There is a developing story about s Catholic lawyer who has filed heresy charges against Sen. John Kerry with the Archdiocese of Boston. This document was sent to the archdiocese on June 14, but has only be recently released to the public.
When I can get more information I will update this post.
Update: Here is an article on this story in the Washington Times.
A Catholic lawyer has filed heresy charges against Sen. John Kerry with the Archdiocese of Boston, accusing the Democratic presidential candidate of bringing "most serious scandal to the American public" by receiving Holy Communion as a pro-choice Catholic.
The 18-page document was sent to the archdiocese June 14, but released to the public only yesterday by Marc Balestrieri, a Los Angeles-based canon lawyer and an assistant judge with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' tribunal, an ecclesiastical court.
"Heresy is a public, ecclesiastical crime," said Mr. Balestrieri, 33, whose complaint is posted at www.defide.com. "It affects entire communities. It is one of the greatest sins you can commit."
If the Boston Archdiocese, which is refusing comment on the case, decided to press heresy charges, the Massachusetts senator could be excommunicated.
"My goal is his repentance, not excommunication," Mr. Balestrieri said. The charges do not seek monetary damages.
The Rev. Arthur Espelage, executive coordinator for the Canon Law Society in Alexandria, said a Catholic layman can legitimately bring a case against another layman in a church court. The charges, known in church parlance as a "denunciation," are similar to a criminal complaint in secular law.
But "this is really unique," he said. "I have never heard of a case like this being processed before."
The charges must be filed in the diocese where Mr. Kerry lives. If the Archdiocese of Boston rejects the case, Mr. Balestrieri can appeal it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in Rome.
Father Espelage said church officials, not politicians, are the ones usually accused of heresy. But this suit may change that.
"It's as if someone has launched the nuclear missile now," the priest said. "I'd suspect there will be communication between the [Boston] Archdiocese and the Holy See on this."
A spokeswoman for Mr. Kerry refused comment because the campaign had not seen the document.
Mr. Balestrieri said he filed the heresy charge — plus an additional complaint charging "harm" to himself as a result of Mr. Kerry's pronouncements on abortion and related issues — because canon law entitles Catholics to "possession of the faith unharmed."
"By spreading heresy, he is endangering not just mine by every Catholic's possession of the faith," he said.
"I am inviting all baptized Catholics who feel injured by Kerry to join the suit as third parties" by reading the document on the Web site and then sending a certified letter of agreement to the Boston Archdiocese.
"People are saying you can be pro-choice and be a good Christian, that it is not contrary to the faith to support aborted murder," Mr. Balestrieri said. "This is a life-threatening heresy."
"Bishops have had 31 years [since the Supreme Court made abortion an individual right] to do something on this matter, but they've done nothing," he said.
Charles M. Wilson, director of the St. Joseph Foundation in San Antonio, which has filed numerous complaints in church courts across the country on behalf of Catholic laity, doubts the Boston Archdiocese will respond to the case.
The weak point of a "denunciation" suit, he said, is that the bishop need not take action. Usually a bishop will first investigate the case and determine whether the charges have substance, Mr. Wilson said, but Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston is under no obligation to prosecute the accused.
As my good friend Earl has noted below, my initialreactions to the bishops' statements - both Catholics in Political Life (CPL) and the Interim Reflections of the Task Force (IRTF) - were profoundly negative. Earlier this week, after returning to the documents, I revised my opinion, as I seemed to detect profound differences underlying the two documents, and I proposed that the CPL was a significant improvement on the IRTF. Due to this apparent about-face with regard to my earlier opinions, I thought it might be a good idea to outline my observations more fully, viz. on the perceived differences between the two documents, in order to further the friendly discussion on this and other blogs. Thus, let me point out what I see as a few differences between the two documents.
First of all, IRTF repeatedly allows the issue of abortion to become confused with other moral issues, especially those of social justice. At no less than eight points in the IRTF, the document hedges towards this sort of latitudinarian morality: "All issues are clearly not of equal moral worth - life comes first. But . . . . faith and family, education and work, housing and health care - demand our attention and action as well"; "preeminently by abortion, but also by euthanasia, cloning, widespread hunger and lack of health care, etc." He even finds time to dredge up "the war in Iraq [and] peace in the Middle East." The example of the Holy Father is called upon to demonstrate that "we are not a single-issue Church."
CPL, however, after briefly mentioning a spectrum of moral issues in the opening lines, thereafter remain narrowly and exclusively focused, appropriately, on "the killing of an unborn child." Never again does this issue become confused with peripheral or extrinsic concerns.
Secondly, CPL focuses in on the morality of the act of abortion in a way that the IRFT fails to do. This act is "always intrinsically evil and can never be justified"; "those who cooperate with it are guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from Gods grace"; "to make such intrinsically evil actions legal is itself wrong"; "those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil." This is especially surprising given that some bishops and theologians feel that the issue of abortion is best addressed not by changing the laws, but rather by some broader movement to 'change culture.' CPL has no tolerance for such a position.
While the IRFT does express 'disappointment' with political leaders who 'ignore or contradict Catholic teaching,' and states in vague terms that "all life is precious and deserves protection," it - shockingly - never directly addresses the morality of abortion. The IRTF mentions the word abortion six times: once in a long list of actions (including the death penalty and world hunger) which 'threaten human dignity,' three times in summarizing the views of Ratzinger, and twice in summarizing the views of the Holy Father. The immorality of abortion, much less the obligation of lawmakers to directly and openly oppose all legalization of abortion, is never raised even once. I would never question whether the drafters of the IRTF oppose abortion, but clearly they want to avoid making this entire discussion revolve around that issue. CPL, as I have shown above, does exactly that.
Thirdly, the IRFT, at times, turns the entire matter into an exercise in self-accusation. It asks the bishops, 'How well have we shared our teaching,' etc. The statement, as a whole, reads like a laundry list of tasks bishops need to improve upon - teaching, dialogue, etc. - as if the bishops were the ones priimarily at fault here. He ends, "Is it not just politicians, but all of us who should ask are we worthy to receive the Eucharist . . . All of us are called to reflect on our worthiness, confess our sins and renew our lives." Such hand-wringing hardly contributes towards resolving the issue of child-murderers committing sacrilege in our churches.
CPL, however, never stoops to mea culpas. Rather than fault the bishops for not teaching clearly enough, it reiterates what has always been "the constant and received teaching of the Church," which is also "the conviction of many other people of good will." It simply asks bishops "to persist in this duty to counsel," to maintain teaching what the Church has always taught, putting the burden entirely on the shoulders of politicians to follow this teaching.
Fourthly, the IRTF does mention, as it must, that decisions in these matters are left to the diocesan ordinary. With regards to this, there should have been no question. As I've said before, it does not take a task force to determine this. This is the teaching of the Church. The role of the task force was to determine whether or not a particular policy should be proposed to the diocesan ordinaries in their arriving at a decision. And it states its task clearly: "Every bishop has the right and duty to address these realities in his own diocese. We were asked to consult broadly and offer advice and so we will. Here is our interim advice . . ."
And the IRTF does not pull its punches, nor does it leave any ambiguity, in offering the particular policy it proposes. Any outright Eucharistic sanction, says IRTF, 'would raise serious questions,' 'have a negative impact,' 'raises a significant concern,' 'would create great pastoral difficulties,' 'would encourage confrontations at the altar rail,' would 'create unmanageable burdens for our priests,' 'could turn the Eucharist into a perceived source of political combat,' 'could further divide our Church' and 'could have serious unintended consequences,' 'could make it more difficult for faithful Catholics to serve in public life,' would be 'counter-productive,' would 'push many people farther away from the Church and its teaching,' etc. Despite stating that this question is left to the ordinary, the IRTF has no problem proposing a concrete answer to this question: "Therefore . . . our Task Force does not advocate the denial of Communion for Catholic politicians" (emphasis mine).
