As reported in the National Catholic Register, Denver’s new archbishop, Samuel Aquila, “…will continue to firmly and publicly uphold the Church’s teaching, just as he did in his previous Diocese of Fargo, N.D.”
Now, here we have this Prince of the Church who shepherded about 18,000 Catholic souls in a city of about 105,000 people–94% of them Anglo–in a place that most of us recall from the movie, “Fargo,” where few sentences are finished unless there is a “Yah” placed at the beginning or end. Great movie. Not so sure about the place itself. But, that’s beside the point, I guess. Juxtapose this to Denver, with a population of 600,000, 52% Anglo, and 160,000 Catholic. It’s probably important to also note that Fargo has about 2300 Hispanics–the bedrock of the Catholic Church–while Denver has about 190,000 folks of Hispanic heritage. Lastly, in the “Never Married” category the numbers are: Fargo-38%, and Denver-36%. If my math is correct for “Never Married,” there are 40,000 singles in Fargo, and 216,000 in Denver. My stats, by the way, come from: Fargo and Denver.
There is a point to all this.
As an aside, seems Aquila’s claim to fame–something that apparently caught the eye of Pope Benedict–was that he rearranged the rites of the Church for little Fargo kids by putting Confirmation before First Communion. The reasoning, I suppose, was how on earth can a Catholic child receive the sacrament of communion, without first being confirmed in the Faith? Whether or not the rest of the Catholic world will rearrange those two rites of passage through the Faith, is unsure. What is sure is that Aquila sure caught the attention of the Holy Father. There had to have been something else, though, that caught the Pope’s eye, ‘cause this wee little accomplishment really doesn’t seem like the crown jewel of his resume. But, then, who am I to argue with the Pope?
Okay. Let’s take a look at part of an interview with Aquila that appeared in the above-linked article from The National Register.
You’ve come to Denver at a very busy time — during an election year, religious-liberties battles, immigration rulings. How will that affect your “re-acquaintance” with the archdiocese as their new shepherd?
“When I see the violation of religious liberty, I will speak to it, and especially the violation of the freedom of conscience. It’s not a question of politics, and it’s certainly not a fight we asked for, but one that has been imposed on us by the present administration. So it’s something that certainly all the bishops of the U.S. will be addressing in various ways during the next 6-12 months.
“We have to remember, too, that it’s not just a problem here in the United States, but throughout the world, that there’s an international element to it.”
If there are Catholic public figures in your archdiocese who come out in support of these policies that go against the magisterium, will you tell them they’re out of line?
“One wants to make it clear to Catholics what the teaching of the Church is; and if they are not in line with that teaching, I would first of all want to speak with them personally. But also, if they’re speaking in a public manner and dissenting publicly from the teachings of the Church, that will need to be addressed, because all it does is weaken the faith and cause confusion among the laity when no action is taken.
“You want to help people and to advance the truth, help them to receive the truth, and help them to realize there is truth that can be received, especially when it comes to the dignity of human life and the dignity of the human person. It’s essential for us as Christians to always put the dignity of the human person first and the basic rights afforded to the human person.”
I believe it was Pope Paul II who came up with the “human person” stuff, that seems to permeate Catholic lexicon these days. It’s important to know what that phrase means. (For me, the phrase begs a likening to the angles-on-the-head-of-a-pin discussion that medieval Catholic scholars, including Aquinas, may have engaged in.) But, here we go: (From Professor William E. May, Catholic University of America.)
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms, “the human person, made in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual” (no. 362). The human body is human and living precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul (ibid, no. 364). So closely united are body and soul in the human person that one must consider the soul to be the “form” of the “body.”  It is only because it is animated by a spiritual soul that the body in question is a living, human body.
“We can summarize the understanding of human anthropology in Catholic theology in the following propositions: 1. The human person is a living human body, and, conversely, a living human body is a human person. 2. The male body person is meant to be a gift to the female body person in the communion of persons we call marriage. 3. Human sexuality is itself integral to the human person; it is a good “of the person,” and is meant to be expressed genitally only within marriage in the marital act, one “open” to the goods of communicating life and love.
“In this understanding of the human personno distinction is made between a human being and a human person. All human beings are persons. Being a human being, therefore, has crucial moral significance inasmuch as a person surpasses in value the entire material universe and is never to be considered as a mere means or object of use but is rather the kind of entity to whom the only adequate response is love.  Being a human being, being a person, makes a tremendous difference.”
Okay. Got it? Yes, of course, this human person thing appears to have several applications. Simply put—or as simply as my simple-mind can fathom—Professor May is telling us that a human person has a body and soul. And, there are two kinds of body persons—one male, and one female, and the male body person gifts to the female genital satisfaction only within the bounds of marriage, for the sole purpose of creating little human persons. Also, human persons can never, ever be seen as objects, or “…mere means or object[s]…” when it comes to genital satisfaction. Catholic-sanctioned genital reciprocation must have as its intent love, with the sole purpose of that “love” being the making of babies. Finally, a human person “…surpasses in value the entire material universe.” The good professor said “material universe” here, and I suspect if pressed he would agree that the words “universe of species” would work just fine, too. No, Virginia, I guess all dogs don’t go to heaven.
Now, let me try to make some sense of all this.
