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03/24/2005: "Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner"

March 22, 2005


Dear Friend of Catholic Answers:

That was the title of the lead editorial in Saturday's edition of "The San
Diego Union-Tribune." Here is the chief part of the text:

"Whatever happened to the age-old Christian precept, 'Hate the sin and love the

"San Diego Bishop Robert Brom apparently rejects this maxim of charity and
tolerance. His highly rare decision to deny a Catholic burial to a gay businessman
who owned a gay-oriented nightclub sends a message that is the sheer antithesis
of charity and tolerance.

"To the bishop, a Catholic funeral for John McCusker, who died Sunday of
congestive heart failure, would be a 'public scandal' because the business he owned,
Club Montage, was 'inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching.'
"In our view, the real scandal is Bishop Brom's narrow-minded ostracism of
McCusker after the family arranged for a funeral at the Immaculata Catholic Church
at the University of San Diego, which McCusker had attended. Brom rescinded the
arrangement and decreed that McCusker's funeral could not be held at any of the
98 Catholic churches in the diocese of San Diego and Imperial counties.

"To our knowledge, McCusker never has been accused of doing anything illegal.
If Bishop Brom has information to the contrary, he should step forward with it.


Before I explain what is behind the vitriol of the editorial, let me explain
the facts of the case.

John McCusker, 31, died while vacationing with his male "partner" in the
mountain resort community of Mammoth, California. He owned at least two bars in San
Diego, one that catered to heterosexuals on Fridays and to homosexuals on
Saturdays and another bar that had an exclusively gay clientele. A porn video had
been filmed at the first club, and the second club advertised "gay porn stars."

McCusker was someone of note in the "gay community." He served on the boards of
several gay organizations and was active in a get-out-the-vote campaign
targeted at young homosexuals. Although he had attended the University of San Diego, a
nominally Catholic school, nothing in the local reportage indicates that he was
a Mass-going Catholic.

In an official statement, the chancellor of the Diocese of San Diego, Rodrigo
Valdivia, said that, "in order to avoid public scandal, John McCusker was denied
a funeral in a Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego because of
his business activities, which were contrary to Sacred Scripture and the moral
teaching of the Church. The Bishop acted as he did so that the faithful would
not be misled and erroneously conclude that the Church condones activities such
as those included in the businesses of Mr. McCusker."

Valdivia ended by saying, "It is a mistake to interpret this pastoral action as
a condemnation of Mr. McCusker. He should be in our prayers for the blessing of
eternal life."

McCusker's funeral was held in an Episcopal church after McCusker's family
phoned San Diego City Councilwoman Toni Atkins, a prominent lesbian, who suggested
St. Paul's Cathedral.


The "Union-Tribune" published two lengthy stories about the incident on Friday
and Saturday, and Saturday's letters to the editor began with a full-page
headline: "The Catholic Church, homosexuality and funeral rites." Six letters
followed, four of them condemning the diocese. The editorial titled "Intolerant
bishop" rounded out the day's coverage.

I wasn't too surprised at the paper's attitude because the "Union-Tribune" is
in many respects a gay newspaper.

Once upon a time, when run by the present publisher's father, the paper was
considered to be one of the most conservative in the country. Now it is very
liberal. The editor of "The Reader," a San Diego weekly, noted that the
"Union-Tribune" has become "more anti-family, pro-abortion, and pro-homosexual" in recent

While it still endorses some Republican candidates for office, it favors
"moderate" Republicans who are pro-abortion and pro-gay, such as Arnold
Schwarzenegger. The paper's move to the left--especially in terms of social issues--has been
evident for years.

I remember when it used to run a weekly statistics box on deaths from AIDS. The
numbers were presented in several ways: male vs. female, self-described
heterosexual vs. self-described homosexual, intravenous drug user vs. non-user, and so

The intention apparently was to show that AIDS was not a "homosexual disease,"
but the numbers indicated otherwise. A little math showed that no fewer than 92
percent of the listed deaths were of homosexuals. At some point this must have
been realized by the editors, because, after running for many weeks, the
statistics box one day disappeared without comment.

What has not disappeared is the "Union-Tribune's" inordinate attention to gay
events and people. The annual gay pride parade always gets several prominent
articles, and the local section of the paper plays up anything that has a gay
connection, such as a charity event, a business, a concert, or a play.

In most papers, most deceased people get a one-inch obituary, with long-text
treatments being reserved for people of note. That was true at the
"Union-Tribune" too, but with an addendum: If you were a homosexual, and especially if you
died of AIDS, you got the long-text obituary, even if you otherwise were an

A particular day's obituary page might include longer reminiscences of
recently-departed entertainers, literary figures, and politicians--but getting equal
weight was the obituary for the owner of a hair salon, the fellow just happening
to have died of AIDS. That kind of thing.

This imbalance was so prevalent that the newspaper eventually reformed the
obituary page, but the bias that had been there seemed to flow into other sections
of the paper, particularly the society section and the local news section.


The unnamed writer of the editorial said that Bishop Brom "apparently rejects"
the maxim "Hate the sin and love the sinner." That is a broad charge, one given
with no evidence whatsoever, other than the mere facts of the McCusker case. It
is the kind of comment made by someone who is incapable of seeing sin in
certain kinds of situations.

The real problem, said the editorial, is that Brom is "narrow-minded"--after
all, McCusker "never has been accused of doing anything illegal." That is a

Maybe it is true that McCusker never was accused of a crime, but so what? In
today's society, most immoral acts are not crimes, and the Church ought to
operate at a higher level than does the Criminal Code. Moral theology is not
determined by studying the laws passed by the California legislature.


That is the way things stood yesterday, with the paper saying representatives
of gay organizations were going to meet last night to figure out how to protest
the bishop's decision and how to phrase their demand that he reverse it. Their
meeting never got that far because McCusker's mother read aloud a statement
from the bishop.

The gist of it was given in the headline on the first page of this morning's
paper: "S.D. bishop apologizes for denying funeral rite."

"In a stunning twist to the controversy that has created an uproar in San
Diego's gay and Catholic communities, Bishop Robert Brom also promised to preside at
a Mass in memory of McCusker at Immaculata Catholic Church," reported the

The bishop said he would "not be available for any further public statements on
this matter."

No doubt the "Union-Tribune" will have a further public statement. I await its
follow-up editorial.

Until next time,



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