During his homily at a Mass with George Washington University students, Cardinal Wuerl expressed support for the campus' priest, who has faced hostility for upholding Church teaching on sexuality.
“I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer...and to stand in solidarity with a good priest,” the archbishop of Washington said April 14.
His remarks come as two gay students said the Newman Center chaplain had told individuals who came to him for counseling that if they experience same-sex attraction, they should remain celibate.
Asserting that this was anti-gay behavior, the two students have launched a campaign to force Fr. Shaffer off the campus of the private university.
Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the duty of bishops and priests to “feed Jesus' flock,” and considered to whom “Jesus' flock” refers.
Christ's flock are those who freely choose to follow Christ and be a part of his Church, the cardinal said, and that those who choose not to follow Christ are not forced to do so.
“We propose the ways of the kingdom of God in terms that the world can understand and examine, in terms they may freely accept or reject.”
When Christ himself was faced with those who would not follow his teachings, he “did not respond by changing the teaching,” Cardinal Wuerl noted.
“Even when they said to him you need to be current, you need to be contemporary, you need to be politically correct, you need to be with the times, Jesus did not say, 'Oh, then, I will change my teaching.'”
Christ continues to offer unchanging truths today, which cannot be changed to “conform with any particular cultural demand,” he said.
“Yet, there are those who claim that voices for the Gospel should be silenced, that we should be silenced. There are those who say there is no room for any other view but their own.”
Cardinal Wuerl said that this experience is not new to the Church, and she has always bore the brunt of “narrow-minded discrimination and blind bigotry.”
He urged a need to preserve and protect religious liberty in the face of attempts to silence priests lest they “be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture.”
Just because there are forces in society wishing to change marriage and to deny the dignity of human life and natural law, that “does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society,” the archbishop stated.
“Our response must be the response of Jesus Christ, the response of his Church, a response rooted in love.”
Cardinal Wuerl reminded those at the Mass that those striving to live the Church's teachings are not perfect, and that “we must be inclusive, we must recognize the bonds of mutual charity and we must continue to reach out to all of those brothers and sisters who come to Mass to be with us.”
But, he added, “we must be allowed to do so freely.”
He said the Church's place is to “welcome everyone...while at the same time upholding a moral law by which we are all obliged to live.”
“There has to be room enough in America in a society as large, as free and pluralistic as ours to make space for all of us,” he said, appealing for “tolerance and respect among all people.”
Members of the Newman Center and nearby St. Stephen, Martyr parish have voiced support for Fr. Shaffer.
“Thank you for standing up for the freedom to speak our faith and thank you for standing up for your chaplain,” Cardinal Wuerl concluded. “God bless him and all of you.”