Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, CA has demanded that board members of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, or CALGM, sign an “oath of personal integrity” to Catholic teaching.
“In good faith, we have done most everything required of us to maintain a legitimate space within the boundaries of the institutional Church,” president Sheila Nelson wrote to members April 5. “Yet, this has not seemed to be adequate or satisfactory to the office of the bishop. We have repeatedly, abundantly and humbly submitted that our work is pastoral in nature and not political or primarily doctrinal.”
In a March 29 letter, Nelson wrote to the bishop, “That you would require such an unprecedented and extensive manifestation of our consciences suggests to us that, irrespective of our pastoral effectiveness, you wish to force an end to these, admittedly difficult, conversations.” The full NCR article and ensuing discussion board can be found here.
Perhaps it’s my baby-boomer sensibilities. After all, my generation is infamous for challenging authority. But, my blood pressure rises at the thought of having to sign such an oath because a bishop demands it. Perhaps it would depend on the oath, and the bishop? Maybe. But the actual demand bothers me.
I agree with Nelson’s interpretation of the action by the bishop. Demanding me to sign an oath of “personal integrity” not only shouts your distrust of my faith and my beliefs, but it closes the door to dialogue on those issues that I cannot fully accept in good conscience. It attempts to put Catholics into a small, tightly controlled box of orthodoxy. You are in, or you are out, sometimes based on a one issue doctrine. There is no regard to all your other good actions or beliefs. There is no room for honest questioning.
This action is reminiscent of past inquisitions. While confessions are no longer extracted under threat of torture or death, there is still a threat of negative consequences. There is a threat of being separated from the community – even if only by name.
I profess my faith in front of the praying community each time I meaningfully recite the Creed at mass. I profess it even more solemnly when we are asked to renew our baptismal vows, at Easter or a baptism. As our church becomes more obsessed with doctrine, the Creed becomes more meaningful to me. The simple and beautiful profession of faith in God as Father/Creator, Son and Holy Spirit reminds us of our foundation. This is the belief that the Christian church is built on. This is our first and primary oath as Christians.
For the board members of CALGM, the issue is centered on church teachings around homosexuality. What if all Catholics had to sign an oath of personal integrity with regards to contraception? How many could?
Would you, or could you, sign an oath of personal integrity or obedience if it was presented to you by your bishop? Have you had to sign such an oath? I’d love to hear both your thoughts and your experiences.