay.”
He said the church supports “traditional marriage and is not “anti-anybody,” adding, “When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it’s a tough battle.”
Without knowing it, Cardinal Dolan has identified the core of the problem. Our leadership, with few exceptions, have adopted the superficiality of branding and marketing as a cheap substitute for the grittiness and tenacity of evangelization. Worse still, while we have abandoned evangelization and hewing to the hard line of the Gospel, it is the other side who have been engaged in the grit and tenacity of evangelization.
That’s right. The other side has been engaged in three decades of evangelization, while the majority of our priests and bishops have endeavored to be “non confrontational” and “nonjudgemental”.
The results speak for themselves.
While the Church has been entirely kicked out of the public schools, with students being disciplined for wearing shirts bearing the word, “Christmas”, the other side has succeeded in getting complete acceptance in schools with gay/straight alliances, comprehensive sex education, and now state laws permitting transexual and transgender students permission to use whatever bathrooms they please.
That’s not marketing. That’s evangelization.
Our leaders have stood by, largely mute, while we have been kicked out of the public square by a vocal minority who have moved in to occupy the ground formerly held by the Church. That all begs the question as to how such a coup could have happened.
In truth, more than 85% of married Catholics ignore the Magisterium when it comes to the right use of sex in marriage and the use of contraception.
To say that those numbers are the result of marketing is to suggest that the Gospel has roots shallower than grass. And on that matter, Pope Francis has spoken loud and clear.
Many priests reacted with scorn to the challenge by Francis that they and their bishops get out of the rectory and go out among the people in a bold new way. Francis sees clearly that the Church is dwindling in influence because the people don’t know who they are. They have lost sight of their great dignity while so very many of our clergy refuse to engage the culture for fear of alienating people or seeming judgmental. That timidity is often defended as the cardinal virtue of Prudence.
It’s cowardice, pure and simple.
One of the four cardinal virtues… A fuller description and one more serviceable is this: an intellectual habit enabling us to see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is not, and how to come at the one and avoid the other. It is to be observed that prudence, whilst possessing in some sort an empire over all the moral virtues, itself aims to perfect not the will but the intellect in its practical decisions. Its function is to point out which course of action is to be taken in any round of concrete circumstances. It indicates which, here and now, is the golden mean wherein the essence of all virtue lies. It has nothing to do with directly willing the good it discerns. That is done by the particular moral virtue within whose province it falls. Prudence, therefore, has a directive capacity with regard to the other virtues. It lights the way and measures the arena for their exercise. The insight it confers makes one distinguish successfully between their mere semblance and their reality. It must preside over the eliciting of all acts proper to any one of them at least if they be taken in their formal sense. Thus, without prudence bravery becomes foolhardiness; mercy sinks into weakness, and temperance into fanaticism.
No mention in there of marketing. In fact, when gay marriage passed in New York State, Cardinal Dolan was quoted in the NY Daily News as saying:
Cardinal Dolan revealed for the first time that the Catholic Church was caught flat-footed on last year’s gay marriage vote in New York — insisting it was “burned” by Senate Republicans who claimed it didn’t have a prayer.
“We got burned last year when we were told the redefinition of marriage didn’t have much of a chance — and of course it did,” Dolan told the Daily News as he prepared for Monday’s annual Albany lobbying trip.
“Our Senate leaders, we highly appreciated them being with us all along,” he explained. “When they kind of assured us it didn’t have much of a chance — not that we let up, but we probably would have been much more vigorous and even more physically present if we knew there was a chance.”
Perhaps. But activism built on an unevangelized church is like building a house on a foundation of sand. The truth is that a solidly evangelized Church would be much more resistant to the evangelists from the culture of death. As Chesterton observed, the man who stands for nothing will fall for anything. And that’s what has happened. A people who have been abandoned by their shepherds are being torn apart by the wolves. Now a chief shepherd chalks that up to “marketing”.
It was earlier this year that Cardinal Dolan, as the head of the USCCB, failed to lead any opposition to the Boy Scouts of America opening the doors to gay members. The silence from the Church leadership was deafening. The closest we came to any clerical position was a priest who claimed to be a member of the national Catholic Committee on scouting who debated me on FaceBook.
The priest claimed that the Church could not oppose such a move, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies that no youth be barred from youth ministry because of their sexual orientation. While that is true, BSA is not a church ministry, but a national institution. The Church also failed to take the long view of the situation.
In accepting openly gay youth who will become Eagle Scouts, how can the organization then reject the same Eagle Scout as an adult leader when he turns 18? Yet the Church, while rightly not barring gay youth from ministry, will reject that openly homosexual young man when he applies to the seminary, or for a teaching position in a Catholic school. So, the Boy Scouts were hung out to dry.
That wasn’t a “marketing” issue either.
The truth is that there are a fair number of gay clergy. There are an even greater number who do not stand with the Church on abortion, contraception, or the right use of sex in marriage. So, these issues never get preached or taught, or when they do, it is the Magisterium that gets pilloried.
It wasn’t a marketing issue that has led to the disintegration of Western Civilization.
In the wake of Vatican II our seminaries descended into chaos at every level, with some earning the moniker of “pink palace,” so notorious were they for their homosexual subcultures. Many of those seminarians were ordained. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected to the Papacy he undertook an Apostolic Visitation of our seminaries to address this problem, among others.
Today we see the fruits of that chaos from the 60′s and 70′s, even the 80′s. We see the fruits of nonevangelization on our part and the fruits of the other side’s evangelization.
They have a positive view of themselves, of their lifestyle, and of their contribution to society. They preach that vision in season and out of season with a singularity of focus that resembles the singularity and tenacity of St. Paul the Apostle. They push and push and push. Then they push some more. They go into the schools, and businesses, and the public square. They preach in churches and synagogues, and in civic associations. They boldly challenge any who stand in their way, and took singular aim at Cardinal O’Connor, even going so far as desecrating the Eucharist in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Perhaps we could learn a lesson in evangelization from the other side, clergy and laity alike.
We weren’t outmarketed.
We were outevangelized.
That’s our great failure and our great shame.
On this First Sunday of Advent we ought to take stock of these failures, do penance, and begin the long, gritty work of a new evangelization.