An Archbishop Under Fire
'Vigil' at St. Paul Cathedral Advocates  Rejection of Catholic Teaching

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant

( On Sunday, December 2, 2007, a pro-homosexual vigil took place outside of the St. Paul Cathedral here in Minnesota’s capital city. The “Vigil for Solidarity” was held in protest of the infallible Catholic teaching on human sexuality, recently reiterated by the Coadjutor Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis John C. Nienstedt in the Nov. 15 issue of the diocesan paper, The Catholic Spirit.

The vigil was the latest in a series of clashes between the new Archbishop (who is to succeed Archbishop Harry Flynn in 2008) and  homosexual activists who are angry over the Church’s constant teaching against homosexual acts. 

Four Points on the Church's Teaching About Homosexuality was part of the Archbishop’s public response to a recent scandal involving a lesbian activist invited to lecture at a Catholic church in Minneapolis. “Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle,” wrote Nienstedt, “formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin. They have broken communion with the church and are prohibited from receiving holy Communion until they have had a conversion of heart, expressed sorrow for their action and received sacramental absolution from a priest.”

What should have been regarded as standard operating procedure for a member of the Catholic hierarchy in the face of scandal instead became the object of harsh criticism from so-called "progressive Catholic" activists accusing the Archbishop of, among other infractions, lacking due compassion and “driving a wedge” between the “loving families of Catholic homosexuals and their Church.”

The story gained national attention when a Nov. 27 article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune sided with the activists. Suggesting that Minnesotans were generally irate over Nienstedt’s refusal to bend Church teaching to accommodate the homosexual lifestyle, Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman encouraged support for Sunday’s protest in an attack piece entitled "Future archbishop's compassion stops short when it comes to gays":

For Mary Lynn Murphy, who has been cursed, spat at and manhandled by good churchgoers in the past as she demonstrated on behalf of her grown gay son [No footnote to substantiate this charge?], it is important to speak up and show up [at the rally].

"It is a human right to express your sexuality," says Murphy, who met last week with Catholic parents of gays who were in tears over Nienstedt's statements on homosexuality.

"They are being tormented by a church that is driving a wedge between parent and child," Murphy said. "They believe they are being asked to choose between loving their church and loving their child. And they are furious. For the most prominent religious leader in the state to use that kind of language, well, it brings shame on him."

Shame on the Archbishop? For what, upholding the constant teachings of his own Church?  “Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth," Christ said to His apostles, "I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”

What’s next up for rehabilitation on the Vice-to-Virtue checklist, polygamy? Orgies? Adultery? A year from now, if a Catholic priest were to remind his congregation that masturbation, for instance, is mortally sinful will he be brought up on charges of hate speech against those whose lifestyle includes habitual self abuse? Is there anything in the lexicon of “progressive” Catholicism these days (other than smoking cigarettes and failing to recycle) which would actually rise to the level of an immoral act?

Mr. Coleman can write whatever he likes about our State’s recent discovery of the great “gift” of sexual deviancy, but isn’t it a bit over the top to pretend that the Archbishop’s defense of Church teaching is some sort of laughably novel aberration? After all, for the better part of two millennia the world’s religions have regarded homosexual acts as objectively immoral (loving mothers of homosexuals notwithstanding). Does our crime-ridden, pill-popping, warmongering, substance-abusing, sex-addicted society really know better?

It’s not as if homosexuality is something new, after all. It’s been around at least since Abraham walked the earth, and it rose to prominence and achieved acceptable social status in nearly every civilization in history that found itself on the verge of collapse.  

But we need not rely on ancient history alone. As recently as 1972, the American Psychological Association still included homosexuality in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. And although the Pentagon, yielding to the dictates of politically correct fascism, ceased classifying homosexuality as a mental heath disorder two years ago, Congress nevertheless made the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell compromise into a law which remains in force today, whether the loving mothers of homosexual soldiers like it or not.  Under the current law, homosexuals may only serve in the military if they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual activity. 

Break out the tom-toms, it’s time for a Vigil for Solidarity outside the Pentagon!

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in March of this year, Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted his adherence to what Christianity and Judaism alike have always taught as a non-negotiable moral principle: "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts." Was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs some unlettered redneck who hasn't yet been tutored on the social benefits of modern-day sodomy?

Even if they’ve made quislings out of Catholic pundits and newspaper columnists everywhere today, the liberal progressives haven’t managed to silence men such as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Nienstedt, General Pace, Dr. James Dobson, or the Catholic Medical Association (CMA).