CPL, on the other hand, declines entirely from offering any proposal or policy. Not only does it avoid listing the apocalyptic woes that would result from denial of communion (no language of 'confrontations at the altar rail,' 'negative impact,' 'counter-productive' here), it does not even offer the slightest hint that such a policy would have negative repercussions. It simply states, quite forthrightly, that "such decisions rest with the individual bishop," that "bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action," etc., and entirely leaves the matter at that. IRTF's trumpet call for open communion is entirely and unceremoniously dropped.
The way these sort of statements work is this. The Task Force Committee would have presented the bishops with a draft statement which summarized their findings. The full body of bishops, in Denver, would have voted to approve or reject this statement. If they reject it, modifications are made, and the process continues until a draft is formulated which the bishops will approve. Assuming that the IRTF reflects roughly what the contents of the initial draft would have been, and comparing this with the CPL, it seems clear to me that the bishops did in fact reject the Task Force's initial draft. Modifications were made. And the final statement, the CPL - at least in my view - is vastly different. It would be a stretch to turn this into some sort of episcopal coup or mutiny on the Inverness Bounty, but its hard not to imagine some sort of large-scale dissatisfaction on the part of the bishops with what the Task Force was proposing.
Now, lets also look at the after-effects of the CPL. If CPL had been as big of a disappointment as many claim, our more conservative bishops would, without a doubt, feel as if they had been slapped in the face. But this is not what we've seen. Archbishop Hughes, before the statement was even released, stated that he would be happy if it left the decision to the bishop: "If the statement says that it's the responsibility of each bishop (to act) with regard to the legislators in his pastoral care - that's fine. I've said that repeatedly." This is exactly what Hughes wanted, because it approves of his prerogative to continue doing what hes been doing. I also noted with some satisfaction that, the day after I posted my last entry, the Culture and Life Foundation issued a news release which summarized my views almost exactly. Catholic World News, as Oswald has pointed out, also issued a release today which echoes CLF's piece. Both conclude, as I do, that the CPL represents a 'rejection' on the part of the bishops of the Task Force proposal. I am far from openly endorsing the CPL; I am simply pointing out that it does not represent a complete moral cop-out by the American bishops, as the IRTF (it seems to me) was proposing. Certainly, if I had written the CPL, if would have been different. But I did not; the bishops of our Church did. And, once things are put into perspective, all things considered, I'm still in a pretty good mood.
Having been out of the country when the bishops' statement was issued, this commentary offers my first reflections, but I would like to start with a brief look at Jamie's further thoughts.
First, I must commend Jamie for taking time to revist his analysis. A closer look is always in order. This point bears emphasis in a sound bite society "in which television radically simplifies...our view of the world" and in which it is is difficult to get anyone to take even an initial look at a problem that lasts longer than a glance.
The second thing to be noted is that Jamie's second look is prudently and appropriately cautious. Thus, while he claims a distinction between the purported "authority" of the USCCB's Catholics in Political Life and the the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians' Interim Reflections, he notes "the question of whether the USCCB has any real authority at all" and describes the difference in the following terms:
The latter is only a collection of "reflections," which lack even the pseudo-authority of the USCCB, and are simply the unambiguous "reflections" of a couple of theologians.[emphasis added]
I understand what Jamie is saying about the numbers, a point he proceeds to expand upon, but the Task Force is somewhat more than just "a couple of theologians" in that its members, who are bishops, were appointed by the same USCCB, whose "pseudo-authority" is appealed to. After all, Cardinal McCarrick led the discussion at the bishops' spring session by invitation—not usurpation.
As for the numbers, the Church, Deo gratia, is not a democracy, pace the dubious "authority" of episcopal bureaucracies, and, more to the point, a weak statement is not strengthened by "the collective weight" of the bleat of the sheep, er, shepherds endorsing it. As has been said elsewhere, God makes a majority of One. Thus I will continue to stand with the remnant of bishops who are defending the Faith, the Eucharist, and the unborn.
Which brings us to Jamie's principal point.
All of positions I liked, or at least found agreeable, were in the official statement itself. All of the positions I didn't like, or just found disagreeable, were in the Task Force's "Reflections." [emphasis added]
Hardly, a glowing endorsement, but I respectfully ask my esteemed colleague to reflect yet further. His initial assessment of the USCCB statement was not only sober but sound.
The Orwellian double talk that Jamie aptly cites may indeed have first appeared in the Task Force's Reflections, but it is "highlighted"—their word, not ours—by the USCCB in their Catholics in Political Life, hardly the mark of a statement that is "vastly different from McCarrick's reflections."
"Our obligation as bishops at this time is to teach clearly," the bishops declare. How disappointing, if predictable, that instead they have, once again, given us a statement that, as a wise observer once wrote, "is vague enough, in every aspect, to justify nearly any interpretation."
Monday, June 28, 2004
Further reflections on 'Catholics in Political Life'
I've posted once or twice this week on the USCCB statement on 'Catholics in Political Life.' The message on a whole seemed confused and uneven to me, even self-contradictory at points. I was over in Catholic Analysis this afternoon and it suddenly became clear, and I don't know why I didn't notice it before.
All of positions I liked, or at least found agreeable, were in the official statement itself. All of the positions I didn't like, or just found disagreeable, were in the Task Force's 'Reflections.'
Why is this relevant? Because, as Oswald points out, the former is the only one which has any authority. (Well, putting aside for the moment the question of whether the USCCB has any real authority at all, other than a general 'moral' authority). The latter is only a collection of 'reflections,' which lack even the pseudo-authority of the USCCB, and are simply the unambiguous 'reflections' of a couple of theologians.
More importantly, apart from the question of authority, is the question of whose opinions stand behind the statements. The former, the official statement, regardless of its authority or lack thereof, bears behind it the collective weight of the full body of American bishops, who voted overwhelmingly to approve this document. The latter is the opinion of one man, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and a couple of his buddies (no disrespect intended; simply a statement of fact), which were presented to this full body of bishops before the official statement was produced, in order to push them in a particular direction. Now that the dust has settled, and it hardly requires pointing out that the official statement is vastly different from McCarrick's reflections, it becomes all too clear that the full body of bishops has in fact rejected McCarrick's proposals. Not too draw the line too sharply, it's not a difference of black and white, but it is a difference -- McCarrick clearly advised, in no uncertain terms, against the denial of communion; the official statement left this option wide open. In short, the fully body of U.S. bishops seem not to have bought the McCarrick line.
The USCCB's publishing of the Task Force reflections after the official statement, and on the same webpage, confused matters horribly. We now have several contradictory statements, without any clear consensus. But once we look at things in this way, chronologically, we can see that the official statement has entirely supplanted the reflections, which were only intended to guide the formation of the latter, a task at which they seem to have utterly failed to do.
Perhaps I'm just reading way too much into this. But in any case, I suddenly find myself in a far better mood than I was this morning.
Respect for Unions not Union with God in the Eucharist
BOSTON - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry [related, bio] canceled an appearance at the U.S. Conference of Mayors rather than cross a police union picket line, and the union pledged not to target Kerry during planned protests at the Democratic National Convention.
"I don't cross picket lines. I never have," Kerry said as he left Roman Catholic Mass on Sunday night at Our Lady of Good Voyage chapel in South Boston. (source)
So I guess all we need to do is to get some union to picket whatever church Mr. Kerry is going to on Sundays.
David from Catholics for Bush sent me a link to kerrycatholic.com. This site was stared by Ono Ekeh who was recently fired from a job in the USCCB after his activism for John Kerry was exposed by Deal Hudson.
Looking through the link sections I found an interview I had not seen before. This one appeared in Windsurfing Magazine and was titled A Windsurfer in the WHITE HOUSE?.
AW: You mentioned spirituality with windsurfing. Tell me your views on that.
