June 21, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Father’s Day. This Sunday, Americans celebrate “Father’s Day.” What a blessing for children to be raised by a devoted father partnered with his good wife, their mother. Together father and mother are naturally suited to teach their children how to love, serve and lead others: how to be good citizens, good workers, good friends, and good neighbors, and of course good brothers and sisters, good parents and good spouses. 

A good father teaches his children, especially his sons, how to be good and holy men, how to be responsible, hardworking and creative, and both strong and caring, just and merciful, brave and compassionate. By the way he treats his wife a good father teaches his sons how to treat all women with respect and love, and how to be a good and faithful husband and father; and he teaches his daughters what to look for in a good husband.

Without good fathers, especially married to mothers, things get very hard for the family, for children, and for society. Over the last 50 years many have tried to diminish the importance of fatherhood, and the result is more domestic violence and heartache, as well as social upheaval. Is it any wonder we see so many problems in society, especially related to young men who have not had a strong and loving father to teach them what it means to be a real man?

Most especially, fathers, I urge you to take responsibility for the religious and moral formation of your children. You take care of all their physical needs, why would you neglect their spiritual and moral life? Life is hard, but it’s impossible without God’s grace. And when their life on this earth is over, you want to be with them blissfully happy in heaven, and not wallowing in the pain of hell for eternity. So make it your first priority to bring them up in the devout practice of the Catholic faith—first and foremost by your good example.

Fathers, I commend you for the good work done and sacrifices you’ve made for your families. Always remember that Christ will not abandon you to do it all on your own—He will give you the grace to be the great man He created and calls you be. Happy and blessed Father’s Day.

Supreme Court and Discrimination “Based on Sex.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws workplace discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the ban on discrimination based on “sex” included discrimination based on homosexuality and transgender identification (see Bostock v. Clayton County). Of course this is terrible news for our country.

First of all, while there are religious exemptions from this ruling (under various laws, including the 1st Amendment), as the opinion says, “how these doctrines protecting religious liberty interact with Title VII are questions for future cases too.” In particular, how will these safeguards protect regular businesses (versus churches) owned by Christians who, based on their religious conviction, may not want to employ a “LGBTQ” person?

But also of concern is the employer who simply objects to dealing with all the extra workplace complications of employing a man who dresses and acts like a woman,? That employer will apparently not be exempt, and will commit a crime if he acts in a way that most people 5 years ago would have called commonsensical.

But another great concern many take away from this case is that the vote was 6 to 3, including “conservative” justices (Chief) Roberts and Gorsuch. Many wonder what this “liberal” decision indicates about their potential future votes not only on “LGBTQ” rights, but also, for example, on religious liberty and abortion?

I am not here to be an apologist for these two men, and their votes did unnerve me, and very much concern me. And I’m not a lawyer. But after reading the rulings, and talking to some lawyers “close to the Court,” I think maybe it’s yet not time to give up on Roberts and Gorsuch.

In particular, Roberts dissented vehemently in the SCOTUS ruling in 2015 (Obergefell) allowing “gay marriage.” And in this case (Bostock) he did not right an opinion. So why did he join the liberal judges in this vote? To make a long argument short, when the Chief Justice votes with majority (winning side) in a case, he gets to pick the Justice who will write the opinion, but if he votes with the minority (losing side) he has no say. And remember, it’s not just the vote that counts—the language of the opinion affects how that case will be applied in the future. So, in some cases, I’m told, when Roberts is inclined to vote with the minority, he switches to vote with the majority (which he disagrees with) so that he can pick the majority justice who will write the least harmful opinion. In this case, knowing Gorsuch would create majority with the 4 “liberal” Justices,  Roberts might have disagreed with the majority but voted with them so he could appoint Gorsuch to write a much less harmful opinion than what one of the “liberal” justices would write.

As far Gorsuch goes, he came to the Court with a reputation for being not simply “conservative” but also a “textualist”— following the text of the law, and not try to read anything else into it. For example, the text of the Constitution does not include anything about a right to “gay marriage” or abortion, so a textualist would tend say “no” to those supposed rights. But a textualist like Gorsuch might also look at the text of the Civil Rights Act that outlaws discrimination “based on…sex” and say, if an employer fires a male for being sexually active with males, but would not fire a female for that very same activity (being sexually active with males), the employer is discriminating based on the sex of the employee.

Now, along with Justices Alito, Cavanaugh and Thomas, I do not agree with this reading of the text. Alito’s dissent focused on the ordinary meaning of the statute’s words in 1964. “Discrimination “because of sex” was not understood as having anything to do with discrimination because of sexual orientation or transgender status. Any such notion would have clashed in spectacular fashion with the societal norms of the day….And the plain truth is that in 1964 homosexuality was thought to be a mental disorder…” In his separate written dissent Justice Kavanaugh calls Gorsuch’s approach not “textualist” but “literalist.”

            So I’m very upset, but not ready to give up on the Court. Yet. And maybe some of you can come down from that ledge now, so to speak.

Congratulations. The week before last, I administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to about 50 of our young people, and we continue to give First Holy Communion to our 2nd Graders. Congratulations to you all, and God bless you. Thanks for your beautiful example of faith in Jesus!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles