In a radical departure from the normative practice of postconciliar bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York gave a homily Sunday that many Catholics found both unkind and intolerant. Speaking about the sexual immorality he finds so pervasive in the modern culture, Dolan said, "The one who with God's grace and mercy, tries his or her best to be pure and chaste is often thought of not as a hero, not a saint, but as a freak in our culture today."
Archbishop Dolan hinted at the influence of popular TV shows like Jersey Shore, saying that society often reduces sex to "animal rutting" or it's "most popular contact sport." He also lamented, "Anyone who tries his or her best to live (chastely) can expect a lot of temptation and even ridicule and criticism."
"That's ridiculous!" says "Bruce" a Catholic member of the production team for the TV show Glee. "There are a lot of people in the show business community who live very moral lives. Take Sarah McLachlan--who by the way is a fabulous singer--she has run herself ragged defending choice and raising awareness of animal rights. What could be more moral than that?"
But don't closeted Catholics like Bruce find it hard to practice chastity in the hypersexualized atmosphere of Hollywood? "Not at all. What 'closet' are you talking about anyway? I've been in a committed relationship with the same guy for the last two and a half years and the pastor of our church makes us feel very welcome when we attend Mass at Christmas and Easter. Last year, he let us bring up the gifts at the offertory."
Some find the Archbishop's use of words like "pure" and "chaste" troubling at best. Father Sammy, a chancery official in a Southern California diocese he prefers not to go on record with, says that such terminology is dangerous. "Dolan is employing an outdated lexicon that would be laughable if it were not so hateful. How can he honestly expect people in the modern world to adhere to such rigid, pietistic ideals? This really shows a failure on his part to understand and teach the modern understanding of chastity as a liberating affirmation of our sexuality, be it Straight, Gay, Lesbian or Transgendered. It's not about repressing urges any more. It's about recognizing our innermost reflection of God and sharing that identity with the entirety of our bodies.
"Besides, if he (Archbishop Dolan) thinks that those priests in the archdiocese of New York are going to start playing morality police for him, he's got another thing coming. All I'd have to do is make a couple of phone calls and he'd have hundreds of queens in Roman collars picketing St. Patricks next Sunday."
But it's not just New York and Hollywood Catholics that find Dolan's remarks irrelevant. Josh Turbine, a student at a midwestern college, says that hooking-up is part of the Catholic experience. "I've met a lot of great Catholic girls at the Newman Center. We'll spend the weekend together, then finish up by going to Mass. The priests there know what's up and they don't mind. They've taught us that our God is a God of LOVE and sharing that love is what it's all about."