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“National Impact”

posted by awelborn

Bishop Wuerl on politicians, abortion and Communion:

Anytime a local bishop denies Communion to a politician because of his stand on abortion, the decision can have "national ramifications," Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh said in a statement exploring ways the U.S. bishops could reach a more united approach to such decisions.

"There must be some way in which the bishops can establish a process, mechanism or procedure" for appropriate national consistency, he said.

[snip]

He proposed two possible ways for the bishops’ conference to find "a practical pastoral manner to express the collegial spirit that is to be the hallmark of episcopal pastoral ministry."

"One such approach would be an actual mechanism of the conference to facilitate some consensus and unified pastoral practice," he said. "Another approach, which would be less formal but perhaps more effective, would be the commitment on the part of all the bishops to discuss beforehand, through some conference structure, decisions that will impact all of the bishops and the church as a whole."

He said a formal mechanism of review by the conference before barring a politician from Communion would require either a two-thirds vote of the bishops and a mandate from the Vatican or a completely unanimous decision by the bishops.

The less formal approach would require all bishops to agree not to make such decisions without prior consultation through procedures agreed by the conference. "The advantage of the second option is found in its ability both to recognize the responsibility of the individual bishop within his diocese and also to provide a context for the communal exercise of that episcopal responsibility," Bishop Wuerl wrote.

Now, I suppose one could interpret this in one of two ways: 1)It’s an attempt to provide support to an individual bishop, avoiding the appearance that his action is reflective only of his own views, or 2)it’s an attempt to bog down the process and discourage a bishop from acting.

I have no idea which…or any other outcome…is intended.



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Victor Morton

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:15 am


As a general rule, saying “we need to build a consensus” is a way of entrenching a status quo without actually defending it — that’s Bureaucracy 101. And when it leaves open the matter of whether to have a formal rule or an informal gentleman’s agreement, we’re talking 400-level Kicking the Can Down the Road.
These are rebuttable presumptions obviously, but I’m not sure what a persuasive rebuttal would be in this case.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:24 am


Seems to me that if the Holy See had intended for the decision to be made by the National Bishops Councils they would’ve written the legislation that way, instead of vesting the authority in the Ordinaries.



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Jim

posted August 19, 2005 at 5:57 am


The way to get consistency among bishops is to get some consistency in the quality of the men appointed. An additional bureaucracy is a bad idea.



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Karl

posted August 19, 2005 at 5:59 am


Both are very bad ideas, and derogatory to the office of bishop, who is the successor of the apostles in his diocese. He need not ask the others permission to teach the faith!



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Krikor

posted August 19, 2005 at 6:27 am


Might it not also be a campaign speech for the job of Archbishop of Washington? It uses that “national vision/spirit of collegiality” rhetoric that passes for leadership in the USCCB and may go over well (in certain circles) in Rome as well.



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Keith

posted August 19, 2005 at 6:35 am


Sound like the comments from a politician who is too entrenched in the sytem to really get things done. The solution is simple. Politician dissents from Church teaching, Bishop calls politician in to explain the problem of the politician’s position and the possible ramifications. Bishop explains that if the public position isn’t changed publiclly, no more communion. If the politician doesn’t change, the Bishop tells his diocese to deny communion to the politician.
Simple huh?



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Dan Crawford

posted August 19, 2005 at 6:41 am


It’s an attempt to deal with a very difficult problem thoughtfully and to suggest that the entire Church is benefited by the bishops acting collectively, not as absolute rulers in their little fiefdoms. Just think what might have happened had they done this when the first child abuse scandals made the news – even before they made the news.
But I see by the comments that it is obviously a political ploy for self-aggrandizement or worse. Those of us who have had some experience of the Bishop of Pittsburgh would suggest that the comments have their basis in ignorance. Unfortunately, the one who most explicitly and consistently acted the way the commentors think bishops should act was the former Cardinal Archbishop of Boston. Now there was an example of exercising the “authority vested in the Ordinary” and not asking others’ permission. And look what good he did for the institutional health and reputation of the Church.



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Jon

posted August 19, 2005 at 6:50 am


Weasel Words.



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tonymixan

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:09 am


What happened to the infamous “Blue Ribbon Committee” or a “Task Force” approach to doing nothing and avoiding all responsibility? They are expert at that.



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Charles R. Williams

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:18 am


I thought canon law put the responsibility for denying communion to notorious sinners to the minister of the eucharist. So it’s not even the bishop’s role – much less the bishops’ role.



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Christopher Sarsfield

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:19 am


This is exactly what is wrong with National Conferences of Bishops. A Bishop that decides to give or not give communion to a pro abortion politician is going to stand before the judgment seat of God *alone* for his action. That is the way *God* established His Church. As the current Pontiff said in his debate with Kasper, the Conferences of Bishops have no authority over a local Bishop. They are not part of the hierarchy, and were never intended by Christ when He founded His Church. NB. I am not saying that they can serve some advisory function, but their decisions can *never* be binding. (Though I admit that if they disappeared tomorrow, I would not weep.) If Bishop Wuerl thinks that a Bishop should not be able to withold communion from a pro-abort until some committee or vote of the national bishops takes place (that seems to be the case) then bishop Wuerl shows a great dificiency in his understanding of the office of Bishop. The fact that he holds that office, only makes his statements more scandalous.



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DJP

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:10 am


What concerns me in all of this: where is the emphasis on defending the sacredness of human life and the responsibility to be in a state of grace before receiving holy communion?



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c matt

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:24 am


Sure it would be ideal to have a uniform policy throughout the country (heck, throughout the worldwide Church). That will only happen when the B’s start uniformally insisting that their flock adhere to basic Catholic moral precepts if they want to represent themselves as Catholics in good standing and fully partake of the Church’s sacraments. This ain’t rocket science.



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Jay Anderson

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:38 am


Giving the Bishops’ Conference veto power over the decision of an individual bishop is a VERY bad idea.



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Dad29

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:42 am


Dittos to those who understand the role of the Bishop–and those who suspect that Bp. Wuerl is smoking a la-la-land substance with his “peace and harmony” appeal.



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Tom Harmon

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:49 am


I really like Bishop Wuerl. He does/says/writes some very important things. But more bureacracy strikes me as an odd thing to wish on the USCCB.



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Nguoi Dang Chay

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:01 am


>>He said a formal mechanism of review by the conference before barring a politician from Communion would require either a two-thirds vote of the bishops and a mandate from the Vatican or a completely unanimous decision by the bishops.
So it has to be unanimous or have the Vatican order it. Fat chance of that.
>>The less formal approach would require all bishops to agree not to make such decisions without prior consultation through procedures agreed by the conference.
ie, We should all get together and talk about it before a bishop goes off and actually does his job. I mean, if one bishop does his job, people are going to start expecting other bishops to do theirs (“especially neighboring dioceses which share the same media market”), and then where would we be!



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adjuration

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:06 am


I will pray that the Holy Spirit use these discussions to guide the bishops. It may be clear to most of the readers and commenters here what the bishops ought to do, but the experience with John Kerry last year shows how muddled this issue can get when it’s brought up in the middle of a heated campaign. Bishops who denied him communion were portrayed as attempting to manipulate the political process, cries of inconsistency were raised with comparisons to the death penalty and “social justice” issues, and any attempts to bring clarity were drowned out by the rhetoric. It’s critical to the bishops’ souls that they act rightly, but if our Church is to influence the culture, we must also act prudently.
I prayed last year that some wise bishop would wait until the dust settled and then make an effort to establish why communion should be denied for some public stands and not others and establish standards before we were in the middle of a campaign. Looks to me like the Holy Spirit has given us Bishop Wuerl.



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Nguoi Dang Chay

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:18 am


The Holy Spirit giveth us Wuerl, the Holy Spirit can jolly well giveth him backbone or taketh him away again.



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adjuration

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:30 am


It’s easy to have a spine of steel when you’re telling others what to do and not on the hook for the consequences, Colonel Chay.



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marc

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:50 am


I attend a weekly breakfast with other Catholic men/fathers. It is very helpful for all of us as we try to raise our kids and be good husbands in today’s world. Still, I simply can’t imagine going to them and seeking a 2/3 consensus before disciplining my domestic church. Don’t they realize we call them “father’ for a reason? Ugh.



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Dale Price

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:59 am


The unanimity idea is…unworkable, he says mildly. Especially on an issue where it is clear that there are unbridgable fault lines between the bishops. Liberum veto, anyone? Bp. Wuerl is no fool, and surely understands that.
The “2/3 and refer it to the Vatican” is equally unworkable, and is a form of pass the buck, to boot. Especially given B-16’s disdain for episcopal conferences. He’s already said it is in the hands of the individual bishops. It’s clear most American bishops are uncomfortable with–and perhaps resentful of–that fact.
Plus, it’s kinda funny–gentlemen who in other contexts gripe unceasingly about curial micromanagement of their diocese would be essentially begging for it here–“help me discipline my parishioner.”
I like Bishop Wuerl, and think he’s acting in good faith here. But it’s pretty clear the proposed processes are more likely to prevent effective discipline than to authorize it.



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Jimmy Mac

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:38 am


Bishop A decides to deny communion to Faithful Sheep X for whatever reason. Bishop B has a Faithful Sheep Y in his diocese, guilty of the same action, but BB doesn’t deny communion. Can Sheep X go to Diocese B and rightfully receive communion? If so, why? If not, why?
Does idea of “Every Bishop His Own Island” turn the RC Church into another version of the ECUSA in which various parishes/people can “attach” themselves to another bishop if they don’t like their own?