JK: Spirituality is a fundamental for us. I mean, it's the-it is the overpowering, driving foundation of most of the struggles that we go through here on earth, in my judgment. I am a believer in the Supreme Being, in God. I believe, without any question in this force that is so much larger and more powerful than anything human beings can conceivably define.
I think the more we learn about the universe, the more we learn about black holes and the expansion of the universe and the more we learn what we don't know about: our beginnings and-not just of us, but the universe itself, the more I find that people believe in this supreme being. I'm a Catholic and I practice but at the same time I have an open-mindedness to many other expressions of spirituality that come through different religions. I'm very respectful and am interested-I find it intriguing.
I went to Jerusalem a number of years ago on an official journey to Israel and I was absolutely fascinated by the 32 or so different branches of Catholicism that were there. That's before you even get to the conflict between Arabs and Jews. I have spent a lot of time since then trying to understand these fundamental differences between religions in order to really better understand the politics that grow out of them. So much of the conflict on the face of this planet is rooted in religions and the belief systems they give rise to. The fundamentalism of one entity or another.
32 or so different branches of Catholicism? I wonder what he means by that. That is a lot more rites than I am aware of. Even if you add the historic rites of religious orders to the Latin and Eastern rites it doesn't come close to 32. Maybe these other rites were started by Pope XXIII?
So I really wanted to try to learn more. I've spent some time reading and thinking about it and trying to study it and I've arrived at not so much a sense of the differences but a sense of the similarities in so many ways; the value system roots and the linkages between the Torah, the Koran and the Bible and the fundamental story that runs through all of this, that connects us-and really connects all of us.
Like the fact that life is a gift from God and that we have no right to murder those in the womb. I guess John Kerry overlooked that one.
And so I've also always been fascinated by the Transcendentalists and the Pantheists and others who found these great connections just in nature, in trees, the ponds, the ripples of the wind on the pond, the great feast of nature itself. I think it's all an expression that grows out of this profound respect people have for those forces that human beings struggle to define and to explain. It's all a matter of spirituality.
Yes that generic spirituality that doesn't require an acknowledgment of sin or kind of repentance.
I find that even - even atheists and agnostics wind up with some kind of spirituality, maybe begrudgingly acknowledging it here and there, but it's there. I think it's really intriguing. For instance, thinking about China, the people and their policy-how do we respond to their view of us? And how do they arrive at that view of us and of the world and of life choices? I think we have to think about those things in the context of the spiritual to completely understand where they are coming from. So here are a people who, you know, by and large, have a nation that has no theory of creationism. Well, that has to effect how you approach things. And until we think through how that might effect how you approach things, it's hard to figure out where you could find a meeting of the minds when approaching certain kinds of issues.
So, the exploration of all these things I find intriguing. Notwithstanding our separation between church and state, it is an essential ingredient of trying to piece together an approach to some of the great vexing questions we have internationally.
The rest of the links sections is just the same old articles by Salon, National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, and Ono himself.
Ono's Catholic Q&A section has some of the most tortured logic I have seen defending abortion supporters.
Q: Can one then be pro-life and pro-choice?
A: Yes. You both are not mutually exclusive. You can believe that it is consistent with the dignity of women that they be granted freedom in personal matters, yet actively seek to promote a culture of life. Many believe that the best way to address the abortion numbers is to remove the social conditions and situations that weigh on a woman's decision making and provide a structure that supports women and children. The type of things that can make a positive impact include such things as affordable and available health care, child care, affordable housing, secure neighborhoods, economic opportunities, educational opportunities for both mother and child, etc,
And Janus has only one face. Ono is very aptly named and every time I read his stuff I think Oh No! This is definitely a case of Onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they symbolize).
Otto Clemson Hiss -- great blog, btw! -- calls Senator Kerry on his "Sanhedrin Approach"("They cried out, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." John 19:15)
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Phoenix Park Hotel, Ballroom 520 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, D.C.
Readers might recall Weigel having weighed in on the communion debate this past April. I've seen Fr. Reese numerous times playing the role of token Catholic pundit on television and in various periodicals.I don't think he and Weigel see eye to eye on the issue.
We'll post the link to the transcript as soon as it's online.
. . . to Benjamin ("Jamie") Blosser, a "doctoral student, patristics scholar, and inveterate Augustinian" at Catholic University of America. Jamie is one of my younger brothers, and eminently the wiser of the bunch. =) He joined "St. Blog's Parish" this past March, and being impressed by the quality of his posts at Ad Limina Apostolorum, I invited him to contribute to our ongoing discussion of Senator Kerry and communion.
In his famous 'Pius XXIII quote,' John Kerry clumsily formulated his theory of a rigid demarcation between the autonomous spheres of politics and morality, any transgression of which runs up against the stalwart palisade of the 'primacy of conscience.' Kerry's hero is the 'man of conscience,' bravely taking his stand against the onslaught of all external foes, against the 'voices of the establishment,' standing firm upon the bulwark of his inner convictions. The 'man of conscience' is a martyr, a saint, willing to sacrifice life and limb to defend the sanctuary within the innermost depths of his being.
Today, June 22, gives the universal Church the opportunity to celebrate the life of one of her own saints and martyrs, St. Thomas More of England. The life of St. Thomas is well-known, and does not require repeating here. Above all, More embodies what it means to be both a statesman and a churchman; he carries himself about in both worlds with such singular grace and ease, as if, for him, they were the same world. He carried out the duties of state as a man led by his conscience, and his was a conscience formed above all by the ageless tradition of Mother Church, by the constant and unequivocal teaching of the Pope and bishops through the ages. In my favorite scene from Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, in a scene where More is being pressured by Cardinal Wolsey to abandon this same conscience in the face of the pressing duties of state, he responds, "When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos."
Perhaps it was precisely this approach to the duties of state that the Holy Father had in mind when, in a Motu Proprio delivered four years ago, he solemnly proclaimed St. Thomas More the patron saint of statesmen and politicians. In this Motu Proprio, the Holy Father similarly highlights the primacy of conscience, "the basic principle of every civil order consonant with human nature." The conscience which the Pope has in mind, however, is always one rooted in the vision of man divinely revealed in Scripture and the tradition of the Church. Thus, St. Thomas is said to embody a particular "unity of life," in which the "everyday professional and social life" of the lay faithful is harmoniously integrated into communion with God and Christ, into which communion others are naturally invited. It is a lived "harmony between the natural and the supernatural" which most defines the personality of the English martyr, led by the "certainty of [a] judgment rooted in faith." At the close of his oration, the Holy Father propounds a statement which, as a concrete summary of the life of St. Thomas More, and as a standing dictum regarding Catholic political life, has resounded in the Catholic intellectual community like a crack of lightning: "What enlightened his conscience was the sense that man cannot be sundered from God, nor politics from morality."
For John Kerry, on the other hand, the primacy of conscience is at root a private confidence ("my oath privately between me and God"), the function of which is primarily to grant personal liberty with respect to public actions vis-a-vis objective moral laws ("[it] allows for freedom of conscience for Catholics with respect to these choices"). It is, at heart, a divisive instrument, which severs the public duty of a statesman from the moral dictates of divinely-revealed truth. "It is separate," he says, a chasm which no bridge can cross. It knows of no harmony, no unity, no integration with the natural law and its moral demands, only isolation.
St. Thomas More, for his part, knew that moral convictions are no threat to the political and civic realm. On the contrary, if this realm is not undergirded, quickened, and animated by the positive influence of the moral law, it will decay and ultimately commit moral suicide. For its very preservation, the political realm requires at its very heart the active incorporation of a human conscience - but not just any conscience: a conscience formed throughout by the person of Jesus Christ, who alone unites man and God.
The United States bishops know this also, and an awareness of this necessity is reflected, at least seminally, in the recent statement on 'Catholics in Political Life': "Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices." The bishops, however, cannot play the part of statesmen. Their role is ultimately to teach and to persuade. In the end, the Church has need of statesmen - but not just any statesmen: statesmen willing to follow the lead of their patron, St. Thomas More - saint, martyr, and man of state.