In a 2003 Zenit interview, Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons of the CMA noted that “numerous conflicts make homosexual behaviors abnormal, including rampant promiscuity, inability to maintain commitment, psychiatric disorders and medical illnesses with a shortened life span.” Dr. Fitzgibbons contended that “gay, lesbian and bisexual young people are at increased risk of psychiatric disorder and suicidal behaviors (according to studies appearing in the October, 1999 issue of the American Medical Association's Archives of General Psychiatry), and that “the list of medical diseases found with extraordinary frequency among male homosexual practitioners as a result of abnormal homosexual behavior is alarming” and that “sexual transmission of some of these diseases is so rare in the exclusively heterosexual population as to be virtually unknown.”[1]

For his part, Pope Benedict XVI, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, lays out the Church’s position quite succinctly in his 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:

Against the background of this exposition of theocratic law, an eschatological perspective is developed by St. Paul when, in I Cor 6:9, he proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

In Romans 1:18-32, still building on the moral traditions of his forebears, but in the new context of the confrontation between Christianity and the pagan society of his day, Paul uses homosexual behaviour as an example of the blindness which has overcome humankind. Instead of the original harmony between Creator and creatures, the acute distortion of idolatry has led to all kinds of moral excess. Paul is at a loss to find a clearer example of this disharmony than homosexual relations. Finally, 1 Tim. 1, in full continuity with the Biblical position, singles out those who spread wrong doctrine and in v. 10 explicitly names as sinners those who engage in homosexual acts.

7. The Church, obedient to the Lord who founded her and gave to her the sacramental life, celebrates the divine plan of the loving and live-giving union of men and women in the sacrament of marriage. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behaviour therefore acts immorally.

Clearly, the Coadjutor Archbishop isn't acting independently or on his own reconnaissance. So, why would a seasoned newspaper columnist (raised Catholic) feign such indignation over Nienstedt's refusal to abandon Church teachings in the face of what amounts to mere temper tantrums pitched by folks operating under the delusion that Catholic dogma can be edited to suit their fancy? Can Nick Coleman possibly be serious? How does such transparent demagoguery jive with “Minnesota nice”? 

Evidently, the Star Tribune would have us believe that the new Archbishop is a dinosaur who snored through Vatican II and has not yet been brought up to speed where recently abandoned medieval Catholic attitudes about sex are concerned. But is the Catechism of the Catholic Church medieval? Its teaching on the question would hardly fly with Nienstedt’s critics:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

Yes, but the Catechism was promulgated “way back” in  1992...and sophisticated Catholics require something a bit more up to date!

Fine! How about something from 2006? The USCCB’s November 14, 2006 Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care puts it this way:

While the Church teaches that homosexual acts are immoral, she does distinguish between engaging in homosexual acts and having a homosexual inclination. While the former is always objectively sinful, the latter is not. To the extent that a homosexual tendency or inclination is not subject to one’s free will, one is not morally culpable for that tendency. Although one would be morally culpable if one were voluntarily to entertain homosexual temptations or to choose to act on them, simply having the tendency is not a sin. Consequently, the Church does not teach that the experience of homosexual attraction is in itself sinful.

The homosexual inclination is objectively disordered… (emphasis added)

Why is the new Archbishop being taken to task by everyone and his homosexual brother when the problem clearly revolves around Catholic moral theology itself? [2]  Since his arrival in St. Paul, Archbishop Nienstedt has merely maintained his fidelity to Church teaching—something a good bishop is sort of expected to do. "Progressive" Catholics may take issue with that immutable teaching if they feel so inclined, but let’s not pretend that the main thrust of their argument rises above anything more profound than: Nienstedt’s too Catholic, and we don’t like that!

May we suggest another church, perhaps?

Last Sunday’s “vigil for solidarity with LGBT Catholics, their families, friends, and supporters” expressed plenty of angst against the Archbishop, but even a casual observer could recognize that the real bone of contention was the Church's teaching authority itself. 

They call themselves the Progressive Catholic Voice (An Independent and Grassroots Forum for Reflection, Dialogue, and the Exchange of Ideas Within the Catholic Community of Minnesota and Beyond), but's zero ranking of their website suggests the group may still be attempting to find that voice.

Nevertheless, their long-term goal seems to be to establish themselves as the voice of Catholics who deny the teaching authority of the Catholic hierarchy (established by Christ Himself) on matters of Faith and Morals. An article on their homepage readily admits this: “Our question is: Is it Church teaching that right and wrong are determined by the bishops? We believe that moral positions emerge by discernment from the experience of the faithful as a whole in dialogue with scientific and philosophical communities of inquiry.”

Come again? It may come as something of a surprise to these folks, but Christ actually did choose twelve apostles, instructing them by word and example, and conferring on them the power of teaching, ruling, and sanctifying his Church.

The Gospels clearly show that Christ founded the Church in the form of a visible, hierarchical society, that is, one made up of subjects and superiors who rightfully rule subjects. The Roman Pontiff and the bishops under him are the ruling hierarchy of the Church. After Pentecost Sunday the apostles began to carry out their mission, which through them and their successors continues and will continue until the end of time.