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:42 am


Listen, last summer, Catholics in Colorado were in the preposterous position of having our three bishops in three different dioceses all take different stands on the voting issue.
In May of 2004, I, living in Colorado Springs, had been told by my bishop, in a public pastoral letter, that to vote for a candidate supporting any of the 5 “non-negotiables” would be to commit a mortal sin. (I should add that I have been told by local pastors that our Bishop later “nuanced” his stand verbally in large public meetings that he was holding around the diocese. But that didn’t have the public impact of his first letter and didn’t make it into the national news. Unfortunately, I was out of the country at that point and didn’t get to attend any of these events myself.)
Meanwhile, my cousin, living 25 miles south in the Diocese of Pueblo, has been urged to discern using the US Bishops’s voter’s guide and could, in theory, vote for any candidate in good conscience.
At the same time, a good friend, who lives 40 miles north just across the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Denver had been told something else again by Archbishhop Chaput. My old buddy, Mark Shea, had been told something else by his archbishop in Seattle. If I had stayed in Seattle, would I not be in a state of mortal sin for exactly the same action that would require confession in Colorado Springs?
Here’s the deal. An action can’t be an automatic mortal sin only in Colorado Springs and not in the rest of Colorado. An action can’t be an automatic mortal sin only in Colorado Springs and not in the rest of the world!
The orthodox Catholics of Australia (where I spent election day, 2004) weren’t concerned about committing a mortal sin should they vote for a candidate that supported abortion (almost all candidates in AU did at that point and every registered voter is required by law to vote so you simply can’t abstain!). How could I be held under penalty of automatic mortal sin and Clara, our AU director, not be simply because our respective ordinaries differed in their understanding of this particular issue?
And what if my bishop dies tomorrow and our next bishop has a very different take on the matter? In the election of 2004, it was automatic mortal sin in Colorado Springs but in the election of 2008, it’s not?
And you can’t champion the right of an ordinary to make unilateral prudential judgments on the application of Church teaching that are binding on the consciences of the Catholics in their dioceses only if those statements are the kind you agree with. It does cut both ways. The prudential judgment of a Utener or Weakland becomes just as binding as those of a Sheridan or Burke or Olmstead.
Bishop Wuerl, whose seriousness about the Church teaching is beyond dispute, is apparently very aware of these realities and the enormous confusion it can cause for faithful Catholics and is trying to address them. After reading the CNS article carefully, it is also obvious that he clearly regards the “informal” method of behind the scenes discussion as both more faithful to the fullness of Church teaching and more effective than creating some formal voting mechanism. As Wuerl pointed out “All the bishops, in fact, have a duty to promote and defend the unity of faith and discipline common to the whole church.”
The Church’s authoritative teaching on the intrinsic evil of many things (not simply abortion) does oblige us all but the practical application of that teaching in a specific historical situation requires prudential judgment. The prudential judgment of a bishop, even of a Pope, is just that – prudential judgment – and must be distinguished from normative Church teaching.
You’d have to be something of an expert to read a bishop’s pastoral letter and know where formal Church teaching ended and prudential judgment began unless the Bishop goes to great lengths to make it clear, and most of us didn’t have the expertise to do so!
I certainly didn’t have the background to distinguish at first – I knew something was wrong but I’m not an expert in moral theology so I couldn’t put my finger on the problem. Fortunately, I had the chance to consult two orthodox, world-class experts on the topic while in Australia – Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney and Dr. Tracey Rowland of the JP II Institute in Melbourne, who was a huge fan of then Cardinal Ratzinger, who, I am told is also a huge fan of hers. It was they (along with my old partner in crime, Michael Sweeney, OP) who clarified the issues for me.
They made a few things very clear:
1) Both Fisher and Rowland emphasized that Church teaching is “very underdeveloped” in this area. Bishop Fisher had attended a top level symposium in Rome on Evangelicum Vitae 73 in February of 2004.
Bishop Fisher said that at this symposium two top notch, orthodox theologians presented completely opposite views and neither could be considered “wrong” in light of current Church teaching (although Fisher privately agreed with one over the other). The bishop noted that only about 9 scholarly works exist on the subject of voting as a cooperation in evil and that he has read them all. There is, as yet, no authoritative interpretation of Evangelicum Vitae 73 to guide us.
2) The prudential judgments of a few bishops is not the development of doctrine (and therefore universally obliging) although some Catholics in the US began to talk as through it was



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David L Alexander

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:46 am


The assumption being made here is that the USCCB has any juridical authority over an individual bishop at all. It does not. They know better. So, in choosing intention A or B, I’d go with the one they’ve been hiding behind from the get-go.
That would be “B.”



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BillyHW

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:57 am


The bishops use the conferences too often to hide behind them like cowards.
Jesus established the office of bishop, not the bishops conferences. If these bishops can’t do their jobs they should resign and make way for real men who can.



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:14 am


Maybe its time to abolish the bishops’ conference so that we can get over this idea of a national church. A collection of bishops arbitrarily defined by the boundaries of a secular government has little place in the Church, which is universal. Why limit the consultation to U.S. bishops? This is a problem too in Canada and presumably Mexico, so why not demand a unanimous ruling by all the bishops of all of North America? How many layers of bureaucracy can we come up with that have nothing to do with the legitimate hierarchy?



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Kevin Miller

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:20 am


A couple of distinctions here …
A. The Church has certainly warned against exaggerating the role – and especially the teaching authority – of bishops’ conferences. But the Church also says that they have a – limited – legitimate role. I think the question should be whether what Wuerl proposes fits within that role, and why or why not.
B. The question of what laws a politician may or may not morally vote for isn’t always simple, but I think it’s often somewhat more straightforward than the question of what candidates a voter may or may not vote for, and the Communion controversy that Wuerl is addressing for the most part concerns the former, not the latter.



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:23 am


What is the good bishop’s position on that old seamless garment and consistent ethic of life?
This sounds suspiciously like those red herrings that were used by so many, not to promote life and end abortion, but to obfuscate and keep pro-lifers quiet on abortion unless they also opposed a thousand other issues that were deemed to be in violation of the ethic.



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Damian

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:25 am


One thing that provides comfort to me is what then Cardinal Ratzinger said in the Ratzinger Report, I think: there is no theological support for their existence and they can be dissolved. Something along those lines.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:28 am


What if the conference directs Bishops not to deny pro-abortion pols Communion but a Bishop directs priests in his diocese to do so anyway? It seems to me that the conference has nothing that it can do to that Bishop under canon law. Anyone have any insights into this?



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John

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:34 am


Mr Kroker has the right idea.
What concerns me is that Bishop Wuerl is a pretty good bishop, by and large. He does not make idle public statements. So, why is he making this proposal? Just before the last election the conference was unable to come to an agreement. What has changed that suggests that now is a better time for consensous?
Abortion is one of the most serious sins. A bishop who would soft-pedal the consequences by some bureaucratic means is not being fair to his flock.
I would rather have one voice crying in the wilderness than being sold out for the “sake of the Nation.”



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Kevin Miller

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:36 am

reluctant penitent

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:39 am


Sherry Waddell says:
‘The prudential judgments of a few bishops is not the development of doctrine (and therefore universally obliging) although some Catholics in the US began to talk as through it was’
Cardinal Arinze also said quite plainly that pro-abortion pols should not be given Communion. (See here: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/feb/05021603.html) He is the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:42 am


I like Bishop Wuerl, and think he’s acting in good faith here. But it’s pretty clear the proposed processes are more likely to prevent effective discipline than to authorize it.
I’m with Dale on this one. I lived in Pittsburgh for a while, and I’m convinced the wrong guy got the Archdiocese of Philadelphia when Cardinal Krol retired.
I think the suggestions he offers won’t work, but I agree with the reasoning he has to /do something/. John Kerry jumped all over the country, shopping for parishes that would give him communion. The press went wild on, “Bishop X says it’s ok, while Bishop Y doesn’t. Those silly Catholics!”
When you live in a more populous state, such as Pennsylvania or California or New York where there are many diocese, you’ll get the same issue on any statewide race involving a “pro-choice Catholic”. Is that kind of circus what you think is in the best interest of the Church every election year? Really?
For these very simple and very prudential reasons, I think it’s obvious that there needs to be some uniformity here. I don’t think what Bishop Wuerl proposes will work.
Here’s a wacky idea, why not have a synod of the bishops of the US? You know, like what they did in Baltimore?



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:51 am


I think that RP hit the nail on the head — the answer is clear, so clear that children preparing for their First Communion can give you the answer, but some of the bishops are uncomfortable with the answer and do not want to do the unpleasant task that is required by that answer. There are 40 million dead in this country alone! After 32 years, how much more do they need to discuss the issue?
Maybe, just maybe, if the bishops had not been squeamish 32 years ago, and had put their foot down then, we could have saved countless millions of human lives. If they want to obfuscate and give the pro-abort politicians cover, then by all means simply include it as part of a comprehensive re-assertion of the necessity for, not only the sacrament of communion, but the sacrament of confession before going up to receive communion.



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:00 pm


I have an idea, lets stick green-haired Pedro Russell over at the conference to straighten those guys out and “put the smack-down on heresy”!
From Summing up the Day —
“As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he was like the church’s bulldog,” said Pedro Russell, a 21-year-old from Bitteroot Valley, Montana, who cuts quite a figure — tall, with bright green hair, and a rosary around his neck.
“He was puttin’ the smack-down on heresy,” Russell said. “Personally, I’m looking forward to that. There was a lot of slightly misguided teachings that I grew up with. Knowing that there’s somebody up there who’s made his entire cardinal’s career out of straightening out those heresies and defending the true, solid teachings of the church is something I am very, very excited about for the youth. He’ll be able to deliver a strict, simple answer that will lead them to deeper life. “



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BillyHW

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:07 pm


Cardinal Arinze also said quite plainly that pro-abortion pols should not be given Communion. (See here: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/feb/05021603.html) He is the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
No he didn’t. He obfuscated and demurred and waved his hands and made joke (funny ha ha).
He refused to give a straight yes or no answer.
What the Children of God need are straight yes or no answers.
It’s time.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:21 pm


I know it’s easy to have all the answers when you are a member of the Combox Star Chamber. Nonetheless, Sherry Weddell has pointed out some of the hard facts that Bishop Wuerl is constrained to deal with. Given the integrity with which he has hitherto acted, it might become the self-appointed members of the Cyberspace Tribunal to consider pausing in their insta-condemnations and accusations of spinelessness for at least the time it takes a neural synapse to fire to actually consider the points that Weddell raises. This problem ain’t as simple as it looks. It seems to me that Wuerl is trying to think through the problem with integrity.



