I am a cradle Catholic who doesn't agree with his church on the issue of marriage equality. But I respect the church's opposition to same-sex marriage because it is based on canon law and biblical Scripture.
These beliefs, along with those related to abortion and the death penalty, are real, genuine and sincere. To uphold them, Catholic bishops will take tough, uncomfortable stands that open them up to ridicule and scorn.
It's happening in Sacramento right now. Last week, we learned that the local diocese stopped funding Francis House, one of the largest homeless charities in the region. They did so because the Rev. Faith Whitmore, the new executive of Francis House, is a proponent of marriage equality and Planned Parenthood.
Yes, Whitmore's views on these matters are in conflict with those of the Catholic Church.
That's fine. She can agree to disagree with them, just as others do.
But that's not the issue here. This is about money.
As Cynthia Hubert reported in The Bee, the Sacramento Diocese has been donating $7,500 to $10,000 annually to Francis House for two decades.
Losing that money has got to hurt a laudable organization that provides critical services to the poor of Sacramento. Money is scarce in the state capital, as we all know.
Last week it was reported that the state's jobless rate went down slightly even as it went up in Sacramento. Consequently, fewer people are in a position to give money to aid the least among us.
From a distance, this situation does not make the church look good at all.
When Hubert broke the story, it blew up online. Many of the comments directed at the church were caustic and disrespectful. Other commenters felt the church was putting politics over its own mission.
As someone said to me on Facebook, "It seems to me (the church) abdicated one of its chief missions, which is to minister to the poor (a mission which was mandated by Our Lord, BTW) simply because they disagree with the personally held convictions of the director."
In truth, the church has not abdicated its mission. It continues to minister to the poor of Sacramento and gives generously.
According to a recent article in the Catholic Herald magazine, "There are 40 parishes across the diocese where the St. Vincent de Paul Society operates with some 700 volunteers. Local leaders estimate that in our diocese alone St. Vincent de Paul members give about $5.7 million to the poor every year."
The church also is a major contributor to the Sacramento Food Bank and Loaves & Fishes.
How then is the church abdicating it mission? It just isn't going to give to Francis House anymore.
One point needs to be emphasized strongly: The diocese was not trying to make this a public campaign. Diocese officials quietly notified Francis House in January that it would cut off its donations.
Obviously, somebody took this public, perhaps hoping to shame the diocese into changing its mind. I don't know that for a fact and am not accusing anyone of anything. But I live in Sacramento and I know how things work.
I'm of the opinion that in our liberal state capital, religious beliefs are too often a punch line when we disagree with them.
In a city where Mayor Kevin Johnson was basically backed into a corner to support marriage equality (my opinion), it's tough to buck conventional wisdom. In Roseville or in the foothills, you can question marriage equality or abortion, but not down here in the Valley.
Priests and bishops are always welcomed if they can be recruited to popular campaigns or causes, such as traditionally liberal ones like those of the United Farm Workers.
Those priestly collars make great visuals.
But when the men wearing those collars take inconvenient positions based on beliefs they live every day? Forget it.
In this case, is the diocese simply supposed to look past its beliefs and keep handing over its money to a particular charity or else?
With all due respect to Francis House and its board members, they need to find the money someplace else. Apparently, donations already are pouring in.
Maybe that's why this whole thing went public. Who knows?
We do know that Whitmore has a right to her views. But Francis House doesn't have a right to an annual donation from the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
The church didn't make its decision lightly or with malice. Its leaders are simply living their beliefs whether people respect them or not.