To Pastor Fr. Binh Ta, C.Ss.R. and Parochial Vicar Fr. Mark Scheffler, C.Ss.R. of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Parish, Seattle, WA
I was a visitor at Sacred Heart of Jesus this morning (Second Sunday of Easter), and I compliment you on a beautiful service and sanctuary. I found the first reading particularly inspiring because of discussions I’ve recently had with Catholic author Gil Bailie on his site, “The Cornerstone Forum.” Two things troubled me, however.When I sat down, I found a very disturbing tract in the hymnal rack in front of me. Titled “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory,” it contains passages from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.
Her descriptions of Purgatory and Hell are graphic and frightening. She writes, for example, “There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. … Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin.” Her purgatory is “a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls.” She is obviously describing a literal fire, because she refers to the flames that were burning them.
I looked around and saw young people. Any one of them could have picked up this tract and read it. My question is, “Do you really want young Catholics—or indeed any Catholics—to see this kind of material when they come to Mass?” And what about visitors to your church? Do you think they feel welcomed when the first piece of literature they pick up threatens eternal torment?
I was also distressed to see that your parish was distributing the Prop 74 petition. When you consider that around 53% of Catholics in this country support same-sex marriage, circulating such a petition in church seems unnecessarily divisive and demonstrates misplaced priorities. Parishioners should not have to listen to anti-equality messages when they attend Mass. Moreover, Archbishop Sartain’s letter supporting the Referendum reveals a very confused grasp of the social justice issues involved. He offers homosexual couples “respect” with one hand while denying them equality with the other. Gay and lesbian couples in this state do not want to hear nostrums about respect when they are treated like second-class citizens. True “respect” requires equal access to the benefits (including the very name) of civil marriage.
I know that many Catholics in the Seattle Diocese share my disappointment that Sacred Heart of Jesus did not join St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph’s Church, St. Louise, Christ Our Hope Church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and St. Patrick’s in declining to participate in this anti-equality effort.
What an irony that St. Maria Faustina Kowalska’s lurid descriptions of Purgatory and Hell were available in your pews on the same morning that you circulated a petition to deny loving same-sex couples the right to a civil marriage.