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Dale Price

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:22 pm


The “informal” consultation process sounds better, but as set forth in the article it is so nebulous that it is impossible to get a bead on what Bp. Wuerl is proposing.



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Liam

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:27 pm


Well, the Children of God don’t get to decide when it’s time for doctrinal yes or no answers. (stamp foot ad lib.).
Sherry’s comments are well taken, as well as Kevin’s caveat B.
The problem with the caveat is that the issues got blended in the heat of last year’s campaign, not just by the media but by hierarchs and clergy. So the muddy state of development on the issue of voting responsibilities of yeoman voters came to obscure and cloud what had been a relatively clearer (if lightly enforced) treatment of politicians themselves.
And them’s the facts on the ground.
First step would be for the bishops to retreat from the muddying if they want to regain clarity on what was once clear.
Perhaps in charity we may conclude that process of comity is what Wuerl has in mind.
What you don’t want is a situation where once-clear law comes into significant doubt, because then at least its juridical force (not necessarily moral force) weakens.
Et cet.
Dancing in vestments can be difficult.



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BillyHW

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:29 pm


If it was the Republican Party that was mostly pro-choice, and the Democratic Party that was mostly pro-life, the bishops (and priests who vote overwhelmingly for the baby dismemberers) would have refused communion to these Nazis decades ago.



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:40 pm


You know, if you were to ask anyone here, or any Catholic anywhere, if George W. Bush should be allowed to receive Communion, everyone would say NO. And the reason that they would say so without apology or embarassment is because he is disqualified by the fact that he is not in communion with the Church. So, why is it so hard to say that others who are not in communion with the Church should not receive Communion, notwithstanding their arbitrary self-assertions to be Catholic?



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BillyHW

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:44 pm


“The problem is complex! The problem is complex!”
—The Evil One.



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Liam

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:47 pm


Because the one involves zero consideration of subjective factors, while the other involves it to a degree about which there is some dispute (and then there is dispute about how much of that dispute is legitimate).
Different situations, largely because the Church has made the area of sacraments (including reception into the church) about as black-and-white as possible in light of the practical effects of the Donatist heresy 1600 years ago or so.



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Liam

posted August 19, 2005 at 12:48 pm


I should have been specific in referring to sacramental validity (as compared to the act of receiving Communion).



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Jay Anderson

posted August 19, 2005 at 1:47 pm


I don’t care how complex the issue is, it’s still a bad idea to give the USCCB veto power over the decisions made by the Bishop Burkes of the world.
Seriously, which of the following Bishops is more likely to be “reined in” by the Conference exercising the power Wuerl would bestow upon it? Archbishop Burke who would deny Communion to pro-aborts; or Cardinal Mahony who has no problem with Rainbow Sashers receiving Communion?



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julian

posted August 19, 2005 at 1:53 pm


The bishops don’t want to be unpopular with politicians. Rather than let the local ordinary do his job, they want to turn it into a bureaucracy. Instead of playing these games, why not let the bishops exercise their own conscience? What’s the point of having bishops if the USCCB is going to govern the churches-local?



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Liam

posted August 19, 2005 at 1:57 pm


I would be quite content to informally restrain the bishops on the issue that has been less authoritatively developed in terms of pastoral application, namely voting responsibilities. If only to avoid the chaos Sherry aptly describes, a chaos that throws the whole issue into question, which is not a good thing. It would help if the bishops acted uniformly to untangle the two issues.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 19, 2005 at 2:07 pm


Billy HW:
(http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/feb/05021603.html)
‘Arroyo questioned the Vatican Cardinal saying: “Last year, you were asked at a press conference whether a politician, a Catholic politician who supports abortion publicly should be permitted to the Communion rail, should be permitted to receive Communion publicly. What is your response to that?” Cardinal Arinze responded, “The answer is clear. If a person says I am in favour of killing unborn babies whether they be four thousand or five thousand, I have been in favour of killing them. I will be in favour of killing them tomorrow and next week and next year. So, unborn babies, too bad for you. I am in favour that you should be killed, then the person turn around and say I want to receive Holy Communion. Do you need any Cardinal from the Vatican to answer that? Laughing, Arroyo responded, “It should be pretty transparent.” To which the Cardinal concluded, “Simple, ask the children for First Communion, they’ll give you the answer.” Similarly, Cardinal Arinze ruled out Communion for homosexual activists. Arroyo noted that while some US bishops have refused Communion to Rainbow Sash activists, others such as Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minneapolis – St. Paul have not. Flynn, after meeting with Cardinal Arinze in Rome recently, suggested that the Cardinal was open to allowing communion for Rainbow Sash activists. Arroyo first confirmed the meeting with Archbishop Flynn took place. “Did such a conversation take place between you and this archbishop?,” asked Arroyo, to which Cardinal Arinze responded, “Yes.” Arroyo followed with “And were you open to allowing this group to receive Communion as he inferred in some of the newspapers.” The Vatican Cardinal responded, “No, no. You see, let’s get it clear. These rainbow sash people, are they really saying we are homosexuals, we intend to remain so and we want to receive Holy Communion. The question arises; take the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It says it is not condemning a person for having homosexual tendency. We don’t condemn anybody for that. But a person stands condemned for acting on it.”
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/20040426a.htm
‘when asked more generally if a priest should refuse Communion to a politician who is “unambiguously pro-abortion,” Cardinal Arinze said, “Yes.” “If the person should not receive Communion, then he should not be given it,” the cardinal said.
I’m not sure what it is that you find ambiguous about these statements. In the first one the Cardinal’s point was that it is patently obvious that a pro-abort pol ought not be given Communion under any circumstances.
How else do you interpret:
”when asked more generally if a priest should refuse Communion to a politician who is “unambiguously pro-abortion,” Cardinal Arinze said, “Yes.”‘
You will notice that Abp Flynn recently denied communion to the R-sashers.



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Victor Morton

posted August 19, 2005 at 2:19 pm


First of all, Cardinal Arinze DID say this issue is simple. That counts for a bit more than a few Standard Shavian Straw Men[tm] waves of the hand.
Second of all, Cardinal Ratzinger DID say that national conferences are mere aids. They have no canonical authority as such. And as Jay points out, we have good reason from past experience to something-more-than-conjecture what the USCCB will do. (We are not on David Hume’s billiard table, are we? Past experience does count?)
Third, waiting for everybody to get on board is an invitation to paralysis. This has nothing particular even to do with this matter or people — it is a simple rule of human affairs and decision-making. A convoy is only as fast as its slowest ship; it’s always harder for a group of 10 to agree on a restaurant than a group of 3, etc.
Of course, the points Mrs. Weddell raises are important. But what is galling is the immediate trotting out of the Shavian assumption that those who disagree with her haven’t thought about her points, too hasty in our rush to exercise our Combox Star Chamber privileges.
Of course, it’s silly that Kerry (or Schwarzenegger or Giuliani or whatever Republican will make progressives take the point seriously) could be refused Communion in Colorado Springs, receive in Pueblo, and maybe in Denver. But is it any sillier than, to use Arinze’s analogy, a child in First Communion class knowing something better than at least some US bishops and the US bishops collectively?
Of course, it would be better on matters related to secular politics if all a polity’s bishops were on the same page. But. Is that likely? And to the extent it is, is it unity in the fullness of truth or the unity of the lowest common denominator. Which is more likely given past experience of the USCCB.
Of course all the bishops, in fact, have a duty to promote and defend the unity of faith and discipline common to the whole church. And are they upholding it? And if not, what then? Nobody is saying Wuerl is a Mahony or a Weakland (so let’s not have that straw man, no?). But what some of us have concluded based on plenty of past experience is that even the good US bishops are unwilling/unable to engage the bad ones publicly and/or their doing so privately is ineffective (for whatever good or bad reasons on whoever’s part).



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Nguoi Dang Chay

posted August 19, 2005 at 2:28 pm


I think the lesson we’ve all learned is that bishops should always be given the benefit of the doubt, over and over and over again.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 2:49 pm


Victor:
Here’s a small sample of the insta-responses:
“Sound like the comments from a politician who is too entrenched in the sytem to really get things done.”
“Weasel Words.”
“What happened to the infamous “Blue Ribbon Committee” or a “Task Force” approach to doing nothing and avoiding all responsibility? They are expert at that.”
“If Bishop Wuerl thinks that a Bishop should not be able to withold communion from a pro-abort until some committee or vote of the national bishops takes place (that seems to be the case) then bishop Wuerl shows a great dificiency in his understanding of the office of Bishop. The fact that he holds that office, only makes his statements more scandalous.”
“Dittos to those who understand the role of the Bishop–and those who suspect that Bp. Wuerl is smoking a la-la-land substance with his “peace and harmony” appeal.”
“The Holy Spirit giveth us Wuerl, the Holy Spirit can jolly well giveth him backbone or taketh him away again.”
“Don’t they realize we call them “father’ for a reason? Ugh.”
In various ways and degrees, each of these responses presumes cowardice and bad faith on Wuerl’s part. Billy even helpfully attributes attempts to deal with complexity to “the Evil One”. I’m sorry, but these are nasty knee-jerk reactions. I can respect a Tom Harmon or a Dale Price, who acknowledges that Wuerl is one of the good guys, yet who questions whether this good guy is really on the right track in his admittedly tentative musings here. That’s a legitimate question. But the insta-attribution of bad faith, spinelessness, stupidity, cowardice and the rest is simply poisonous to making any real progress.
Cyberspace has many good things going for it. But the ease with which people who are quick to judge and condemn can spew their nasty judgments of decent thoughtful people is not among them.



