“As a gesture to make the Church more inclusive..”

 I saw the above today on the front page of The Wall Street Journal with a big photo of many bridal couples arranged in a semi-circle before the High Altar in the vast space of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The event was a (literally and figuratively) “Mass Wedding” conducted by Pope Francis for the aforementioned couples who were of the Diocese of Rome on Sunday, September 14th.

The fact that some of these couples had been cohabiting before marriage and one couple ‘even’ had a child before marriage was trumpeted as yet another “gesture” by the Pope to make the Church “more inclusive”.

NEWS FLASH! Not only have Popes conducted marriage ceremonies before (though rarely, usually quietly and with less “PR”) but parish priests all over the world have been marrying such couples before last Sunday without needing this latest “gesture” to make them more “inclusive”.

In fact, there probably hasn’t been a parish priest in history since the Church began who hasn’t “fixed marriages”, or celebrated “convalidations”, or persuaded unmarried couples (even with children) to be married “before God.” Many priests are quiet martyrs of patience and persistence in leading couples to a proper wedding, preceded by a simple, humble and private Confession, and celebrate their weddings with fatherly joy.

This is nothing new.

What seems to be new is the propagation of the myth of the Catholic Church as a hard-hearted community of ‘neurotic collectors of devotions’ which engages in “proselytism which is solemn nonsense” and even of priests who are “little monsters “who “turn their confessionals into “torture chambers.”  It seems that all the worse stereotypes of the anti-Catholic “No Nothings” of the 19th century are back and being accepted as true, and goes uncorrected by those who have a duty to do so.

I make that last point because one might accept that even as respectable a newspaper like the “WSJ” might fall for this; but, please God, does anyone in the Church seriously think that we only perform marriages and baptize the babies only of Saints?

Or must the slander and the false stereotypes go on unchecked in order to win the world’s applause?

September 15, 2014.

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