Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bishop Roberto Gonzalez' letter to the Diocese of Corpus Christi

regarding 'pro-choice' Catholics..... This letter, though written in 1999, is still binding for our diocese.

The Catholic Church and Sanctity of Life
Life issues are the most important social issues that we face in our society today. While they are not the only issues of political and social life, they remain the most significant among those which challenge us as a people in the United States. In both the old and the New Testaments, Scripture calls us to be life-givers. "Choose life…" Deuteronomy urges (30:19), and Jesus tells us: "I came that they might have life and have it to the full." (Jn.10:10). In the light of these teachings, the Catholic Church consistently upholds the sanctity of life in all its stages.
Dissent from the Teaching of the Church
With great anguish of heart, I note that today, on life issues, some Catholics feel free to take public stands in dissent from the formal magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church. The most frequent examples of this are those who publicly dissent from the Church’s teaching on abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. People who so dissent range from those who disagree with Church teaching to those who accept that teaching for themselves but advocate "freedom of choice" for others as the norm for society. Tragically, we have seen some of our Catholic people take these positions publicly. In regard to abortion, the scandal of Catholics debating and agreeing with the President’s decision to veto "the partial-birth abortion ban" is real and has intensified the grave concern among bishops about their responsibilities as pastors and teachers of the faith. I therefore call on all the people of our Diocese to study anew and to recommit themselves to the teachings of Pope John Paul II on the sanctity of life in the mother’s womb as he sets forth this teaching in his encyclical letter, The Gospel of Life.
Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth. All human beings, from their mother’s womb, belong to God
Who searches them and knows them,Who forms them and knits them together with his own hand,Who gazes on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos,And already sees in them the adults of tomorrow whose days are numberedAnd whose vocation is even now written in the "book of life" (cf.Ps.139:1,3-16)
There too, when they are still in their mothers’ womb - as many passages of the Bible bear witness1 - they are the personal objects of God’s loving and fatherly providence. (Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life #61)
Furthermore, euthanasia and the phenomenon of assisted suicide openly practiced have underlined the lack of respect for life in our modern world, and the need to reiterate the Church's teaching on the sanctity of life in all of its stages. From many applicable ecclesial statements, we choose from the Second Vatican Council a principle which says:
Let all be convinced that human life and its transmission are realities whose meaning is not limited by the horizons of this life only; their true evaluation and full meaning can only be understood in reference to our eternal destiny. (Gaudium et spes, art. 51,4).
Living the Gospel of LIfe
The full body of Catholic Bishops for the United States adopted at their November 1998 General Meeting, Washington, DC, a Pastoral Statement on life issues entitled, Living the Gospel of Life: A challenge to American Catholics. The message of this statement contained principles that are general guidelines for American Catholic citizens in the face of today’s advocacy of abortion and other attacks on innocent human life. The following quotes from Living the Gospel of Life give particular strength to these Diocesan Pastoral Guidelines.
"We believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a 'Gospel of Life". We cannot simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights and progress while eliminating or marginalizing the weakest among us. Nor can we practice the Gospel of life only as a private piety. American Catholics must live it vigorously and publicly, as a matter of national leadership and witness, or we will not live it at all." (Gospel of Life #20)
"Priests, religious, catechists, Catholic school teachers, family life ministers and theologians all share, each in their appropriate way, in the Church’s task of forming the Catholic faithful in a reverence for the sanctity of life…Physicians, nurses and healthier workers can touch the lives of women and girls who may be considering abortion with practical assistance, counseling and adoption alternatives." (Gospel of Life #30)
"Catholics who are privileged to serve in public leadership positions have an obligation to place their faith at the heart of their public service, particularly on issues regarding the sanctity and dignity of human life." (Gospel of Life #31)
"We urge those Catholic officials who choose to depart from Church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well-being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin." (Gospel of Life #32)
"No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for and actively support direct attacks on innocent human life." (Gospel of Life #32)
"Those who justify their inaction on the grounds that abortion is the law of the land need to recognize that there is a higher law, the law of God. No human law can validly contradict the Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." (Gospel of Life #32)
Rationale for Issuing Guidelines
To assist pastors in these difficult situations, to maintain integrity of heart, and for the greater good of all of the People of God, as Bishop of Corpus Christi, after extensive consultation with the Presbyteral Council, the Deans, and the Bishop’s Cabinet, I have determined to issue guidelines to be enforced by every pastor and by persons responsible for every Catholic institution, school, or agency within the Diocese. I realize that these steps will cause pain to some people. Their purpose, however, is medicinal: to bring those who dissent to study deeply the Church’s position on life issues and to form their conscience in accord with the law of God. The Code of Canon Law (canon 752) and The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:
In the formation of conscience, the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others, and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church. (Catechism #1785)
Guidelines for the Diocese of Corpus Christi
In a context of love and concern for the spiritual well-being and salvation, then, for all people, I issue the following guidelines:
A) Guidelines for the Catholic Persons:
(1) Catholics who have publicly declared themselves pro-choice may not serve in any Public ministry such as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, lectors, cantors, or greeters at Mass. They may not teach classes in religion nor serve on Parish Pastoral Councils nor on Finance Councils. They may not serve on Boards of any Institutions or Agencies of the Diocese, and Catholic institutions in the Diocese, e.g. Catholic hospitals. They may not be invited to speak at parishes, schools, or any Diocesan institutions or agencies nor at Catholic institutions in the Diocese.
(2) Catholics who are publicly pro-choice and who are currently serving in any of those positions are to be asked by the person responsible for the institution to resign immediately from the positions they hold and to refrain from active public roles until such time as they have come to accept the objective error of their positions and are willing to conform their convictions to the teaching of the Church.
With regard to situations not covered by the above guidelines (e.g. funerals), pastors and those responsible for institutions of the Diocese should consult with the Episcopal Vicars or the Vicar General / Moderator of the Curia