Firstly, of course, Archbishop Aquila—his name in Italian means “eagle,” (not so in Spanish, as the Spanish word for “eagle” is “a’guila”), something that he is quick to point out—believes in all the mumbo-jumbo with regard to human persons. (Obfuscation by any other name…) That’s fine. But, see, the problem arises when this human person stuff is mixed into that great, roiling, morass of a stew that is the human condition, and which includes, Ahem, unmarried persons who happen to be heterosexual and homosexual. (But what of that? Emily Dickenson might say. Or Virginia Woolf’s, “Let a man get up and say, ‘Behold, this is the truth,’ and instantly I perceive a sandy cat filching a piece of fish in the background. Look, you have forgotten the cat, I say.” Sorry. Literary digressions are my bane.) Is there no place in the Aquila’s universe for heterosexual and homosexual persons who make love—Yes, Love!—without the intent to procreate? Quite difficult to accomplish that intent if you’re homosexual. Quite another thing altogether if you’re heterosexual, and don’t choose to. But what of that? You have forgotten the cat!
Rather than playing musical chairs with Catholic childhood rites in Fargo, one might think Aquila would have been better served—certainly the Church would have been better served—to have tackled the surly machinations of a portion of those 18,000 unmarried Catholic persons who, methinks, don’t fit nicely into the human person category described by Professor May. And, if Aquila didn’t think it that important to take on human person nonconformity in Fargo, then I suppose we can assume he won’t attempt to tackle it with the nonconforming portion of the 160,000 Catholic Denverites who are unmarried. Right? But, he is the Shepherd, right? It’s quite easy to corral the little Catholic children to go through chute A, before they go through chute B. Not so easy to corral the adults who, most likely, don’t have a clue about this “human person” stuff, and will continue to enhance their days with a little sexual pleasure sans procreation, thank you very much!
This is assuming, of course, that Archbishop Aquila’s goal is to insist that Catholics be Catholic by hook or by crook. Yes? How is he going to do that? Shouldn’t that be his first responsibility? He does, after all, have God on his side. Sorry. Let me restate: He does, after all, have the Catholic God on his side.
I noted Anglo and Hispanic stats only for the purpose of suggesting that Aquila’s success in his endeavors may find a welcome embrace by his Hispanic flock. Not trying to generalize a whole ethnic group here. Simply stating the obvious.
The question that is begged from all this human person stuff is whether or not Aquila and, indeed, the Catholic Church ascribes human personhood to all humanity, or whether to just those who toe the line as described by Professor May? If not, what are those of us who don’t conform to be called? Persons without the prefix human? Humans without the suffix persons? Good question, huh? Oh, and since one becomes a human person—body and soul—at the moment of conception, what happens to the human or the person when they later deviate from what they were blessed with when sperm met egg?
If I may, I’m heading back to quotes Aquila gave the National Catholic Register.
Aquila—“It’s not a question of politics…”—promises that “…all the bishops in the U.S. will be addressing in various ways during the next 6-12 months…” what he sees as “…violation[s] of religious liberty [and] freedom of conscience,” perpetrated by “…the present administration.”
Forgive me if I believe the promise made in the Constitution that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and, conversely, that religion shall make no infringement on the establishment of government, or prohibit the free exercise thereof. Further, I do believe that the tax-exempt status religious institutions enjoy in this country, requires adherence to the one simple little “rule” I’ve provided above. If you’re a church leader, and you engage in activities that are so obviously, blatantly political that you have to preface your remarks with, “It’s not a question of politics…,” then, by golly, you’re not a church leader any more, you’re a politician, and you look at your congregation as voters, and your House has become a political enclave. If I were the King of the Wold I’d tax your ass RETROACTIVELY. Come on, Aquila…liar, liar pants on fire.
Aquila speaks to public figures who do not follow the Catholic line when opining on matters essentially political. He says, “…if they’re speaking in a public manner and dissenting publicly from the teachings of the Church, that will need to be addressed, because all it does is weaken the faith and cause confusion among the laity when no action is taken.” (Giggles.) Okay, so if you’re a Catholic in good standing you ipso facto are confused by political rhetoric that doesn’t conform to Catholic doctrine, and consequently your faith is just flushed down the toilet by listening to that dribble. Oh, come on! What bloody nonsense is this? Aquila, the Eagle, actually believes his flock’s devotion to Catholic doctrine, their faith is so shaky, so fragile, that just listening to a politician’s words will crack the foundation, the rock upon which Peter himself stood? (Giggles, again. Sorry.)
As I saw the intellectual dishonesty of Aquila’s predecessor, Chaput (Cha-poo), I find the same quality in Aquila. Indeed—although I haven’t really gone into it—I’m sure the matter of same-sex civil unions or marriage would receive the same cold reception from Aquila as they did from Chaput. The mere discounting of the universal meaning of love between two adults by these two Princes of the Church is a presumptive conclusion that casts even the thought of same-sex unions or marriages out the window of that stone and steel monolith at Colfax and Logan. And, now that I think about it, that name—Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception—incorporates within it a definition—immaculate—that quite defines Professor May’s human-person-love-genital-manbody-womanbody thing. But, then, lore does that—something quite akin to even considering there might be angels on the head of a pin.