My problem in all of this is that what we have from bishops is a big fat nothing. Everyone can go to Communion, apparently, whatever you may have done, whether you have mortal sin or not, whatever you profess in public. It's just fine. Oh sure, you're not supposed to go, but they're not going to do anything if you do.
What's the point of a prohibition without any enforcement?
make a clear, unambiguous and quotable statement (so that lazy reporters can faithfully cite the message) that pro-choice Catholics should not take communion; and
clarify the confusing message about the difference in status between the church's long-standing teaching on abortion and the modern spin on the death penalty (to undercut the liberals who want to make a moral equivalence between John Kerry's pro-choice position and, e.g., Justice Scalia's position on the death penalty).
On the first point, the bishops' statement gets a C-. On the second point, it gets an F. It is almost unbelievable how undistinguished and uninspiring ... in short, how average these guys are.
This is about what I expected, and not all that bad considering the circumstances. The bishops cannot risk taking a public position that would risk a public splintering of the group. We will see a few more bishops follow Chaput & Sheridan's lead on this. We will see a few bishops take the Mahoney "all are welcome here" approach. Others will take a "the sin is on their heads" approach and ignore the scandal that has developed.
The vast majority, however, will do what they do best -- remain silent, and thereby permit the scandal to grow.
Despite the fact that they ducked the key issue, I am still pleased by the rather strong language in support of life and in rejection of the "private Catholic / public heretic" language popularized by the two JFKs.
. . . In short, it's vague enough, in every aspect, to justify nearly any interpretation. In sentence after sentence, just when you think they're gearing up for a punch ("The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms . . .") they qualify it with an arbitrary phrase which makes any disciplinary response or judgment utterly impossible (". . .which would suggest support for their actions").
One could have wished for something with a little more punch, but I suppose such a wish would have been unrealistic.
I guess that, like Owald, I'm hoping this statement will serve as an impetus for more bishops to follow the examples of Bishop Burke and Archbishop Chaput. We'll see what happens.
On Sunday, June 27, a man presented himself for the Eucharist at our parish. In his right hand, he held a severed head. In his left, a blood-caked machette. He received Communion from Fr. Hailfellow. Was this correct?
Editor: Your situation is indeed a delicate and, sadly, recurring one. According to the Diocesan Liturgy Office, he was indeed entitled to receive, but he should be carefully catechized so that the next time he receives in the hand as a sign of unity with the rest of the gathered community.
Friday, June 18, 2004
U.S. Bishops Call for No Honors or Platform for Pro-Abortion Politicians
In a statement issued today entitled "Catholics in Political Life" (June 18, 2004), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for Catholic institutions to refuse honors or a platform for pro-abortion politicians, whether Catholic or non-Catholic:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
This means that we should not see John Kerry holding campaign events at Catholic schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, or soup kitchens. Kerry will have to limit his photo opportunities with Catholic symbols to his entering and exiting Catholic churches for Mass.
On the issue of denying Communion, the Conference recognizes that the decision is in the hands of individual bishops:
The question has been raised as to whether the denial of Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life is necessary because of their public support for abortion on demand. Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action.
Source: U.S.C.C.B. link above.
This stand is not a concession. The Conference cannot bind the hands of any bishop in this matter. St. Louis Archbishop Burke and other brave bishops are completely free to deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians. Obviously, Cardinal Ratzinger, in his letter to U.S. bishops, must have upheld the power of bishops to deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians. Hopefully, this green light from the Vatican will mean that more bishops will play the man and defend the Sacrament. To repeat, the Vatican has given the green light to bishops who think it is necessary to deny the Eucharist to politicians like Kerry.
The conference statement also shows that the view apparently held by some that Catholic teaching requires leaving the decision on whether to receive the Eucharist solely to the individual communicant's conscience is wrong.
This statement is a victory for those who see the need to deny the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians like Kerry. It is a victory because for decades the status quo has been that these politicians can receive Communion with impunity. This statement recognizes that the status quo is changing. And that is a victory for the right to life.
Postscript: The Archdiocese of New York sponsors the Al Smith Dinner as a fundraiser which is a big media event with speeches by the presidential candidates. If, as the bishops' statement says, the Catholic community should not provide a platform for pro-abortion politicians, then Kerry should not be allowed to address the gathering. Let's see what transpires. See this N.Y. Times editorial from May 10, 2004, already bemoaning the fact that Kerry may not be allowed to speak at the dinner.
The latest news on the God beat for the Kerry campaign is that they have sidelined its new religion adviser Mara Vanderslice and are closing journalists' access to her. The outcry seems to have had some effect, yet the consequences aren't much better. Now that the Rev. Robert Drinan is advising the campaign to "keep cool" on the subject of Communion and to clamp down on the use of any religious rhetoric. Rev. Drinan says he is part of a "kitchen cabinet" advising the Senator on religious matters. With those kind of adviser's shouldn't it be "Hell's kitchen cabinet?" Drinan, a Jesuit, is the only Catholic priest to be elected to Congress and was responsible for advising Catholic politicians with the "personally opposed, but.." excuse. Now I really can't blame the Kerry campaign for having to rely on a socialist activists/Act Up Communion protester and now the dissident Rev. Drinan. The pool of religious advisor's that have no problem with abortion/same-sex marriage/embryonic stem-cell research/etc is not exactly filled with faithful Christians.
I can understand the advise of Rev. Drinan to Kerry to not talk about the Communion controversy. I wonder if he was also advising the Bishops during their retreat this week since they seem to have come to the same conclusion. Kerry has nothing to worry about from the Bishops as a whole. Unfortunately as a group they are a den of Teddy Bears unwilling to come to a more forceful consensus that is more in-line with theology and canon law.
I found this paragraph to be informative.
The campaign source also said former Clinton aides Paul Begala, John Podesta and Mike McCurry have tutored campaign operatives on more aggressively using religion to appeal to voters.
"Why the campaign is not listening to any of them, I don't know," the source said. "Conservatives are about 20 years ahead of us on this stuff."
Stuff? We must appeal to the believers of stuff. This attitude in the Democratic Party I think explains it all. What I find most annoying is not the fact of these poor choices for religious advisers, but the fact that they need religious advisers. This is just an attempt to pander to religious believers. There is no solidarity with religious beliefs and concerns but just an attempt to gain a vote. Mr. Kerry when it comes to his faith does not have a vision but is willing to settle for a revision or anything that helps him to come out on top.
VATICAN, June 17, 2004 (CWNews.com/LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has weighed into the debate within the American hierarchy, saying that public figures who openly dissent from Church teachings should not receive Communion. In an official letter to the US bishops, which has not been made public, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith writes that Catholics who are "living in grave sin" or who "reject the doctrine of the Church," should abstain from the Eucharist.
Cardinal Ratzinger's letter was prompted by the sharp differences among American bishops on the question. These differences have been discussed at length by US bishops and Vatican officials in recent weeks, as the American bishops made their ad limina visits to Rome. The existence of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter was first reported by the Italian daily La Reppublica, and subsequently confirmed by informed sources at the Vatican.
Did I impose a canonical sanction on the Catholic politicians from the Diocese of La Crosse, who had departed from the church’s teaching on the inviolability of human life? I did not. I merely declared that public cooperation in a gravely sinful act, which has always excluded one from the worthy reception of the sacrament and is the cause of scandal, was present in the situation I was addressing. Here I note that the declaration regarding the exclusion from holy Communion came only after a personal communication of the church’s teaching and the request to speak with the Catholic politicians about the gravity of their position. Canon 915 does not require that the competent authority in the church actually judge the state of a person's soul, which only God can do, but rather the objective contradiction between the faith the person professes and his or her persistent actions contrary to clear teaching, after pastoral admonition, especially in the light of the harm that such counter-witness causes.