(B) Guidelines for Use of Catholic Facilities:
(1) Pastors and those responsible for any Catholic institution, school, or agency of the Diocese or operating within the Diocese may not invite those who hold pro-choice views to be speakers at public events nor allow them to take active part in any public program of a Catholic institute "whether the person is a Catholic or not."
(2) Pastors and those responsible for institutions of the Diocese or Catholic institutions may not allow Church property to be used for any gathering or meeting by any group that includes those who are publicly pro-choice.
Particular Pastoral Concerns
(1) As pastors enforce these guidelines, they are reminded that they must always be aware of the personal situation of individuals and of the need to treat them with respect, dignity, and pastoral sensitivity. The privacy and good name of each person is to be respected (Canon 220 and 221). A clear but compassionate expression of the reasons why the Church, in fidelity to Christ, must take these actions should be made to those who are publicly pro-choice. Hopefully, they can then be drawn to a re-consideration of their pro-choice positions and be brought to a real conversion of heart so that they may accept wholeheartedly the Truth of Christ as taught by the Church.
(2) I note that, in matters that are morally acceptable and pertain to the common good, the Church’s position on life issues does not prevent her from collaborating with public servants who are so called "pro-choice" Catholics or others who disagree with her teachings. All are called to promote the common good which the Second Vatican Council defines as "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily" (Gaudium et spes, #26,1). This common good concerns the life of all, and as far as possible, every citizen should participate in promoting it. Of no citizen is this more true than of the follower of Jesus Who says: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6).
As we celebrate The Great Jubilee and begin the third Millennium of Christianity our historical context challenges us in a singular way to be Prophets of The Gospel of Life, The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Above all, this requires a continuing conversion of our hearts and growth in holiness that there may be due coherence between our private and public lives. Conversion means a change of heart. Saul, the Pharisee, saw the light of Christ, and heard His voice, on the road to Damascus. Saul, the persecutor, became Saint Paul, the Apostle. Paul went to his death in Rome faithful until the end. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on a merited crown awaits me." (2 Tim. 4.7.)
I hope that these Pastoral Guidelines will help you, My Sisters and Brothers in the Lord, to fight the good fight for the Gospel of Life. If, like Paul, you must suffer in doing so, you know there is a well merited crown awaiting you on high.
Feast, Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle 1999
Bishop of Corpus Christi<<<<


  1. Sounds like a Bishop with some guts, now the question is does he enforce the letter of the law?

  2. A bishop who talks the talk, but hardly walks the walk