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Badly Drawn Catholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 2:51 pm


What I think Wuerl is attempting is to avoid what goes on in blog comment boxes. Bishop A does X and Bishop B does not do X or does Y and then people carp and complain that Bishop B is an unholy, anti-Jesus loser and should be removed by the Pope.
I am sure that bishops, like most people, do not want to be blind-sided and I am sure that is how they felt by the actions of Sheridan in CO Springs and Burke in St. Louis. If a few bishops are hardliners, then the bishops who take a different course are dealt with in a harsh manner by armchair Church quarterbacks.
I think Wuerl would like to get all the bishops on the same page and have a less scattershot approach to some significant issues.
Bishop Wuerl is a decent man and a very thoughtful bishop. He is not of the “ready, shoot, aim” variety that make headlines to please the Wanderer crowd. I do not see anything wrong in proposing a united, thoughtful approach to the situation.



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 2:59 pm


With respect to condemning commenters and inferring that they should not be allowed to state their opinions, perhaps we should all first get together to see if there is a two-thirds agreement, or at least have prior consultation, before any one person makes any decisions about such criticisms.



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:06 pm


I think Wuerl would like to get all the bishops on the same page and have a less scattershot approach to some significant issues.
I should think we whole-heartedly agree. He should make sure that it is brought up and definitively determined at the October 2005 Synod on the Eucharist.



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BillyHW

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:07 pm


Who said this?
But when the question is really straightforward (“Is it more serious to stick scissors into the brain of a newborn baby or to cut funding for school lunches by 25 cents per family?) suddenly the Devil puts on the tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches and gets all nuanced on you,



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A Holy Fool

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:09 pm


A couple of points:
First, this reference from the Catechism notes that Bishops act as the head of the Church entrusted to their care, but together with all bishops (including the Bishop of Rome) exercise authority for the Church as a whole:

1560 As Christ’s vicar, each bishop has the pastoral care of the particular Church entrusted to him, but at the same time he bears collegially with all his brothers in the episcopacy the solicitude for all the Churches: “Though each bishop is the lawful pastor only of the portion of the flock entrusted to his care, as a legitimate successor of the apostles he is, by divine institution and precept, responsible with the other bishops for the apostolic mission of the Church.”41 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Next, Diocesan Bishops exercise authority in their assigned diocese. However, they are to exercise this authority according to all Ecclesial laws with a view toward the Universal Church:

Can. 391 ß1 The diocesan Bishop governs the particular Church entrusted to him with legislative, executive and judicial power, in accordance with the law.
ß2 The Bishop exercises legislative power himself. He exercises executive power either personally or through Vicars general or episcopal Vicars, in accordance with the law. He exercises judicial power either personally or through a judicial Vicar and judges, in accordance with the law.
Can. 392 ß1 Since the Bishop must defend the unity of the universal Church, he is bound to foster the discipline which is common to the whole Church, and so press for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws. (Code of Canon Law (1983))

Bishop Wuerl’s proposals should be considered in light of these points of doctrine and Canon Law.
Perhaps the Combox Episcopal consultants, Inc.(TM) may want to keep these in mind as well before they lay their indictments of spinelessness and bureacratic complacency on Bishop Wuerl. Just a thought.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:09 pm


Nguoi sarcastically declares, “I think the lesson we’ve all learned is that bishops should always be given the benefit of the doubt, over and over and over again.”
Because, of course, as we all know, bishops are members of a Borg collective and are absolutely indistinguishable from one another. So there is nothing unjust about declaring Donald Wuerl a “weasel” and “spineless” because, hey!, the former bishop of Phoenix was a spineless weasel, so they all can be treated in exactly the same way. Normal rules of Christian discourse don’t have to apply to bishops. We are free to presume the worst every time they open their mouths. And if anybody suggests otherwise, we can just sarcastically declare that bishops should always be given the benefit of the doubt, over and over and over again. Everybody will laugh, of course, because we all know that bishops–every single last one of them–are untrustworthy bastards who long ago lost any claim on our charity or generosity. Whenever one of them opens his mouth, we have a God-given right, nay DUTY, to attribute bad faith to them, to sneer at them, and to accuse them of cowardice, duplicity, and a narcissistic expectation to be allowed to escape the Righteous Condemnation of Nguoi Dang Chay, who seeth and judgeth the souls of all bishops and hath found them wanting.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:11 pm


Billy:
I did. And if that were the question Bp. Wuerl were deliberating, you’d really have a point there.
But it’s not. Try to stick to the subject.



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BillyHW

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:13 pm


And this?
Archbishop Pilarczyk: Mistakes were made blah blah blah. Stop expecting me to take responsibility for my office blah blah blah. Everything’s so complex it makes my head spin blah blah blah. Victims should stop looking at us bishops that way because it makes us uncomfortable blah blah blah. Beside it’s the fault of those people over there blah blah blah. And the media are really mean blah blah blah
A spineless weenie in a mitre with no sense of responsibility gasses on for a great many words.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:16 pm


Billy:
In case you hadn’t noticed, Wuerl is not Pilarczyk. But thanks for making my point for me. Bishops are part of the Borg for you. The sins of one are the sins of all. Treating them like individual persons is too much trouble. Let’s just smear them all.



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Patrick Sweeney

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:17 pm


A bishop has no “national” constituency.
The primary intention of denying communion is to instruct the Catholic (here, a politician) that he or she is in manifest grave sin and call the sinner to repentance. The secondary one is to prevent a confusion of the faithful that a grave sin is either not grave or not a sin entirely.
Both Cardinals Ratzinger and Arinze have spoken of this as being “clear”. Any bishop could deny communion by his own authority under canon law.
Bishop Wuerl’s pleading for the assistance of his brother bishops is like a police officer calling headquarters and asking for backup to write a parking ticket.
The predicate — namely that public advocacy of legal abortion is gravely sinful — isn’t itself declared by the USCCB so Bishop Wuerl is basically asking for the impossible — given the current crew of bishops.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:21 pm


It’s true that there is a need for consistency. And it’s true that it is far too soon to start panicking Bishop Wuerl’s statement. However, I think that people might be concerned concerned because the majority of the individuals who will be voting on a nation-wide policy also failed to perform the simple and obvious episcopal act of instructing priests deny pro-abort politicians (Democrat AND Republican) Communion.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:29 pm


Bingo, Sam. Second comment in the combox and you hit it on the head. A single bishop can do what a committee of 300 can’t–make a decision using his immortal soul as a guide. It has been goal #1 to avoid controversy, second only to figuring out what to do next besides play golf. No one wants to step out front on that one…..I wish they’d figure out what they’re doing–I’m convinced they don’t have a clue what they’re supposed to be doing.



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Christine

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:35 pm


“Bishop Wuerl is a decent man and a very thoughtful bishop.”
I agree. I sometimes catch his half-hour catechetical program on Sundays when I attend early Mass.
He is a gentle and gifted teacher.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:36 pm


I think it’s quite true that they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. Yet when Wuerl acknowledges that fact and attempts to figure out what they should do, he gets hammered for it. Note the key word: “they”, not “he”. I suspect that Wuerl basically agrees with then-Cardinal Ratzinger. However, the trick is to get a coherent witness from the American episcopacy as a whole. Wuerl is seeking that, and for that crime he gets the insta-condemnation of much of St. Blog’s Tribunal of Really Truly Catholic Judges of Souls and Motivations[TM].



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:36 pm


Then, Christine, why is he afraid to advocate teaching without a committee present?



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Christine

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:37 pm


Er — I think I mean AFTER I attend early Mass. It’s not like they have a big screen TV set up in the sanctuary in my parish church, or anything like that, or …. oh, never mind.



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Nguoi Dang Chay

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:39 pm


>>We are free to presume the worst every time they open their mouths.
I think people have, on the whole, been very generous in their appraisal of Wuerl’s proposals. MUCH, much worse things could be said about them. People have offered their fair assessment of the proposals, with (as I see it) a generous bit of lattitude for the unknowns or details. An unbiased arbiter might consider “cowardly” and “bureaucratic” to be rather tame descriptions, on the whole.
Mark Shea demands that we start from the position that whatever Bishop Wuerl proposes is right and proper and hold off any questioning of it until such time as questioning has been Shea-approved (if ever). Obviously Mark is a pompous fool, but in order to be charitable toward him I will stop at that relatively kind characterization.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:42 pm


Mark, I think that they could figure out what they were supposed to be doing if they were to get serious about it. It’s not like there isn’t work to be done.
We’re supposed to figure it out, after all. If they can’t, I don’t know how the hell we’re supposed to.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:47 pm


Michigan:
How do you know he’s “afraid”. Looks to me like he’s saying, “We’re all over the map and it makes the witness of the Church look silly. We need to find a way to get on the same page.” What’s *wrong* with that? What’s cowardly about that?



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BillyHW

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:50 pm


Which mystery blogger wrote these words:
The half empty way of looking the flaccid wimpiness of the Florida bishops’ response to the outrage being done to Terri Schiavo is that the bishops’ behavior has indeed been flaccid and pathetic. These spineless men have, once again, disgraces themselves by their weak tea response.



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BillyHW

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:51 pm


Whoever guesses this one gets a gold star:
Please donate your spine chromosomes to the rest of the American episcopacy!