This is the essence of the foundation of the Catholic Church, and any child can see the contradiction that immediately forms between this and the freewheeling proposition advocated by the Progressive Catholic Voice, which is probably why more people didn’t actually show up at the Cathedral last Sunday to chant “this is our Church, this is our cathedral.”  Most Catholic Minnesotans who disagree with the Church's stand on Faith and Morals are nevertheless honest enough to admit that, so long as they choose to deny the hierarchical chain of command in the Catholic Church and withhold their assent to Church teaching on Faith and Morals, they cannot be considered Catholics in good standing and the Cathedral is no longer theirs. The choice was theirs, and the Archbishop is well within his rights to maintain, as he did in his column, that they have “broken communion with the church.”   

After a one-minute “playing dead” ceremony on the Cathedral steps (involving prostrate protestors and signifying God knows what), the vigil-goers crossed the street to the Chancery office, read an open letter of dissent, and concluded their demonstration by arranging a little collage of signs at the entrance to the Archbishop’s office.  They'd equated Catholic teaching with hate speech,  and compared loyal Catholics to Nazi sympathizers (claiming that, while the Austrian hero Franz Jägerstätter was beatified for having opposed Nazism, loyal Catholics had "embraced" it); they’d vowed to “take back the Church”, presumably from those obedient to the constant magisterium; they’d raised paranoid claims about evil doers (read: faithful Catholics) "coming for us next"; and they’d claimed that “Jesus our brother” is on their side.  And, yet, one couldn't help but pity such tragic victims of a Church in crisis. How did things ever get this far out of control! The collateral damage of Modernism's 100-year war against the Church, these are Sr. Lucy’s "diabolically disoriented" at their most vulnerable! I prayed for them.  I prayed for us all.

Was their little protest vigil a harbinger of worse things to come? Perhaps! John Gregory Murray was surely rolling over in his grave. And as I watched the disoriented mob--so confident in the rectitude of their unholy cause--agitate against the Holy, Roman, Catholic Church in the very shadow of our Cathedral, two thoughts came to mind: 1) There are unnerving parallels between this sort of spectacle and that of 1789's siege of the Bastille, the run-up to the Reign of Terror, and 2) the words of Msgr. Rudolph Bandas, former rector of the St. Paul Seminary, peritus at Vatican II, and close friend of my late father: “The day is coming when the blood of priests will flow in the sanctuaries of their own churches.” 

The good news is that Archbishop Nienstedt, in the glorious tradition of Msgr. Bandas and the stalwart prelates of St. Paul’s Catholic past, shows no sign of backing down. In a recent letter printed in the Star Tribune,  he expressed his intent to hold the Catholic ground he has ably defended thus far:

In a Nov. 28 column, Nick Coleman accuses me of not being compassionate toward friends and relatives of persons with same-sex attractions. I vigorously deny the charge. For 13 years I prepared priesthood candidates for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance by counseling them to welcome persons with warmth, compassion and understanding…

What Coleman wants is for the church I represent to be accepting and compassionate toward homosexual acts and lifestyles. And that can never be.  Coleman further claims the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not say that homosexual acts are a "grave evil." What it does say is the following: "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (Genesis 19: 1-29, Romans 1: 24-27, 1 Corinthians 6: 10, 1 Timothy 1:10), tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' ... Under no circumstances can they be approved."

As a priest and bishop, I have the responsibility before God and in the name of Jesus Christ to call all men and women to conversion, the first step of which is recognizing sinful activity for what it is. Sometimes that is not a comfortable thing to do, but it is always the compassionate thing to do.


Bravo, Your Excellency!

If it comes down to it, thousands of faithful Catholics in this archdiocese will march in defense of their new Archbishop.  Archbishop Nienstedt’s courageous stand is already uniting the Catholic faithful here in Minnesota in a manner not seen in several decades.

An organization called Minnesota Majority has initiated a campaign in defense of the Archbishop which we would encourage our readers to support. Brief e-letters (50 words or less) of support should be sent directly to the Archbishop, or snail mail can be sent to:

Archbishop John Nienstedt

Chancery Office

226 Summit Ave

St. Paul, MN 55102


[1]  Alessio, Mark; Remnant News Watch, Aug 2006.

[2] Archbishop Nienstedt placed even the USCCB’s 2004 Always Our Children (controversial because of some ambiguous language) in its proper perspective. In The Catholic Spirit, the new Archbishop left little doubt where he stands on Gumbletonian politically correctness where this question is concerned:

The USCCB statement ‘Always Our Children’ is not a normative teaching statement of the bishops' conference.  I, along with the majority of bishops at the time of its publication, never had the opportunity to discuss or vote on that document in general assembly. It was written by the Committee on Marriage and Family and, with the approval of the NCCB Administrative Committee, it was published in the committee's name only” (see Origins, Oct. 9, 1997, Vol. 27, no. 17, p. 287).