When I read stories like this one from St. Louis this week, I am conflicted:
I am actually gratified to see Catholic teaching articulated in a way that most people can understand. I am also happy to see that, even when it is sure to be an unpopular, uncomfortable decision, there are still some Catholic organizations refusing to embrace public scandal by accepting prominent members who are living in ways that contradict Church teaching.
But then too, I recognize that the gay rights crowd now has a new “victim” to rally around.
Jeffrey Goldone, who has been a vice president on the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis board of directors for five years, was nominated for president in May. He accepted the nomination but was dropped from the running several weeks later.
“I was told that I could not run for president because my living relationship goes against Catholic moral teaching,” which could bring ‘shame and embarrassment” to the society, Goldone wrote in a Aug. 2 letter addressed to “fellow Vincentians.”
Goldone has been in a relationship with his partner for 20 years. “We are truly blessed by God to have each other and to have Jesus Christ in our lives. How could we be the source of ‘shame and embarrassment?’ ” he wrote.
Someone who accepts and understands Catholic teaching on homosexuality will not be surprised or offended to learn of the St. Vincent de Paul decision, but most people in today’s American culture, who have been brought up on a steady diet of “tolerance,” “acceptance,” and “non-judgmentalism” will find this decision very difficult to understand. And this is why I was glad to see that St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson and others speaking on behalf of St. Vincent de Paul were was both kind and clear-minded on the matter:
Goldone took his concerns to Carlson and met with him. Ronald Guz, the outgoing board president, said the organization didn’t make the decision, but rather “the Catholic church did” in its teachings. The group’s executive director, Zip Rzeppa, wrote in an e-mail: “We serve all people without discrimination. And please note we are not discriminating against Jeff Goldone, a man who has done much good. He disqualified himself for the position of president by choosing to live a lifestyle of illicit sexual union, which falls outside the teachings of the Catholic Church, and outside the qualifications of the Society’s international Rule.”
Rzeppa added that the vetting process is different for president because the position holds so much authority, like the power to appoint other board members. Carlson, in a statement to the Post-Dispatch, said: “The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has a regulation that members running for president live a life according to church teaching. I clarified what church teaching is in the matter of homosexuality.” The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church labels homosexual acts as “acts of grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered” because they “close the sexual act to the gift of life.”
An important distinction to make here is that Goldone has not been deemed ineligible for the presidency because of his homosexuality. He has been refused the opportunity to run for the presidency because of his lifestyle—one that stands in direct and public contradiction to Catholic teaching. The same rules would apply to those engaged in premarital co-habitation or any other “public” lifestyle that runs in such serious contradiction to Catholicism.
It’s unfortunate that this point seems lost on Goldone, but I am hopeful that Archbishop Carlson’s and others’ words will help to clarify the matter in the minds and hearts of many.