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:53 pm


the trick is to get a coherent witness from the American episcopacy as a whole.
With all due respect, there is no such thing as an American Catholic Church, except for those who are not part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Rome. We are not a national church, and nationwide policies have absolutely no authoritative merit whatsoever. If they want “to get all the bishops on the same page,” then they need to involve ALL the bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, and they can do all that in October — after all, its on the agenda in Instrumentum Laboris No. 73.
However, I would hazard to guess that involving ALL the bishops and involving Rome is something they would actually like to avoid because they already know the answer — an answer that any First Communion child could tell them. Also, I would tend to doubt that Pope Benedict would have a different opinion than Cardinal Ratzinger on the issue —
Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles
Letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory, published in L’espresso, June 2004
http://catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=6041&longdesc
1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgement regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” nos. 81, 83). . . .
4. Apart from an individuals’s judgement about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).
5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.
6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:55 pm


Mark Shea demands that we start from the position that whatever Bishop Wuerl proposes is right and proper and hold off any questioning of it until such time as questioning has been Shea-approved (if ever).
No. Mark Shea has already made it clear that rational debate about Wuerl’s musings is perfectly proper. That’s why I have no difficulty with Tom Harmon’s or Dale Price’s legitimate concerns about the wisdom of multiplying bureaucracy. What Mark Shea objects to is not rational debate, but the knee-jerk habit of commenters whose first response is to attribute bad faith and cowardice to man who has given us no evidence in the past of these sins.
It would appear that your gift for reading my soul, or even my text, is no better than your gift for reading Bp. Wuerl’s, Nguoi.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 3:56 pm


Billy:
Could you give the date at which Bp. Wuerl was appointed to the Florida episcopacy?



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:01 pm


With all due respect, there is no such thing as an American Catholic Church, except for those who are not part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Rome.
The Creed knows nothing of a “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Rome”. Yes, we are in union with the See of Peter. But “Romanness” is not one of the four marks of the Church, any more than Americanness is.
As to the rest of your point, the simple fact is, American elections concern American bishops, not Ugandan or Vietnamese bishops. Insofar as that reality obtains, there is indeed an “American Church” that needs to concern itself with American issues.



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Nguoi Dang Chay

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:02 pm


>> but the knee-jerk habit of commenters whose first response is to attribute bad faith
This coming from the most judgmental poster of this blog.
“You disagree with me? Well you have no right to an opinion, you are part of the St. Blog Bogeyman Combox Continental Congress [TM]!”
Give the condescension a rest there, Marky Mark. Just because you refer to yourself in the third person doesn’t make you part of the Trinity.



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:06 pm


The Creed knows nothing of a “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Rome”. Yes, we are in union with the See of Peter. But “Romanness” is not one of the four marks of the Church, any more than Americanness is.
Oh, now we’re getting technical??? OK, I’ll refraise it — With all due respect, there is no such thing as an American Catholic Church, except for those who are not part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which for the last 2,000 years has been based in Rome, where the Successor of Peter is the Bishop. Is that better???



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:08 pm


And Mark, the bishops aren’t going to figure out how to do what they need to do by consulting with each other in a huge room like they do (have you caught one of those meetings? Heh), writing another worthless document no one reads (all our children, etc), or passing rules that have no juridical validity whatsoever, like they are wont to do.
They aren’t going to do it by spending literally months and years writing stuff that can’t get approved by Rome because it’s so tacky McDonald’s wouldn’t use it. (Have you ever seen the 1st draft of the CCC? Do you know how long that took?) All this is a monumental waste of time.
They aren’t going to do it by trying every possible dodge to sidestep the Roman Missal–including all those (really strange: stand up or else) exceptions they keep trying to get past the Congregation of Worship and the Sacraments. It would be great if they showed that degree of analytical ability when it comes to actually solving problems, wouldn’t it?
Thank God Rome is wise to their shenanigans now.
They are bishops. They should be educated and qualified men, and they have recourse to the Holy Spirit, so they should be able to figure this out, each for his own diocese, if anyone can.



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Kif Kroker

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:10 pm


And since we are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Eucharist is no less profaned by a French pro-abortion politician, and the people who happen to be living in the United States are no less scandalized by a Canadian pro-abortion politician taking communion, than anywhere else, including here. National distinctions are irrelevant.



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:19 pm


An action can’t be an automatic mortal sin only in Colorado Springs and not in the rest of Colorado.
I don’t have anything to add to the general discussion at present, but this is not strictly true. (Though it may be true that there is no such thing in general as an automatic mortal sin, if that means a mortal sin irrespective of grave matter and consent). Part of being a Catholic is recognizing both the juridical and teaching authority of the local ordinary, and to the extent that there are differences from one ordinary to another it could indeed be a sin to do something as a member of one diocese and not a sin as a member of another. (It might also be a sin to change diocese with the intention of avoiding legitimate episcopal authority). Whether the sin would be mortal or not would depend on the normal criteria, i.e. grave matter and deliberate consent.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:20 pm


Mark,
In each diocese, the bishop of that diocese has the power to do what he needs to do with respect to denying Holy Communion (and a lot of other things, as well). The Pope appoints the bishop of New York, or Washington or Boston or Kalamazoo, for that matter, to serve specifically and precisely that diocese. He is responsible for that area. If he fails, he is responisible for that.
Understand, There is no such thing as a diocese of America, and there are no bishops appointed to the non-existent diocese of America.
If the bishops want to discuss their individual discernments with each other, fine, but the worst of them do not have the power to muzzle the best of them. The laity won’t put up with it anymore.
In addition–nothing, nothing is served by the cowardice we see when they hide behind each other. A bishop’s diocese goes neglected when he will not tend to it, his own responsibility.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:26 pm


Nguoi:
Your eagerness to condemn others is outstripped only by your thin skin.
BTW, Love “Marky Mark”. Haven’t heard that since grade school.
Kif:
Yes, but American bishops aren’t really going to have much impact on Canadian or French elections. American bishops are primarily responsible for their own flock, not somebody else’s.
Michigan:
You know more than I do about the magical way in which a huge bureaucratic structure is going to miraculously coordinate its activities via telepathy. Me: I figure Wuerl is just tossing out some ideas and trying to figure out how people without telepathic powers are going to get from their current status of disarray to something like a coherent witness. The weird part is that the bishops are (rightly) chided for being in disarray but also that the bishop who is trying to bring order out of the chaos is *also* being chided for no good reason I can see.
The moral appears to be, “Whatever bishops do is beneath contempt” at least from some of the St. Blog’s Tribunal.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:28 pm


Adjuration, you said, “It’s easy to have a spine of steel when you’re telling others what to do and not on the hook for the consequences, Colonel Chay.
Why? What can happen? Can the news media fire him? Can he lose his condo and be on unemployment? Come on, get real.
He might get embarrassed. He might have to be less than a totally cool dude on CNN. BIG DEAL.
He should be glad he has the chance to make a difference for the Church and for Christ. He’s a lucky man.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:34 pm


Mark, since when do they need a “huge bureaucratic structure,” as you so aptly put it?
If they can’t do the simple things at home–like get the basics across–they’d better try harder there. Something simple like parish teaching sessions, perhaps. Just tell the truth for once in plain language to laypeople, eh? When was the last time you got a chance to even talk to the bishop?
Sitting down at the Statler Hilton, rehashing total hash for the 99th time isn’t going to help. Especially when it goes nowhere–I can’t believe they haven’t noticed……



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:46 pm


Michigan:
You keep speaking as though Wuerl is “afraid” to teach or say something, when Wuerl himself makes clear that the duty of the local ordinary is to govern his diocese. I don’t see him saying, “I’m afraid to teaching till I have the approval of my peers.” I see him saying, “We are all over the map and it looks ridiculous and confuses the faithful. Let’s get on the same page.” Once again, the assumption is that Wuerl is worried about “looking good on CNN” when you have absolutely no evidence of such base motives.
Re: bureaucracy. I daresay there is far too much bureaucracy in the USCCB. But the fact is, it’s there, and is bound to be there to some degree simply because there are millions of Catholics and its impossible to run a Church with a bishop, a part-time secretary, and a typewriters. That’s life outside the garden. So given the *fact* that the bureaucracy exists and given the fact that different bishops have wildly different views of how to handle politicians, voters, abortion, and communion, how do we get come coherence. Wuerl seeks to answer that rather than just leave everything in chaos. And, true to form, a number of St. Blog’s Tribunal of the Righteous seeks to bayonet one of their own troops for trying to solve this problem rather than to do anything useful.
Wuerl’s musing are of various worth. That’s what you get when you first start mulling a problem over. But Wuerl’s musing proceed from a heart motivated by good faith, as far as I can see. Why then, do we have to waste a bunch of time accusing him of cowardice and duplicity? It just muddies the waters.



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Liam

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:50 pm


“If the bishops want to discuss their individual discernments with each other, fine, but the worst of them do not have the power to muzzle the best of them. The laity won’t put up with it anymore.”
We have all the time, by and large. Don’t see much of a change there, except by laity simply not showing up much any more.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:53 pm


Mark, you said,”Because, of course, as we all know, bishops are members of a Borg collective and are absolutely indistinguishable from one another.
No, and that is exactly my point. Some of them are misled, dismal, new age disasters. Some of them are holy men. Let’s not let the disasters constrain the holy ones, shall we?