In this regard, it seems to me that there has been a general failure in the church to teach effectively the truth about the holy Eucharist and what is required to approach the sacrament worthily. I have frequently had the impression that some Catholics today believe that mere presence at Mass means that one may receive Communion. Reception of Communion can become a kind of social action of those present at Mass. In such a climate, to state that anyone is excluded from Communion is seen as the imposition of a harsh sanction, when, in fact, it is merely the recognition that one is involved in objectively grave sin. . . .
On the eve of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' special assembly in Denver, The Denver Post submitted to Archbishop Chaput by email a list of questions pertaining to the matter of communion. Here is his response.
Archbishop Chaput explained to the Denver Post that 1) those who "publicly oppose or reject Catholic teaching remove themselves from unity with the Church and should not receive Communion"; 2) "Any Catholic who actively promotes legalized abortion cooperates, in a formal way, with abortion itself, [thereby constituting] "a grave matter"; 3) as a Bishop, he wouldn't rule out denying communion to individuals who by their actions are guilty of ""extraordinary cases of public scandal." . . .
(You've got to admire the Archbishop for his charity and patience in dealing with the press -- how many times can a bishop reiterate his basic position -- being that of the Church -- on the matter of communion?)
With regards to the bishop's assembly in Denver, Chaput expressed the wish that a collective statement on the communion issue be a fruit of the gathering.
Finally, in response to the inquiry whether he was concerned about "appearing partisan" due to his emphasis on "certain issues over others", the Archbishop responded:
No. That's almost always code language for telling the Church to be quiet about abortion. There are many, many people of both major parties, Republicans and Democrats, who work for the Church in Colorado. The Church is never partisan. Here in Denver, both of my senior legislative advisers are active Democrats. More than 80 percent of our state lobbying efforts and the vast majority of our Church's financial and personnel resources go to social issues that have nothing to do with abortion. But that doesn't change the fact that abortion is the central social issue of this moment in our national history - not the only issue, but the foundational issue; the pivotal issue. For Catholics to ignore it or downplay it or "contextualize" it would be an act of cowardice.
Well said. Please pray for Archbishop Chaput, and his fellow bishops in their assembly, that they may have the courage to present a clear, unified message on this present scandal.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Maria Vanderslice: A Radical After Kerry's Own Heart
When in college, Mara was active in the Earlham Socialist Alliance, a group that supports the convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and openly embraces Marxism-Leninism. After graduating, Mara spoke at rallies held by ACT-UP, the anti-Catholic group that disrupted Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1989 by spitting the Eucharist on the floor. In 2000, she practiced civil disobedience when she took to the streets of Seattle in a protest against the World Trade Organization. In 2002, she tried to shut down Washington, D.C. in a protest against the IMF and the World Bank.
Here's a little article Maria did for "progressive Christian" journal Sojourners offering some advice to her new boss:
. . . If Kerry continues to use religious language appropriately (and not only when speaking in the South) and embraces the millions of religious Americans that are the base of his supporters, he might just change some assumptions about the "secular" Democratic Party, and in the process, pick up a crucial constituency that could tip the balance of the election.
Ultimately, I can't separate my Christianity from my values or my values from my politics. For me, being engaged in politics is an expression of my deepest held religious beliefs -- it is about actualizing a collective commitment to protect the integrity of God's creation, it's about meeting the needs of the "least of these," and about our nation being a generous and trustworthy leader in the world. There are certainly positions taken by leading Democrats with which many Christians won't agree -- and many Christians are appalled by what they see as the exploitation of religion for political gain on the part of the Republican Party. The bottom line in applying our beliefs in the political arena is making an across-the-board assessment of who best represents the values we hold most dear.
I personally have no qualms about a liberal activist working for Third World debt relief, or protesting the exportation of American culture aka. "globalization"; the problem is that when Maria refers to "positions taken by leading Democrats on which many Christians won't agree", two of these issues just so happen to be abortion and gay marriage; and when Maria refers to a "collective commitment to protect the integrity of God's creation [and] meeting the 'least of these'", the Democratic Party just so happens to exclude the lives of the unborn.
Senator John Kerry wasted no time to subvert and use the death of President Reagan to start hawking stem-cell research. In his weekly radio address:
Yesterday, we said goodbye to President Ronald Reagan.
For his children and his friends, and most of all, for his courageous wife Nancy, this painful goodbye began almost ten years ago, with the diagnosis of a disease that took Ronald Reagan away before it took his life.
There is a moment after you get the call from a doctor that you or a loved one must face a disease like Alzheimer's where you decide that it can't mean the end - that you won't let it. So in our own way, we become researchers and scientists. We become advocates and friends, and we reach for a cure that cannot - that must not - be too far away.
Some call this denial. But I'm sure that Nancy Reagan - the wife of an eternal optimist - calls it hope.
She told the world that Alzheimer's had taken her own husband to a distant place, and then she stood up to help find a breakthrough that someday will spare other husbands, wives, children and parents from the same kind of heartache.
Millions share this hope, and it is because of their commitment that stem cell research has brought us closer to finding ways to treat Alzheimer's and many other diseases.
"I think the chance of doing repairs to Alzheimer's brains by putting in stem cells is small," said stem cell researcher Michael Shelanski, co-director of the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, echoing many other experts. "I personally think we're going to get other therapies for Alzheimer's a lot sooner."
Today, more than 100 million Americans have illnesses that one day could be cured or treated with stem-cell therapy. Stem cells could replace damaged heart cells or cells destroyed by cancer, offering a new lease on life to those suffering from diseases that once came with a certain death sentence. Stem cells have the power to slow the loss of a grandmother's memory, calm the hand of an uncle with Parkinson's, save a child from a lifetime of daily insulin shots, or permanently lift a best friend from his wheelchair.
Chances are that you love someone with such a disease. You may be that someone. So what can we do to make sure that doctors and scientists keep learning, keep discovering, and keep researching stem cells so that the incredible potential for discovery becomes a reality in people's lives?
We must lift the barriers that stand in the way of science and push the boundaries of medical exploration so that researchers can find the cures that are there, if only they are allowed to look. We can do this while providing strict ethical oversight.
His whole radio address is deeply dishonest. Not one time does he make the necessary distinction between embryonic and adult stem- cells. There are zero barriers for working with adult stem-cells. Researches are not prohibited in any way by using the more promising research into adult stem-cells. Currently there is only a federal ban on scientists from doing research on embryonic stem-cells other then those lines that already exist. Unfortunately there are hardly any limits on research on embryonic stem-cells by private researchers. The barriers he wants lifted are the ones currently protecting human life. He uses the words "allowed to look" and reality translates that to embryo farms where humans are experimented on and die in the process of "looking."
We must make the funding of stem cell research a priority in our universities and our medical community. And we must secure more funding for it at agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
Above all, we must look to the future not with fear, but with the hope and the faith that advances in medicine will advance our best values. America has always been a land of discovery - of distant horizons and unconquered frontiers. But progress has always brought with it ethical concerns that this time we have gone too far. Believe it or not, there was a time when some questioned the morality of heart transplants. Not too long ago, we heard the same kind of arguments against the biotechnology research that now saves stroke victims and those with leukemia.
To compare heart transplants to the use of embryonic stem-cells is a ridiculous example. Sure some people initially had problems with the idea of organ transplants, but the Catholic Church has no problem with transplants in most circumstances. The only problem arises when organs are harvested prior to a person dying. Because of the short time-period some organs can be used doctors are tempted to remove organs prior to death. For embryonic stem-cells they take live human embryos and then destroy (murder) them when they remove the stem-cells. This is the moral equivalent of harvesting organs from healthy children. There is no difference between raising children for the purposes of an organ harvest and taking human embryos and harvesting them for stem-cells. Unfortunately this is what we have come to expect from John "My faith is important to me" Kerry.
