Jesuit Priest Endorses Students ‘Making a Mess’ in Seattle

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

#KeepMrZ2013 is a movement of high school students in Seattle organizing for their gay vice principal fired for marrying his husband.  Now one more voice is speaking out in support of these youth. Father John Whitney, SJ, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Seattle, spoke about the students from Eastside Catholic High School in his homily earlier this week.  He begins by describing the conflict in early Christianity about whether to accept Gentiles as members or only Jews, and he reflects on how this controversy was resolved:

“We must imagine the scene: the Church, still subject to occasional bouts of persecution and yet growing feverishly among both Jews and Gentiles alike, faces a great conflict—how are Gentiles to be admitted into the community?…

“What is most amazing about this moment in the Church is how the community comes to decide, together, what is to be done. There is debate and disruption, but it is not seen as division; rather, it is the way the Holy Spirit is working within the community. Further, this debate is grounded on human experience, and not on tradition or on the power of office. Rather than beginning with Scripture—with the Torah or the Prophets—the community begins with the experience of the faithful: with the testimony of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas—none of whom claim special authority in the face of the communal discernment, but all of whom, instead, simply testify to the way in which they have seen the Gentiles touched and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit….Here is diversity without division, complexity with separation, debate and dissent without the need for punishment or condemnation. In listening for the living Spirit of Christ Jesus, the Church begins by listening to the sinners and seekers who are his body in the world.

“I have thought often of this scene in Acts, over the last year, and especially as I have listened to Pope Francis speak of the need for “uproar” by religious, or call young people to make “a mess” in their dioceses. Like many, I have been refreshed and renewed not by some great doctrinal changes, but by the absence of fear expressed in the words of the Holy Father; by his trust in the workings of the Holy Spirit and his passion for courageous acts of faith—even acts that risk error or end in failure. For Francis, it seems, the timidity of tightly held borders, the safe-harbor of accepted opinion and doctrinal purity risks a greater sin—a greater loss to the Church—than the dangerous paths of love and welcome….

“In the last few weeks, the students of Eastside Catholic High School, and their companions from other schools in the area, have given us an example of the kind of passionate discernment, motivated by the Gospel, that characterizes an important dimension of Catholic education—and, indeed, should characterize our faith both in and out of school. Regardless of the particulars of this situation (and personnel issues may have complexities I do not know), these students have spoken up as products of Catholic education, as women and men motivated by the Spirit and by their own experience of grace. Though it is a painful time, their teachers and their parents should be proud of the Gospel spirit that has been planted in these young hearts. Likewise, we in the broader Church should be grateful for the mess these young people bring, and should listen with compassion and openness to the Spirit that moves within them. Their love, their gentleness, their quest to make of the Church “the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” demands more than the silence of authority; it demands communion and engagement with the Church—i.e., education, direction, dialogue—since their spirit is a sign of the Church and is life-blood for the Church. May we engage, with fearless love, at the side of our younger sisters and brothers; and may trust in the God whose Church we are all becoming.”

You can read the reflection in full by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

January 17, 2014: Seattle Archdiocese Responds As Students Keep Fighting Unjust Firing

January 10, 2014: Anti-LGBT Policies Create Vaccines Against Faith in Catholic Schools

January 7, 2014: Love Always Wins: Students Inspire Hope with Their Defense of Fired Gay Teacher

December 20, 2013: Catholic Students Protest Firings in Seattle and Philly; What You Can Do to Help

19 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Excellent commentary by Fr. John Whitney! One of his Jesuit colleagues in Seattle, Fr. John Endres, is in fact a Holy Cross college classmate of mine. The readers’ comments below his commentary (at the “here” link above) are also well worth reading. One word of caution: at the bottom of the “comments” is a very hateful message with a Hebrew tag as the header. If you click on the header tag, it will immediately begin installing MALWARE on your computer. It’s a malicious trap. Do not click on it!

