Priest Canned After Offensive Sermon
(From the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot)
The Rev. Thomas J. Quinlan Jr. famously loves to jar congregations with bluntly worded homilies, but he went too far when he mentioned the Virgin Mary’s birth canal during a Christmas Eve service – a Catholic bishop has banned him from performing any priestly function in public.
“Your shock content was crude, offensive and disturbing,” particularly to families, youth and visitors, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of the Richmond Diocese told Quinlan in a Jan. 17 letter.
[…] Quinlan, who provided a copy of DiLorenzo’s letter, said Thursday that his Christmas Eve homily was an attempt to separate lore from the facts of Christ’s Nativity.
“When the baby Jesus came out ” of Mary, “he was a man, just like us,” Quinlan said. “I was knocking the traditional idea of Christmas.”
Quinlan said his sermon also tried to show that Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth were not strictly historical accounts, but rather, one of several different forms of literature in the Bible. “There was nothing wrong with my behavior,” he said.
I have to ask my standard question – are they sure this guy is Catholic and not Episcopalian?
First, homilists and preachers have managed for 2,000 years to convey the depths of meaning in the Christian faith without resorting to crudity or “shock content.” The Gospel, if you really think about it, is quite shocking enough on its own. It doesn’t require crudity to get its point across. This guy should pay more attention to John Chrysostom and less to Howard Stern.
Second, there is no particular reason to assume that the Nativity accounts are not, within the bounds of contemporaneous conventions, reasonably accurate historical accounts. The debunking of the Nativity is hardly a recent invention, and has been dealt with numerous times by numerous people. For a recent discussion, I recommend a set of postings by Mark D. Roberts in response to the Christmas 2004 articles in Time and Newsweek.
Rather than rehash the arguments, I will simply present a couple of comments on “knocking the traditional idea of Christmas.”
Regarding the worlds of secular bible scholarship and liberal Christianity: “In these worlds it’s commonplace to deny the historical accuracy of the biblical narrative without necessarily disparaging the perceived essence of Christian faith. One can believe that God truly loves humankind and has reached out to save us, it is assumed, without also believing that Jesus was actually born in a manger from a virgin mother. Whether, in the end, it makes logical sense to believe this way I’ll save for another series.”
And regarding the attempts to demythologize the scriptures: “When read by a non-Christian person, they may confirm the suspicion that Christian orthodoxy has no grounding in actual historical events. Thus the story of Jesus is not the story of God’s entry into human experience, but simply one story among many religious and philosophical options. After all, if the baby Jesus was really God in the flesh, then all people ought to take him seriously whether they’d like to or not. But if the account of his miraculous birth was fabricated by early Christians to compete with Roman emperor worship, then non-Christian folk can feel free to continue to ignore Jesus.”
(Both quotes from the Roberts postings linked above.)