I know there are ethical issues, but people of goodwill and good sense can resolve them. For I also know the fear that most Americans feel at some point - the fear of a diagnosis that may take our life or sentence us to a diminished life.
This is part of modern alchemist word-smithing. Transform the word morality to ethics and before long you can easily dismiss any qualms.
In the past few years, I have seen cancer and stroke take my own parents. Last year, because of the remarkable medical advances we have made, I was cured of prostate cancer. Now everywhere I go in America, people come up to me and tell me about their struggle with illness or the bravery of family members who faces it. They share their worries, but they also believe that this is a country of the future, a can-do country.
The medical discoveries that come from stem cell are crucial next steps in humanity's uphill climb. And part of this nation's greatness lies in the fact that we have led the world in great medical discoveries, with our breakthroughs and our beliefs going hand-in-hand.
If we pursue the limitless potential of our science - and trust that we can use it wisely - we will save millions of lives and earn the gratitude of future generations.
Except the generation of lives offered on the altars of unrestrained science. It is hard to find gratitude at the sharp end of a scalpel coming to kill you.
That John Kerry takes this position unfortunately does not put him in the minority. Recently a letter signed by 56 or 57 senators (reporting varied) asked President Bush to ease stem-cell research restrictions. We have come to expect the abortion-as-sacrament political party to ignore life at conception. Senators Trent Lott , Orrin G. Hatch, Kay Bailey Hutchison and 10 other Republicans also signed this letter. This is consistent for Hatch but previously pro-life Senators like Trent Lott and Kay Bailey Hutchison and other should be ashamed of themselves.
The full text of Bishop Sheridan's letter of clarification countering further misinterpretation and misrepresentation by the press can be found here. (Thanks to Episcopal Spine Alert for the link).
Bishop Sheridan concludes his letter by responding to two pertinent and persistent questions posed by the press and those who disagree with him: "Won't your letter be the cause of some people leaving the Church?" and "Should the Eucharist be used as a weapon to force certain behaviors or punish others?"
In response to the first, Bishop Sheridan replies:
The truth of God can be divisive. Jesus foretold this. Truth is especially divisive when it challenges opinions that we hold dear. Jesus wanted his followers to accept His truth rather than their own opinions. Some did and some did not. But Jesus never stopped teaching the truth. And the Church will never stop teaching the truth.
In response to the allegation that the Eucharist is being "used as a weapon", he responds:
In hearing [this] from some Catholics I learned that there is a certain way of thinking that suggests that the Eucharist has little or no relationship to the way we live our lives in the world. It seemed beyond comprehension to them that anything should ever separate them from the Eucharist. This way of thinking comes as no surprise if we simply take note of the fact that everyone receives Holy Communion on Sunday and almost no one goes to confession.
Turning to Sacred Scripture once again, we recall St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians in which the apostle expresses his concern that some in the Corinthian community were receiving the Eucharist unworthily. He had heard of behavior in the community that was so contrary to Christian teaching that he told the Corinthians to examine their consciences well. He did not hesitate to write that "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27). The Church has always held that a Catholic must approach Holy Communion in the state of grace. Anything less is a sacrilege.
This, of course, is where the disagreement occurs. Some people have written to me and said that nothing or no one outside of themselves can determine the moral significance of their actions. They alone would decide what is right and what is wrong. This stance, claimed as Catholic, ignores Jesus' constitution of His Church and the Church's teaching authority. Jesus said to Peter: "I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). Again, as Catholics we live under a divinely established law. It is this law that must guide our every action.
Sheridan's stance on this issue runs counter not only to that of Senator Kerry but Cardinal McCarrick as well. Indeed, his rejection of the notion that the Eucharist is being used as a "weapon" in this matter seems to me a direct challenge to McCarrick's protests that he is "uncomfortable" using the Eucharist as a "sanction."
Let's hope that the Cardinal and the Bishop will have the opportunity to speak with each other during the conference later this month.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Russell Shaw to U.S. Bishops: "Your credibility is at stake"
. . . I hope Senator John Kerry's candidacy will have a large place in your deliberations in Denver. You need to frame a response to its challenge—to you and to the Church—well before November. When I told a politically sophisticated friend that some bishops take the view that although pro-choice Catholic politicians shouldn't receive Communion, no effort should be made to prevent them, on the assumption that they're in good faith, he replied: “If any bishop thinks Senator Kerry is in good faith on this matter, he's the only person in the country who does.”
From a spiritual perspective, what's at stake in the Kerry candidacy isn't only an election -- nothing you say or do will affect its outcome much either way -- but your credibility as pastors and teachers. As during the weeks and months after Humanae Vitae, people now are watching to see what you will do, and they'll draw their own conclusions from that. Are you serious when you say certain doctrines of faith and morals involve a binding obligation for Catholics, such that rejecting them severs communion with the Church? Unlike the people certain that excommunication is the answer, I don't know exactly what you should do. But I do know that neither silence nor high-flown words without deeds will suffice.
I will be soon be enroute to Brazil with my immediate family to visit our family there, returning to the States on the evening of June 24.
As I noted on Times Against Humanity, I commend Catholic Kerry Watch to your attention , where my able fellow editors, Chris Blosser, Jeff Miller, and Oswald Sobrino will carry on quite well without me, keeping you up to date on the latest developments on the battle at the ballot box and in the pews.
Please keep the Appleby family in your kind prayers as you and yours are in ours!
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Vatican Entering Communion Debate - Further Analysis
Given the divisions among American bishops on the issue of denying communion to pro-abortion political celebrities, it is no surprise that the Catholic News Service is reporting that the Vatican, through Cardinal Ratzinger, is seeking to address the issue with American bishops ("Vatican wants to meet with U.S. task force on Catholic politicians," June 3, 2004, by John Thavis).
Unfortunately, the Catholic News Service article is, in my opinion, biased in favor of those bishops who tremble at the thought of denying communion, but apparently not at the sacrilege of giving it. How can you easily spot the bias? Notice the end of an article and ask yourself what is the last word, the last quote, the last thought with which the reader is left. In the article, the last quote is from a New Mexico bishop who appears very anxious about the possibility of having to deny communion to a pro-abortion crusader.
This particular bishop ends with a reference to the late Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray who is famous for his work on religious freedom. What the bishop does not mention, at least in the article, is that Murray's death in 1968 occurred five years before Roe v. Wade. In other words, we don't have the benefit of Murray's insights on the spectacle of abortion on demand being aggressively promoted by Catholic politicians for the last thirty years. Murray did not live to see one of the major national political parties make a abortion a non-negotiable civil rights issue. He did not live to see that the party taking this huge step would be the party that had traditionally benefited from Catholic voter loyalty.
The article quotes Murray to the effect that the legislator does not have to prohibit all that morality prohibits, or promote all that morality demands. As a very general statement, that is surely true, as Aquinas would also agree. In fact, Aquinas states the matter with the needed precision:
Human law does not forbid all vicious acts, by the obligation of a precept, as neither does it prescribe all acts of virtue. But it forbids certain acts of each vice, just as it prescribes some acts of each virtue.
Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Pt. I-II, Q. 96, Art. 4 (Reply to Obj. 1).
So the real issue is whether the direct taking of innocent life in abortion should be prohibited. Aquinas, in my view, answers the question with this passage:
Human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such-like.
Summa, Pat. I-II, Q. 96, Art. 2 (body of the article).
The direct, voluntary killing of the innocent is murder. The majority can abstain from it. The right to life is fundamental to the maintenance of human society because, without life, we obviously cannot participate in any aspect of human society. Surely, abortion is to the hurt of another. That is undeniable Catholic teaching.
The non-controversial truism that laws do not enact the entire moral code cannot mean that the law can promote denial of the right to life of the innocent. Aquinas would say that such a law would in fact be no law:
[E]very human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law.
Summa Theologiae, Pt. I-II, Q. 95, Art. 2 (body of article).