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 4:55 pm


Commandment #11. Thou shalt not fail to cohere. Therefore, if one bishop is a loser, all must be. Amen, Amen.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 5:14 pm


Michigan:
Paul says, “if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” The fact is, if the bishops are all over the map, then it only creates confusion. A Protestantized Catholic laity may enjoy the vision of One Heroic Bishop doing… something or other (denying communion to some politician or telling his whole flock they are in mortal sin if they vote for a pro-abortion dog catcher). But the reality is that this is gloss over a great deal of perfectly legitimate moral reasoning, as well as to send a very loud message to the rest of the world that the Catholic Church doesn’t know what the hell it’s talking about. I’d prefer the bishops hammer out a serious policy they can agree on rather than have one bishop kicking out everybody who voted for some pro-choice water district commissioner, while another bishop is hosting beauxeaux from Catholic For a Free Choice in a wrong-headed attempt to be “diverse”. I think it’s possible to have something better than the present chaos.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 5:25 pm


Then, that is one more error to which Protestants are prone. The fact is that although Truth is one, wills are many. If a bishop refuses to accept the responsibility for his diocese, he will explain it to God at the end. Good enough for me. No need to drag down all the other bishops with him.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 5:29 pm


This is just one more example of the tendency to mediocrity in which we seem to be caught, as Catholics. It is alright if someone decides to do a good job. Really. Practice is necessary.
It is okay to recognize that truth counts, even if it’s unpopular. It’s perfectly okay to be virtuous, to recognize beauty and its opposite, ugliness. Good music is fine; bad music stinks. It’s okay. Let’s stop denying it.
Some bishops reek. They do. Be honest.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 5:39 pm


Of course some bishops reek. And therefore… what? It’s a bad thing for Wuerl to seek to reduce the chaos of the witness of the American Church? That makes no sense. Wuerl is a coward? Show me how.
The knee-jerk responses are what I find so puzzling. It’s emotional incontinence, not rational engagement with what Wuerl is actually saying.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 6:13 pm


Uh, Mark, 2+2.
We all know that formal option #1 won’t pass. The USCCB is badly split and can’t pass much of anything, much less by 2/3 (this is precisely the problem you are citing, ahem). We all know that Rome will not mandate formal option #2. In fact, they are on record as such–see the posts above for the explicit canons (esp those regarding juridical power with respect to bishops’ conferences) and comments by none other than Benedict XVI.
So that leaves the informal option–ie. Bishop A cannot move until Bishops B-Z say it’s okay no matter what his conscience tells him. In other words, formal option #1 without the vote. Automatic overrule.
NOTE: It would take a 2/3 majority to declare that dissident politicians should be denied HC. Failing that, an informal agreement to confer until consensus would be in effect in order to accomplish this. So…do you think the side who can’t get the 2/3 majority would be able to magically get a 100% consensus instead? Do you see where this is going????? So, how many does it take to stall the whole thing, therefore never revoking HC?
FYI, Quote: “The less formal approach would require all bishops to agree…” THIS ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE. It would take precisely ONE.
Interesting tactic, an informal one which goes around Rome. I would expect as much. A one-sided tie-breaker with a political sucker punch.
Either Wuerl is a dreadful thinker (a distinct possibility) or this is a backhanded attempt to declare the USCCB the REAL arbiter of these things, not the individual bishop in his own diocese.
The whole thing is a violation of the canons, right there.
And how informally do you think it would be enforced, just out of curiousity?
2+2, simple reading comprehension.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 6:24 pm


Old tactic too. Give 2 different contradictory schemes which seem fair if one doesn’t examine them too closely and people will fall for it every time. Especially these days if it’s a group enterprise which always makes it sound better to most people.
–You have to parse it out– Otherwise you’ll give away the farm. Come on, people. Think.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 19, 2005 at 6:43 pm


Sure there are reasons to be sceptical, but it’s hard to imagine, given the emphatic statements on the matter from Cdl Arinze and BXVI that the Bishops would go into such a meeting and come out with the decision not to bar any politicians from Communion. Bishop Wierl said that ‘a formal mechanism of review by the conference before barring a politician from Communion would require either a two-thirds vote of the bishops and a mandate from the Vatican or a completely unanimous decision by the bishops.’ A mechanism so demanding that no politician would ever get barred–something that Bishops not inclined to denial of Communion might try to introduce–is not likely to get unanimous support, and since non-unanimous support means that the Vatican has to mandate, no such mechanism is likely to get approved.
Things do seem to be changing for the better. For example, in the article cited above, we read that Abp Flynn used to claim that Cdl Arinze was OK with giving Communion to R-sashers. Cdl Arinze very explicitly stated that Abp Flynn was incorrect in his interpretation and that R-sashers are not to be given Communion. Now Abp Flynn denies R-sashers Communion. Why the volte face? One can only guess, but Cdl Arinze’s public repudiation of Abp Flynn’s earlier R-sash-friendly interpretation of the rules may very well have had something to do with it. Recent episcopal appointments suggest that the Vatican has caught on to the problems in the US episcopacy and is doing something about it.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:09 pm


No, reluctant. Be careful. The proposal doesn’t say that. Add up the numbers.
You said, “A mechanism so demanding that no politician would ever get barred–something that Bishops not inclined to denial of Communion might try to introduce–is not likely to get unanimous support….
But nowhere in this proposal is that possible. The proposal is this precisely:
Formal #1. 100% agreement by the bishops that either all of them will withhold HC, OR that all of them will not withhold HC. BUT if there is 100% agreement already, why is this even an issue??? Go to informal option. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Formal #2. 2/3 agreement by the bishops that it is permissible to withhold or not withhold PLUS agreement from Rome (Congregation of Worship & Sacraments, headed by Cdl Arinze). Which Rome has already spoken on several times, and is not ready to provide such a mandate. We all know what Cdl Arinze thinks. If Cdl Arinze mattered to the bishops, once again….there wouldn’t be any issue….Go to informal option. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Informal: Note carefully that the proposal is one-sided here. In order to CHANGE current practice and enable withholding of HC, a 100% agreement would need to emerge in order for even one bishop to withhold HC in his own diocese. Refusal to withhold would require no consensus.
**********Scorecard:**********
Formal #1: 100% no or 100% yes wins. But what’s the issue if we have 100% agreement?
Formal #2: Scenario A–2/3 to not withhold, no Vatican ok (violation of canon). Go to informal option.
Formal #2: Scenario B–2/3 to withhold, no Vatican ok (violation of canon). Go to informal option.
Informal: Scenario A–bishop wants to withhold but must consult. One bishop stalls. All other bishops are overruled by one.
Informal: Scenario B–bishop does not want to withhold but must consult. Big discussion. One bishop doesn’t see it, stalls. All bishops are overruled by one.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:20 pm


And honey, if you don’t think that will happen, it’s implicit in the complaint that we have no agreement on what needs to be done. The process is not the solution, not in this case, not in most cases. It doesn’t help, unless of course, you’re trying to get away with something…….on the basis of one persons’ objections.
So, if this thing goes through, you wanna take bets on who the “one” will be?? I bet they’ll cover for each other by forming blocs…that’s my guess. So how would it have helped??????
The news media will like it–they’ll have something else to ridicule us over.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:30 pm


“Proposal”? The guy is *obviously* throwing out some ideas here, not offering a set-in-granite “proposal” or program. He’s thinking out loud. Sheesh! So much for trying to enter into conversation with the laity about the issues of the day. Muse aloud as a bishop, even in good faith, and you’re sure to be shouted down by the naysayers as a coward and a preening peacock who’s only interested in what CNN thinks.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:34 pm


Musing, eh? You are comic, Shea.
The good bishop shouldn’t take us for such idiots that we might buy a bad bargain like this–even if we are laypeople.
I can’t decide whether this bishop is more condescending or stupid. I suppose it depends on whether he takes this seriously as a fair solution or not, I suppose. And he’s not going to tell us that.
We really should have more intelligent bishops.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:38 pm


If only Donald Wuerl had the massive intellectual firepower and stainless integrity of MichiganCatholic, we’d be alright.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:44 pm


Or the wiles of those who can’t see a freight train coming full steam, like some who refuse to see the numbers right in front of them?
Admit it, Shea. This is a bad bargain and you should be insulted by the mere suggestion of such a pig in a poke by the likes of a bishop.
Bishops are supposed to be able to think better than this. Either they are trying to take the laity as fools, or they really think this will work to solve the problem…or….they are trying to pull a fast one. YOU PICK.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:46 pm


1) trying to take the laity as fools (condescending)
2) really think this will work to solve the problem (stupid–bad arithmetic)
3) trying to pull a fast one (condescending, among other things)



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:53 pm


Or just trying to figure out a way to work toward reducing the chaos of the Church’s witness, and having only the Real World, not an Ideal World, in which to do it. But that would, of course, require Michigan Catholic and the other Members of the Tribunal of the Perfecti to extend charity to Donald Wuerl. Better the innocent shouldbe punished than the guilty escape!
Conversations like this are what make me so glad I’ve been off my blog since Thanksgiving. The sheer toxic loathing of the mortals sins of Faith, Hope and Charity from the Tribunal of the Perfecti are profoundly wearying to the soul. I don’t know how Amy stands it. Maybe she’s just smart and ignores most of it.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 7:55 pm


With that, I’m outta here. I’d rather be swimming than arguing with yet another apostle of the virtue of despair.



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Christopher Sarsfield

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:11 pm


Boy you make a few comments in the morning, go to work and everything breaks loose. You come back and the discussion is over. However, if there is any discussion left I would like to ask Mr. Shea a couple of questions, since I am one of the evil ones judging Bishop Wuerl.
1. My point was that Bishop Wuerl implied that the Conference of Bishops has the legitimate authority to over rule the local ordinary on who should be denied communion – do you believe that this understanding is correct theologically?
2. I agree with you that the US should have a uniform policy (heck I believe the world should have a uniform policy) but the only way you are going to get one is by going to the Vatican. The Vatican alone has the authority to render a decision on this matter that is binding on all American Bishops. Bishop Wuerl should know this.
Finally, I have been scandalized in the past by the way you publicly went after bishops and bragged to anti-Catholics about it. For you now to try to take the high ground, I find hypocritical. The only reason to explain your behavior on this thread is that you happen to think Bishop Wuerl is a great bishop, therefore no matter what he says must be defended. I attend Mass in Pittsburg about twice a month, and I do not share your opinion. Also you implied that Bishop Wuerl does have a strong position with regard to this question, could you enlighten the list as to what it is?



