We’ve Been Here Before: Marriage and the Room of Tears

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Just last week, I had the privilege of spending four hours in the Sistine Chapel with my Word on Fire team. Toward the end of our filming, the director of the Vatican Museums, who had accompanied us throughout the process, asked whether I wanted to see the “Room of Tears.” This is the little antechamber, just off of the Sistine Chapel, where the newly-elected Pope repairs in order to change into his white cassock. Understandably, tears begin to flow in that room, once the poor man realizes the weight of his office.

Inside the small space, there were documents and other memorabilia, but what got my attention was a row of impressive albs, chasubles, and copes worn by various Popes across the years. I noticed the specially decorated cope of Pope Pius VI, who was one of the longest serving Pontiffs in history, reigning from 1775 to 1799. Pius was an outspoken opponent of the French Revolution and its bloody aftermath—and his forthrightness cost him dearly. French troops invaded Italy and demanded that the Pope renounce his claim to the Papal States. When he refused, he was arrested and imprisoned in a citadel in Valence, where he died six weeks later. In the room of tears, there was also a stole worn by Pius VI’s successor, Pius VII. This Pope Pius also ran afoul of the French, who, under Napoleon, invaded Italy in 1809 and took him prisoner. During his grim exile, he did manage to get off one of the greatest lines in Papal history. Evidently, Napoleon himself announced to the Pope that he was going to destroy the Church, to which Pius VII responded, “Oh my little man, you think you’re going to succeed in accomplishing what centuries of priests and bishops have tried and failed to do!”

Both popes find themselves, of course, in a long line of Church people persecuted by the avatars of the regnant culture. In the earliest centuries of the Church’s life, thousands—including Peter, Paul, Agnes, Cecelia, Clement, Felicity, Perpetua, Sebastian, Lawrence, and Cyprian—were brutally put to death by officials of the Roman Empire. In the fourth century, St. Ambrose was opposed by the emperor Theodosius; in the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII locked horns with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV; in the nineteenth century, Bismarck waged a Kulturkampf against the Catholic Church in Germany, and in the twentieth century, more martyrs gave their lives for the faith than in all the previous centuries combined.

Now why am I rehearsing this rather sad history? In the wake of the United States Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage, a not inconsiderable number of Catholics feel beleaguered and more than a little afraid. Their fear comes from the manner in which the decision was framed and justified. Since same-sex marriage is now recognized as a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution, those who oppose it can only be characterized as bigots animated by an irrational prejudice. To be sure, Justice Kennedy and his colleagues assure us that those who have religious objections to same-sex marriage will be respected, but one wonders how such respect is congruent with the logic of the decision. Would one respect the owners of a business who refuse to hire black people as a matter of principle? Would not the government, in point of fact, be compelled to act against those owners? The proponents of gay marriage have rather brilliantly adopted the rhetoric of the civil rights movement, precisely so as to force this conclusion. And this is why my mentor, the late Francis Cardinal George, so often warned against the incursions of an increasingly aggressive secular state, which, he argued, will first force us off the public stage into privacy and then seek to criminalize those practices of ours that it deems unacceptable.

One reason that this has been rather shocking to American Catholics is that we have had, at least for the last century or so, a fairly benign relationship with the environing culture. Until around 1970, there was, throughout the society and across religious boundaries, a broad moral consensus in our country, especially in regard to sexual and family matters. This is one reason why, in the 1950’s, Archbishop Fulton Sheen could find such a wide and appreciative audience among Protestants and Jews, even as he laid out fundamentally Catholic perspectives on morality. But now that consensus has largely been shattered, and the Church finds itself opposed, not so much by other religious denominations, as it was in the 19th century, but by the ideology of secularism and the self-defining individual—admirably expressed, by the way, in Justice Kennedy’s articulation of the majority position in the case under consideration.

So what do we do? We continue to put forth our point of view winsomely, invitingly, and non-violently, loving our opponents and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. As St. John Paul II said, the Church always proposes, never imposes. And we take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. The Church has faced this sort of thing before—and we’re still standing.

COMING UP: What will be your faith legacy?

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By Deacon Jim Parrilli

The Catholic Foundation invites you to experience the joy of giving now and beyond your lifetime.

When you choose to give, you choose to love and that creates profound joy. The Catholic Foundation is here to help you consider making gifts that will keep giving… gifts that will support the Kingdom of God.

In the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he reminds us, “So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.”

The Archdiocese of Denver established The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado in 1998 to be legally separate and distinct from the archdiocese, with the intent and sole purpose of supporting our Catholic community financially for generations to come.

The Catholic Foundation gathers and grows assets to ensure that a strong, vibrant, and faithful Catholic community will always be right there at your parish and throughout the entire archdiocese.

What does this have to do with your end-of-year charitable gifting? Gifting into The Catholic Foundation gives you the ease and flexibility of opportunities that no other institution can match.

The Catholic Foundation facilitates giving to the Church using funds and opportunities, such as Donor Advised Funds and Planned Gifts from Your Estate. They accept stocks, insurance policies, IRAs, real estate and nearly any viable asset to promote the Gospel message, transform lives and give glory to God.

When you give through The Catholic Foundation, you can designate support to a specific Catholic entity, like parishes, schools, ministries, seminaries, or other charitable causes. Enjoy peace of mind knowing you will partner with a company that adheres to Catholic teachings, honors faith-based priorities, and upholds the standards of Morally-Responsible Investment Policy in accord with the USCCB.

Matthew 19:29 says: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

Each one of us is different with different circumstances, backgrounds, and financial responsibilities. And it is up to us to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

Popular asset vehicles that The Catholic Foundation clients consider include:
• Bequest: Simply include language in your Will to specify a gift to be made – either as a dollar amount or a percentage of assets.
• Special Gifts: Leave charitable gifts of real estate, stocks, bonds or other assets.
• Trust or Annuity: Create a Trust or Annuity to provide lifetime income for you or a loved one and then pass remaining assets to charity.
• Life Insurance: If you are maintaining coverage that you or your family no longer need, just change the beneficiary – or gift the paid-up policy now.
• Retirement Plan Assets, IRA: You may indicate a charitable organization as the beneficiary of your retirement account. Call if you want to hear how to avoid taxes on your IRA.

Another way to support Catholic causes is through a Donor Advised Account. Here’s how it works:
• Start your account at The Catholic Foundation with a simple agreement that can be completed in minutes.
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Prudent planning starts with just a conversation. Please call 303-468-9885 and ask for Lisa, Jean or Deacon Steve to discuss the many investment options available to support what matters most to you or visit them at thecatholicfoundation.com.