Yet, the journalist does not blink at leaving the bishop's unenlightening statement unchallenged.
But what will the Vatican do? At least three possibilities come to mind. Either the Vatican position will seek to prohibit denying communion to pro-abortion politicians, or it will promote a policy of caution with specific guidelines on when denial should take place, or it will, in the end, contribute nothing specific to the debate. I find it hard to believe that if the Vatican is showing serious concern with the issue that it will fail to take a position on the issue. So that leaves the other two options. Will the Vatican stop bishops from denying communion to pro-abortion politicians? I certainly hope not. I do not think that they will given the clear authorization to do so in the Code of Canon Law (Canon 915). In addition, the Vatican itself recently issued a document on the obligations of Catholic politicians and voters that lays the foundation for the action taken by a few brave bishops. Finally, the theology of the Eucharist articulated by the Vatican, recently the subject of a papal encyclical and a disciplinary document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, shows the urgency with which Rome views the abuses of the Eucharist.
Moreover, Ratzinger's own writings on the Eucharist show that the Eucharist is the "sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family" (Ratzinger, God is Near Us [Ignatius Press, 1993], p. 60). The argument made by some who oppose denial of the Eucharist is that the Eucharist is not a "reward" for our good behavior but a sacrament for the "journey" of sinful people and therefore should not be denied (see Oregon's Mail Tribune, "Rites and wrongs," June 4, 2004, by John Darling). What this misleading argument leaves out is that the Eucharist is indeed a blessing and gift that arises from our reconciliation with God, and that the "journey" requires continual conversion and reconciliation through the sacrament of penance for grave sin. To use the term "reward" is a rhetorical ploy that seeks to give a false commercial tinge to the great truth that once we reconcile through the sacrament of penance we enjoy the great gift and privilege of the Eucharist. Without that prior reconciliation, the Eucharist is not a blessing, but a source of condemnation, as St. Paul clearly teaches.
The talk about a "journey" also tends to reflect our culture's lack of a sense of sin by implying in certain contexts, such as this one, that dramatic conversion on a continual basis is not part of the journey. The sacrament of penance is called in the Catechism the "sacrament of conversion," and the Pope emphasizes in his writings the dramatic quality of the Christian life, particularly when the Christian approaches the sacrament of penance. Our Christian life is not a comfortable suburban journey with smooth highways or first-class seats. The Christian life is one of real danger that requires dramatic decisions, trust, and continual conversion. That continual conversion takes place through the sacrament of penance.
But, in the end, what position will the Vatican take on this issue? My guess is that the Vatican will push for caution and guidelines for denying the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians, as is fitting for such a serious penalty. And surely we can hope to get from Ratzinger a better and deeper explanation of the issue than the repetition of bland New Age jargon about "rewards" or the "journey" that merely mirrors our morally bankrupt culture.
Cardinal Ratzinger expresses wish to meet with U.S. bishops
Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, N.M., said Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke of proceeding cautiously on the issue, Catholic News Service reported. Ratzinger said he would like Vatican officials to meet soon with a U.S. bishops' panel reviewing how church leaders should interact with Catholics in public life.
Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, did not say whether the sacrament should be used as a sanction, said Pelotte, who was among a group of bishops participating in the meeting this week in Rome. . . .
Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, leader of the bishops' task force on the issue, has not spoken with Ratzinger about a meeting, his spokeswoman told The AP. But the cardinal said in a statement, "I am happy to meet with him on anything."
What Ratzinger "was suggesting was a meeting as soon as possible between the (bishops') task force and people at the doctrinal congregation, to work out some kind of understanding," Pelotte told CNS, an independently operating news agency that is under the communications arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The task force is expected to give a progress report on its work at the U.S. bishops' closed-door, national retreat in Denver starting June 14, but the committee may not finish its work before the November election.
Everything is just hearsay and we really won't know much about the Cardinal's opinion on the matter until the meeting occurs, but an encounter between McCarrick and Ratzinger could get interesting.
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. –Eph. 6:12
Commenting on Time's recent report, "Further Thoughts: The Rainbow Sash Coalition," Ad Altare Dei's Alan Phipps reminds us to pray for our bishops. Alan is, of course, absolutely right, and I join in his exhortation that we pray for our bishops—all the more for those who need our prayers the most. Accordingly, I would like to call the following prayer initiative to your attention and urge you to join us in making it a St. Blog's Parish tradition. Litany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim As he did before the bishops' meeting in June 2002, Lane Core, Jr., is again calling for a novena before the bishops' meeting in Denver, CO, June 14–20, 2004. To conclude the novena on the day before the meeting begins, it will start Saturday, June 5. Beginning tomorrow, Lane will post a link to the litany each day on The Blog From the Core, along with a suitable prayer from the Sacramentary/Breviary. I urge you to respond to this prayer alert in the hope that we may witness more episcopal spine alerts as an answer to prayer.
As reported by Dan Balz and Alan Cooperman in today's Washington Post [free registation required] and by other newspapers and media across the nation and the globe:
When President Bush sits down with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican this morning, their meeting will highlight one of the most significant stories of the 2004 presidential campaign: the battle between Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) for the Catholic vote in America.
Catholics represent nearly 23 percent of American voters; both major presidential campaigns are ramping up their efforts to woo Catholics, along with other faith groups. And with Democratic Sen. John Kerry poised to become the first Catholic major-party nominee since John F. Kennedy, the nexus of politics and Catholicism is under the microscope to a degree unprecedented in more than 40 years.
Knight-Ridders' Steven Thomma observes in the Mercury News [free registration required]:
Three factors combine to make Roman Catholics a potentially pivotal bloc in the 2004 elections: They are the country's largest religious denomination, 65 million strong. Catholics are a major presence in election-battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. They also are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, the only denomination so closely divided.
The attention the White House has given to Catholic voters befits what has become one of the most prized swing votes in the country. Because of their geographic concentration, Catholics could determine the outcome of the election in such battleground states as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. Recent polls show Catholics narrowly favoring Kerry over Bush.
Indeed, registered Catholic voters support Sen. Kerry over Pres. Bush 48% to 41%, according to a recent survey by Quinnipiac University. Such figures take on added meaning in key battleground states. In the last presidential race, for example, Vice President Al Gore defeated then Gov. Bush in Pennsylvania, with its s large Catholic vote favoring Gore 53% to 46%. Had Catholics voted for Bush by the same margin, he would have won the state. As readers of Catholic Kerry Watch know the faultlines are clear. Thomma draws them sharply:
Pulling them to the left are economic concerns that have long bound blue-collar, ethnic, big-city Catholics to the Democratic Party. Pushing them to the right are concerns over issues such as abortion and gay marriage that draw culturally conservative Catholics to the Republicans.
While Feldmann, parenthetically, provides a snapshot of the "red"—as opposed to "blue"—Catholic vote:
For Bush, the task of reaching "his" Catholic voters is easier; Bush Catholics gather regularly in one place, either for Mass or other church functions.
In other words, Catholics who support Bush tend to be practicing Catholics. And Catholics who support Kerry?
Conservative Catholics dismiss Kerry and other [pro-abortion] politicians as "cafeteria Catholics" who choose to obey some Church teachings and ignore others.
Thus the battle in the pews to defend the Holy Eucharist from CINO politicians and activists whose "cafeteria" selections dump the Catholic doctrines of the sanctity of life and marriage into the garbage along with the aborted baby reflects the battle at the ballot box. One is being waged for the soul of our Holy Catholic Church; the other for the head of our nation. A single question looms over both—in the first instance, for our bishops and in the second, for Catholic voters—which side are you on?
This American voter gets it -- how about the bishops?
