“I think the church’s insistence on the distinctiveness of gender, that being male and female is a charism given by God that enables a person to do certain things and not other things, that gender is not just accidental, cannot be changed at whim, is deeply part of the essence of a person — that’s why this is such a big thing in San Francisco.” An observation by Fr. Joseph Illo from San Francisco, as reported in Crux on February 4, 2015. Illo was explaining why he has banned girl altar servers in his parish. To make things very clear, Illo stressed: “The assistants of priests at the altar should be male, because the priesthood is a fatherhood, not a motherhood.”
Illo was a controversial figure at a previous parish, when he told parishioners that if they voted for President Obama they would have to go to confession before receiving communion.
Father Illo’s current parish, Star of the Sea, is the only parish in the Archdiocese of San Francisco that bars altar girls. Illo said, however, that he has the backing of San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
Archbishop Cordileone — well known for his strong opposition to LGBT civil rights and his affection for the Latin Tridentine Mass — has been much in the news this week, because of a proposed new handbook and contracts for teachers in his archdiocesan high schools.
The new documents, approved by Cordileone, call on archdiocesan teachers to avoid publicly challenging the church’s position on “hot-button issues.” Teacher handbooks will be updated for the 2015-16 school year with descriptions of key points of Catholic doctrine. Examples of the new language that will be found in the teachers’ handbook have already been presented in a “Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church.”
The statement stresses that Catholic high school administrators, faculty, and staff “of any faith or of no faith,” are expected to “arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny these truths.” Among the truths one must not deny are: the immorality of artificial contraception, and that all extra-marital sexual relationships are gravely evil along with masturbation, and homosexual relations.
Male chauvinism is never a virtue; and restricting a free exchange of ideas undermines genuine education and derails the search for truth. We need to build open bridges not close them to all traffic.
Sometimes presumed leaders become people managers instead, and authoritarian control replaces visionary leadership.