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:23 pm


My point was that Bishop Wuerl implied that the Conference of Bishops has the legitimate authority to over rule the local ordinary on who should be denied communion – do you believe that this understanding is correct theologically?
You didn’t ask me, but I don’t. Bishops are members of the mystical Body of Christ and representatives of the Apostles. They are not little autonomous dictators of little autonomous feifdoms. The appeal to juridical boundaries of formal authority completely misses the point. If the bishop has the authority within his diocese he also has the authority to bind his diocese into unity with other diocese’s on matters critical to an entire region.
And I say that as someone who thinks the specific proposal is nutty. But I can’t fault the underlying theology even a little bit.



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adjuration

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:25 pm


michigancatholic, you said
“Why? What can happen? Can the news media fire him? Can he lose his condo and be on unemployment? Come on, get real.
He might get embarrassed. He might have to be less than a totally cool dude on CNN. BIG DEAL.”
What I was thinking of when I wrote about the bishops being “on the hook” weren’t piddly worldly inconveniences, but rather the consequences for the souls of the flock they are responsible for and not just the souls of the politicians – the souls of those who might turn away from the Church if it looks to them like some bishops use the Blessed Sacrament as a tool to effect a political result. I happen to believe that the odd bishop occasionally thinks about these matters.
I am all for denying the sacrament to those who cooperate in the great evil of abortion. But I believe it has to be clear it’s being done because of truth and not because some bishops (and not others) have an ax to grind. There are all kinds of ways to scandalize.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:30 pm


Zippy, don’t make it up as you go along. Read the canons cited above.
The whole thing is nutty.
Uh, Mark, you think the bishops are “trying to figure out a way to work toward reducing the chaos of the Church’s witness, and having only the Real World, not an Ideal World, in which to do it, as you put it?
Tell them to try holiness rather than politics, obedience rather than subterfuge, honesty rather than coercion. They might get farther.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:48 pm


Adjuration, are you telling me it’s okay to let the wolves in as long as the carnage doesn’t wake up the neighbors?
Sometimes people make the premiss, unconsciously usually, that in general, scandal is so bad that it would be better if the content of catholicism offended no one. This would only be possible if there were no content. But a content-less Catholicism would be worth nothing and have no members. Think about it.
Indeed, not everyone, most of all those untouched by the beliefs of the church, will enter the church. In fact, some enter the Church BECAUSE of her beliefs. Imagine that!



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:54 pm


Zippy, don’t make it up as you go along. Read the canons cited above.
Dude, you are losing it. Have a cappucino or something. The Bishop has the authority to adopt a norm and a process for his diocese, whether you agree with it or not. Nobody has proposed that the norm has to be adopted in a particular diocese against the consent of the ordinary. (And again, FWIW, I think the specific proposal is nutty).



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 8:59 pm


Sorry, Zippy, I read it slowly. Yes, there are canons which cover the bishop’s responsibility in his diocese and also to the Church in general…..You’re right. A diet pepsi for me.
And yes, a bishop should not be over-ruled in his own diocese. Indeed, the Vatican is even loathe to do so…so it is totally off-base to believe the USCCB could do so, even in some kind of agreement….



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:02 pm


…so it is totally off-base to believe the USCCB could do so, even in some kind of agreement…
It is kind of tough to overrule you on something you agreed to though.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:14 pm


But it can’t be juridical, per the laws regarding bishops conferences. And because of that, there is every reason to believe that to enter such an agreement would be ill-advised and unwise.
Thankfully, I think we have some bishops among the many who will be clever enough to point this out. And then realize that they are under absolutely no obligation to involve themselves in such a crazy scheme.
The thing is only a pretense at power, for if they intended to agree, regardless of the moral implications (re abortion) involved, they would do it without a treaty, so to speak.
If Bishop X, Y & Z refuse to go along, what will happen exactly? I’m serious.



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:27 pm


But it can’t be juridical, per the laws regarding bishops conferences.
In other words it can’t come from the top down, from the USCCB down, because the USCCB is not juridically “top”. Sure. It can’t even come from the Holy See down, I don’t think. The most the Holy See could do (I could easily be wrong about this) is threaten to remove bishops who refused to play along. I’m not especially worried about that happening though.
And because of that, there is every reason to believe that to enter such an agreement would be ill-advised and unwise.
Well, it may be unwise, but I am not sure that that in particular is why. The Geneva Convention isn’t necessarily unwise just because there is no international body with actual sovereignity over signatory nations.
If Bishop X, Y & Z refuse to go along, what will happen exactly? I’m serious.
I am virtually certain it has happened before. Didn’t Bruskewitz refuse to go along with some USCCB thing or other recently? I expect everyone would shrug and say “well, things are just a bit different in Nebraska”.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:43 pm


Zippy, I believe you are right about even the Vatican stepping into a diocese. It has to be done by means of an auxiliary on the rare occasions when it’s been done, I believe. They don’t just overrule, or we’d have seen it with Weakland and his cathedral, I expect. It’s one of the things that’s frustrated many people over the last few years…..
Unwise because it would be stupid to bind oneself in an agreement which is specifically defined as non-juridical in canon law. Once simply doesn’t need to make oneself captive in that way. No matter what views one happens to hold.
I think you’re right about abstaining bishops. They’d simply make a name for themselves and that’s not all bad. Some of them have nothing to lose at this point. Chaput, George, Bruskiewicz, Burke, etc….
As well as some bishops of smaller dioceses, like Vasa. There are some good bishops in small dioceses that people rarely hear about….. =)



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 9:55 pm


Yeah, well, they would definitely be fruity to do it IMO, but I think the reason not to do it is that it is substantively not a good idea. I don’t see how it could be (or even should be, as a general thing) excluded on juridical or theological grounds. The problem isn’t in the formalities, it is where the metal meets the meat. And Bishop Wuerl’s underlying pastoral reasons for bringing it up are good ones.



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Mark Shea

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:07 pm


Zippy’s making all my points for me. Thanks, Zip.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:12 pm


Bishops are appointed to specific areas and they are supposed to be responsible for those areas. Abdicating that responsibility to a conference is a very serious change.
Zippy, are you aware that not everyone is averse to hearing the Church teach? Many young people could be reached on the issue of abortion, since half of that generation is already dead by that means.



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:43 pm


Abdicating that responsibility to a conference is a very serious change.
Is signing the Geneva Convention abdicating the responsibility to treat POW’s humanely?



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:46 pm


Can. 393 The diocesan bishop represents his diocese in all its juridic affairs.
Note: it doesn’t say the “conference of bishops” represents……..etc. The diocesan bishop personally represents….
As illustration of that, from the CCC:
878 Finally, it belongs to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry that it have a personal character. Although Christ’s ministers act in communion with one another, they also always act in a personal way. Each one is called personally: “You, follow me”397 in order to be a personal witness within the common mission, to bear personal responsibility before him who gives the mission, acting “in his person” and for other persons: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .”; “I absolve you . . . .”
Therefore it is not possible to abdicate the rulings of the office to a committee. A bishop has personal responsibility which he may not sign away. He can participate with others but not sign away his authority….



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 10:59 pm


It could be if we refused to treat them humanely here, leaving it to the judgment ONLY of the Geneva convention. What if the Geneva convention was ammended to mandate something grossly immoral? Would we be bound to abide by it??



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:01 pm


Look, I was a corporate chief executive for about seven years. I agreed to all sorts of things, established all sorts of processes, got involved in all kinds of alliances, etc. When I agreed with my peers to do things a certain way, because I thought it was a good thing to do, I stuck to my agreements. That doesn’t mean that suddenly my partners had illegitimately taken over authority over my company, and it certainly didn’t mean that the buck suddenly stopped anywhere but with me. Agreeing to do things under certain norms and processes is not “abdicating”.
Now it may be true as a political matter that these guys want to do this to dodge the bullets, “united we cower” and all that. But there is nothing at all inherent in agreeing to norms and a process that turns it into formal “abdication”. Anyone who counted on the idea that I had abdicated my responsibilities just because I had agreed to norms and a process with my peers would be in for a shock.
Also I think you are way too focused on formal juridical matters. As a corporate leader when I got to the point that I had to unholster the gun of formal authority it was always for damage control. Once you’ve gotten to that point you’ve already lost, it is just a question of how bad it is going to go down.



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:03 pm


What if the Geneva convention was ammended to mandate something grossly immoral? Would we be bound to abide by it??
Would we be bound by an amendement we didn’t agree to, adopted under a process we didn’t agree to? Why would we be?
And by “bound”, by the way, I generally mean “bound by my integrity as a leader” not “bound because I’m gonna get spanked by some higher authority”.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:11 pm


Zippy, it becomes a formal abdication if the bishop agrees to be bound by the actions of a conference which legislates against his will in particular cases.
The bishop is supposed to be able to act personally as the CCC passage above says.
If the bishop believes that abortion is evil (church teaching), and he believes that some politician is receiving HC such that they are a) endangering their immortal soul (church teaching), &/or b) giving faulty witness, he may indeed withhold HC on his own authority in his own diocese, as described in the CCC above.
Any and all actions of a council of bishops simply are not juridical in this event. To bind himself to the actions of a council under these circumstances is dishonest, because he simply will not be able to comply. In addition, any demands that the bishop comply, bound or not by agreement, are simply illicit juridically. The USCCB simply does not have this power; it is merely advisory.



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:15 pm


Zippy, it becomes a formal abdication if the bishop agrees to be bound by the actions of a conference which legislates against his will in particular cases.
I like you MC and I like your comments in general, but you are being a fruitcake about this. If I agree to do things under certain conditions I am bound by my integrity to do what I agreed to do. I can’t be bound by my own integrity against my will.



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michigancatholic

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:17 pm


Zippy, you are a rule guru. In your estimation, is there something more at stake here than merely following the rules?
I think there is. I think this whole matter is either:
a) a lousy idea that Wuerl didn’t think about very well, or
b) an attempt to control the bishops of this country by means of yet another power-grabbing scheme.
There is more to being a bishop than just being a voting chair in the USCCB, with its crazy agendas and incredible inertia. Thank God.