  2. Anton
    Anton says:

    Fr. Whitney is on the right track. In fact, the gospel for today’s liturgy reinforces Whitney’s stance. After the call of Levi, Jesus is associating with tax collectors and “sinners” and criticized for it and states his reason for associating with “people of that kind.” That’s what he came for. The official church leaders for centuries have taken the position of the “scribes and pharisees” of the gospel stories … criticizing and excluding rather than welcoming. G.K. Chesterton observed correctly: “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It simply hasn’t been TRIED yet.”

    [email protected] says:

    Amazingly proud of our Pastor John Whitney, S.J. He is a true Jesuit, fully engaged in continual discernment and a clear and constant voice for social justice. As a human being, his arms and heart seem to get longer and wider as he pastors over our diverse community and through complex and critically sensitive issues erupting in our Church. Fr. John does his best to ask “How would Jesus approach this issue?” Teaching us how to think this way is Father John’s gift to us.

  4. Rond Roy Allison
    Rond Roy Allison says:

    I believe in the holy catholic church. Have people forgotten what the word Cathoilc actually means? It means universal. Encompassing all. Let God straighten all things out in the end of days. Let Him pass judgement on those whom He decides need judging. Our job is just to lead our lives in the way we possibly can and not be offended by what others do. They are not doing these things because they hate us. People are only doing the best they can leading their lives they way the think they should be leading them. I have two gay sons. Am I supposed to hate them because they are gay? Both of them has been faithful to the same partner for almost 30 years. This is longer than many marriages between heterosexuals. Love your children. Love your neighbor. Because God loves us all.

  5. ken ryan
    ken ryan says:

    Sometimes, we must look into our own hearts and ask ourselves, what would JESUS do? Other then battles with demons and the devil, I can’t recall anyone whom JESUS would punish or turn his back on.

  6. Paul and Pegi Ackerman
    Paul and Pegi Ackerman says:

    I feel that this man should have been allowed to continue on at the school. Yes, I don’t agree with his lifestyle, however, he seems to be a good man, inside, and to his students…………….I go along with the students at the school……………….he had been there for a long time, and until someone got ear regarding his relationship, nobody, had wondered about him, or his ethics or his teachings at the school. Now, if he had been pushing or teaching about his choice in life, that would be a different story. I know several people who have made this same choice, and they are wonderful and loving people, to others. If Jesus wants him out, He will make it so, somehow. I hope he finds another job, quickly. Again, I don’t agree with his choice of lifestyle………………………..May God Bless him………………..

    • Trailrunnr
      Trailrunnr says:

      I’m afraid I object to your statement “I don’t agree with his lifestyle choices”. We don’t choose our sexuality, but we do choose how we express it. Why is it okay for the guy to be gay (not his or anyone else’s choice), but not for him to choose to commit his life to his spouse? Would you prefer gay people to just not experience love in this world? I did not by any measure choose to be gay. But I did choose to live openly, and to marry my partner of 38 years. Are these the choices you don’t “agree” with? You’ll have to live with it.

  7. Marion C Cool
    Marion C Cool says:

    And I have often thought that this same rational (quote from scripture) could be used for accepting women for ordination. I think St.Paul had it right; “there is no male and female” when it comes to church! ” No Jew nor Gentile” I think Paul has made it clear!

  8. M Saurine
    M Saurine says:

    I am proud that those young people are passionate enough about something to take a stand. Too many seem to be apathetic but these are the kind of young people who will bring about the “spring time” of the church. Weather one agrees or not their solidarity, love and passion are to be admired.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  3. […] Back in the Pacific Northwest, Eastside Catholic High School has recently been in the news.  In light of this story, and the protests by students at that school, a priest has emerged who supports the students’ protests. […]

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  5. […] is a stunning victory for the students, who took seriously Pope Francis’ advice to them to “make a mess in their dioceses”.  We can expect complaints from some quarters that […]

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