"Kerry's Catholicism: Checked at the door". (USA Today June 2, 2004). A good editorial by James P. Gannon, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the former editor of The Des Moines Register. Here are a few choice quotes:
". . . Given his beliefs and his voting record, I wish John Kerry professed another religious faith or none at all. I would rather have an agnostic or an atheist in the White House than a person who proclaims himself a Catholic but tosses overboard those parts of Catholic doctrine that are politically inconvenient.
The liberal Massachusetts senator has consistently disregarded the church's teaching on the sacredness of human life by voting against any restriction on abortion, even the termination of a nearly completed pregnancy known as partial-birth abortion. He not only has voted to support abortion rights at every opportunity, but he also has proudly proclaimed his stance in speeches to Democratic pro-choice groups such as NARAL. Kerry is not in the least way embarrassed by his pro-abortion stance. I am, and I believe many Catholics are, too."
"Kerry's rise to the pinnacle of American politics, with his well-advertised Catholic label, raises the stakes in this struggle for the hearts and minds of Catholic voters. Can American bishops ignore the fact that his voting record on basic moral issues defies church teaching? Can Catholics who embrace the church's teaching accept as our leader a man who so easily abandons Catholic beliefs? Kerry is carrying our flag, but he is dragging it on the ground."
"Kerry rationalizes his position on abortion with the well-worn excuse used for years by Catholic politicians who find their faith's teaching inconvenient. He professes to be personally opposed to abortion as an article of faith but says it is not appropriate for a member of Congress to legislate personal religious beliefs. This position is tired and intellectually dishonest. . . . "
"As a Catholic who takes the church's positions on abortion and same-sex marriage seriously, I wonder how Kerry can toss aside these "personal beliefs" so easily. Kerry seems to wear his Catholicism like a sports coat that he puts on for Sunday Mass but takes off when going to work. I don't trust a man whose supposedly deep inner convictions can be checked in the cloakroom of the Senate chamber, or cast aside at the door of the Oval Office."
Here's one American voter who gets it where so many bishops and clergy don't. Congratulations to a mainstream newspaper like USA Today for giving him the opportunity to share his thoughts.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Cardinal McCarrick, Bishop Sheridan clarify their positions.
The Rocky Mountain News reports on a clarification by Bishop Sheridan published in the diocesian newspaper The Catholic Herald (Sheridan is in Rome and his spokesman was unavailable for further comment):
Catholic Bishop Michael Sheridan, of Colorado Springs, said this week he wants to clarify parts of an earlier letter on Holy Communion and politics that has inspired calls for IRS tax scrutiny.
"The most serious misrepresentation of my letter was the conclusion drawn by many that I, or other ministers of Holy Communion, would refuse the sacrament to people who voted in a particular way," Sheridan wrote. "Nowhere in the letter do I say this or even suggest it."
Sheridan continued: "The church calls upon sinners to withhold themselves from receiving Holy Communion until they have been forgiven their sins," including support for abortion. "This is a far cry from denying someone Communion. How, in fact, could I deny anyone Holy Communion since I would not know the condition of the communicant's soul?"
Members of this blog have pointed out the difference between refusing communion to anyone who approaches the alter and refusing communion to a politician or individual who by their persistent and public acts of disobedience to the Church (and refusal to change their position) become a source of grave scandal. Apparently, Sheridan's clarification wasn't good enough for some:
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., has asked the IRS to investigate whether the diocese forfeited its tax exemption because of Sheridan's May 1 letter.
In that letter, the bishop repeatedly refers to the November elections and also says that Catholic candidates "or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions" and gone to confession.
Lynn said Sheridan's second letter may be milder and less controversial but it doesn't substantially change the message of his first.
"I don't buy it," Lynn said Wednesday. "I don't think that the clarification is good enough. He, in fact, said that you should not vote for candidates who disagreed with the church on certain issues.
Apparently Barry Lynn would simply prefer that Bishop Sheridan stop teaching the truth of the Catholic faith altogether in regard to "certain issues."
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, in his strongest statement to date, told Catholic journalists that "I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to ask my priests to do it."
McCarrick said denying Communion to politicians puts the church on a "slippery slope" that would eventually lead to denying Communion to voters who support those politicians.
"We should have no confrontation at the altar," McCarrick told members of the Catholic Press Association on May 27, according to Catholic News Service. "I'm not going to have a fight with someone, holding the sacred body and blood in my hand."
McCarrick, who had said previously that he was reluctant to use the Eucharist as a "sanction" against dissenting politicians, is heading a task force of bishops that is expected to make its recommendations after the November elections.
Is it just me, or does anybody else think that, having so clearly made up his mind against taking any action on this issue whatsoever, the fact that Cardinal McCarrick is heading such a "task force" seriously compromises its capability in deciding on a course of action?
As previously reported on this blog, in response to the direct challenge to the teaching of Holy Mother Church and the commandments of God Himself by dissident deviates under the banner of the rainbow sash, Chicago's Cardinal Francis George recently reminded one and all:
The Rainbow Sash movement wants its members to be fully accepted in the Church not on the same conditions as any Catholic, but precisely as gay. With this comes the requirement that the Church change her moral teaching which is from the Lord and his Apostles. The policy of the U.S. Council of Bishops is not to give Communion to those wearing the sash.
The Cardinal's directive indicated that his decision to bar wearers of the rainbow sash from profaning the Body and Blood of Christ was based on the national policy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCB) "to refuse Communion to anyone who uses its reception as an occasion to protest against the Church's teaching."
Not so, rebuts David Early, a UCCCB spokesman, who advises Catholic News Service that "the Conference has not enunciated such a policy."
Not surprisingly—or coincidentally in Times' considered judgment—the UCCCB slam gave added ammunition to the Rainbow Sash Movement's campaign of vilification against Cardinal George, with U.S. Convener Joe Murray charging his Emminence with issuing "a misleading statement to absolve [him] from his personal responsibility for denying Rainbow Sash Members Communion at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago on Pentecost Sunday."
One sign of the crisis—the real crisis, that is—facing the Church is how those derided by episcopal apparatchiks as cynics and "bishop bashers" remain naively optimisitic about the smallest sign of hope from that quarter, as in the case at hand. A clear trumpet blast of orthodox note from the AmChurch bureaucracy? We should, of course, have known it was too good to be true.
Once again it falls on the faithful in the pews to stand in the gaping gap left by all too many SINOs (Shepherds In Name Only). An example of such faith in action was courageously provided by the Ushers of the Eucharist in the diocese of St. Paul, MN, whose Archbishop Harry Flynn, was praised by Murray for having adopted Cardinal Roger Mahoney's open-door, or rather, open-tabernacle policy to the gay Brownshirts.
As Fr. Wilson reports for Catholic World News, the Ushers "knelt in the aisle of St Paul's Cathedral in Archbishop Harry Flynn's Archdiocese to prevent the Rainbow Sash-ayers from approaching for Communion."
No doubt the AmChurch's Amen Corner will find fault with these defenders of the faith, as is their wont. Blind to the glaring failures of the UCCCB, they specialize in detecting the slightest imperfections of those who would be the first to admit that they are unworthy of the task at hand. Silent, if not supportive, in the case of the former, they spare no decibels in denouncing the latter.
For our part, we commend and stand with the faithful remnant in St. Paul and elsewhere. As the Ushers of the Eucharist remind us by their deeds, as well as words:
Across America our bishops are being cast as helpless eunuchs unable to protect the Eucharist in the face of the crushing secular power of the feminist and homosexual movements. This is a blatant power play by these wealthy, politically powerful and media connected secular movements to seize the Eucharist from the hands of our priests.
We must not and will not allow this sacrilege to occur!
Read and reflect on the full statement of the Ushers of the Eucharist, as provided by Fr. Wilson. For an earlier example of a bishop defending the Eucharist, see this account from Down Under.
Ongoing commentary by the editors of CatholicKerryWatch
Sen. John Kerry stands with Kate Michelman (right) President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Since 1995, Michelman's group has given Kerry a 100% rating for his voting record to defend abortion.