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Zippy

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:00 am


In your estimation, is there something more at stake here than merely following the rules?
Sure, there is a lot at stake. Sure, this particular idea is a dumb one. Sure, there could possibly be all sorts of politics at play.
I only take issue with two specific things:
1) That this proposal is a proposal for bishops to formally abdicate their responsibility, and that there are theological or juridical grounds upon which to object to it; and
2) That the underlying pastoral issue is unimportant.



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michigancatholic

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:09 am


Zippy, I think it’s the case that we agree and we’re arguing anyway. =)
The underlying pastoral issue is important, but how you decide what needs to be done is how you define that pastoral issue.
And, I cited the CCC for you. You don’t accept the CCC?



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michigancatholic

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:13 am


I can’t be bound by my own integrity against my will.
Then why is it necessary to get an agreement in the first place, if you are going to do what you’re going to do regardless?



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adjuration

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:14 am


michigancatholic, I don’t know who you mean by the wolves or the neighbors. I was just pointing out that there are all kinds of unintended and possibly damaging effects possible when a bishop acts and that it’s wise for him to consider those effects.
I’m open to the possibility that there might be bishops who are intelligent and faithful and want to do what’s right and good and are thinking about more than their comfy spots on CNN or whatever. I meant to convey in my original comment to Colonel Chay that mouthing off about backbones is easy when you’re not the one who’s going to be called to account on judgment day for how well you tended the flock. That is if you believe in that sort of thing.



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michigancatholic

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:22 am


I meant to convey in my original comment to Colonel Chay that mouthing off about backbones is easy when you’re not the one who’s going to be called to account on judgment day for how well you tended the flock. That is if you believe in that sort of thing.
Yes, I do believe iin that sort of thing. Don’t you?
And yes, I would not want to be a bishop who had abdicated or relativized my responsibility at the end of my life. To whom more is given, more is expected.



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Zippy

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:25 am


Then why is it necessary to get an agreement in the first place, if you are going to do what you’re going to do regardless?
It seems to be your position that a leader cannot make any commitments without abdicating his authority. That strikes me as, well, ludicrous.



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Zippy

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:26 am


And, I cited the CCC for you. You don’t accept the CCC?
No, I don’t accept your ridiculous interpretation of it.



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michigancatholic

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:28 am


If the agreement is not going to influence you anyway, why agree? Simply to go along and get along? I’m serious.



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:43 am


Well, I’m glad that I’ve gone all day and missed the kuffufle. Scanning it was remarkably unenlightening.
Kevin:
FYI, neither Bishop Fisher nor Tracey Rowland understood the withholding of communion from a pro-abortion politician as a matter of definitive Church teaching.
Part of the problem with the random pronouncements around the US in the fall of 04 was the failure to carefully distinquish between prudential judgement and definitive Church teaching in this area of politicians who support policies that would facilitate an intrinsic evil(and there are many intrinsic evils besides abortion)
Bishop Fisher felt that it was counter-productive to refuse communion to a politician in the heat of an election (and this from a man who is known as a straight talker and whose life-long passion is life issues) while Dr. Rowland felt that (then) Cardinal Ratzinger had made a convincing theological case for doing just that.
But note the language she used – a convincing theological case, not a authoritative teaching that binds us. Bishop Fisher obviously felt free to disagree with her – on prudential grounds – without denying Church teaching in any way.
After listening to the debates in the US, it was stunning how non-dogmatic these two world-class experts were on the issue.



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John

posted August 20, 2005 at 6:00 am


If every Bishop acted according to the teachings of Jesus on life issues we would not have this dicussion.
michigancatholic seems to understand what is at stake. his detractors seem to deliberatly misunderstand that in the ideal Catholic Church Bishops would act in concert with each other and the Vicar of Christ not because they possess telepathic powers but because they understand and live the faith that they also profess to teach.



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Zippy

posted August 20, 2005 at 7:55 am


If the agreement is not going to influence you anyway, why agree? Simply to go along and get along? I’m serious.
Who said that agreements entered into voluntarily will not in any way influence you later? Your position is basically that a Bishop can’t enter into an agreement he intends to stick to: that in order to avoid formally abdicating his authority he can never enter into any agreements with his peers; that entering into an agreement with his peers, that he consideres binding on himself (through his own integrity), is abdication.
That. Is. Ludicrous.



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hank

posted August 20, 2005 at 8:28 am


John, isn’t michigancatholic a woman? I thought he/she was for some reason. Secondly, someone upthread made a remakr about Shea going after bishops and bragging to anti-Catholics about it. What was THAT about?



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anon

posted August 20, 2005 at 8:31 am


I am a hundred times more scandalized by these comments than I could ever be by Bishop Wuerl’s statement.
Bishop Wuerl has repeatedly shown himself to be a good, holy, and faithful bishop. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Assume that you do not understand what he is saying or that you do not understand his point of view. Assume that he knows things about the situation that you simply are not privy to. Even assume that he is horribly mistaken. But your conscience should convict you if you assume that he is not exactly what he has always shown himself to be: good, holy, and faithful.



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Mark Shea

posted August 20, 2005 at 10:08 am


Hank:
Shea has gone after bishops in the past. For instance, I thought Bp. Lynch’s treatment of Schiavo as horrible. Shea has also had some serious second thoughts about some of his remarks which tended (just like some commenters here) to tar all bishops for the sins of some and to assume an uncharitable attitude or go off on a hair trigger when the evidence did not justify it. Shea has said as much on his blog.
I don’t know what “bragging to anti-catholics” is about.



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michigancatholic

posted August 20, 2005 at 5:48 pm


You got it, John. That’s the idea. Holiness isn’t a pact; it isn’t a political agreement; one doesn’t vote on it; one doesn’t get it in a political consensus.
Forcing each bishop to consult all the others before he can act is wrong–wrong according to canon law, wrong according to tradition, wrong morally.
I suppose the next thing they’ll be claiming is that a bishop isn’t allowed to pray by himself because maybe he’ll come up with an inspiration from God that they don’t all get….naughty, naughty.
Because after all, it takes a village….. or something like that.



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michigancatholic

posted August 20, 2005 at 6:02 pm


Zippy, your logic is whacked, my friend. There are bishops who are ready to withhold HC because they think it’s necessary. We know this because they’ve said so and done so. Maybe you weren’t paying attention?
Do you seriously believe they will simply roll over and stop because the other bishops say they should, regardless of the teaching of the Church? If so, why didn’t they do that in 2004 when the pressure was on??? Do you realize how highly placed the support is for this action???
And do you seriously think they will agree to enter into a “no-withhold” agreement if they know they will be bound by it? WHY? There is no reason at all why they might be shoe-horned into such a coercive act.
Zippy, it might be convenient for you or for the pacifists (or progressivists, democrats or whatever) to believe that this might happen, but it’s totally out there. They conscience of those bishops can’t be smothered like that. Some of them, hon, aren’t *that* stupid. Or evil.



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Zippy

posted August 20, 2005 at 6:13 pm


Maybe you weren’t paying attention?
I have no doubt that many people have given this matter more attention than me; and may have given it less. But I don’t think I am the one suffering from logical problems.
And do you seriously think they will agree to enter into a “no-withhold” agreement if they know they will be bound by it?
You think they would agree to it if they did not intend to follow through?
I’ve already said that I think it is highly unlikely happen and not very smart. But you’ve got this self-contradictory notion in your head that a Bishop can involuntarily consent to something. If some or all of the bishops agree to norms and a process than they should be bound by their integrity to follow those norms and that process.
Do you think that a marriage is intrinsically coerced (which would make it invalid under canon law) just because the husband and wife are bound to it once they have agreed to it?
Forcing each bishop to consult all the others before he can act is wrong.
It. Isn’t. Forcing. When. It. Is. Agreed. To. Ahead. Of. Time.



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Colleen

posted August 20, 2005 at 6:35 pm


Anyhow…
So say a consensus is formed for the diocese of the USA… shouldn’t the same consensus be in effect for the all the dioceses of the world? I mean if we are all over the page here in the states and it is making Catholics look like they don’t know which end is up, why is it any different for other dioceses not located in the USA but are obviously part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith.
FWIW, I can’t imagine a consensus here in the states, this should be settled by the individual conscience of the bishop/priest/penitent with plenty of good catechisis which this controversy has spawned.



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Colleen

posted August 20, 2005 at 6:42 pm


“It. Isn’t. Forcing. When. It. Is. Agreed. To. Ahead. Of. Time.”
But then you’d have to have every single bishop voting in favor of the agreement and (not sure on this) don’t statements/agreements/policies/whatever only take 2/3 to pass? So there will be bishops who disagree with whatever policy is adopted and they will be forced to act against what they believe is the right thing to do (either way this theoretical vote goes).



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tcreek

posted August 20, 2005 at 6:45 pm


I see the distribution of communion to a pro abortion politician as a side issue to the real question . . . is it sinful for a Catholic to knowingly vote for a politician who is indisputably pro-abortion? It is “no thanks” to the bishops that John Kerry is not now the president of the United States. While they mostly fumbled and stuttered on the opportunity to teach on this issue, committed Catholics and other Christians were in the forefront of his defeat and thus saved many lives. Kerry would have immediately rescinded the Mexico City policy, pushed for abortions in military hospitals and vetoed “partial birth abortion” legislation.
I wonder if the bishops would vote to deny communion to Kerry if he was president. I don’t see them, as a body, with the guts to do this or much anything else worthwhile in the defense of the Faith.



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 20, 2005 at 11:18 pm


“Is it sinful for a Catholic to knowingly vote for a politician who is indisputably pro-abortion?”
As I have stated several times, the answer at the moment is that *there is no definite Church teaching on the subject of voting as formal cooperation in an intrinsic evil* (which is what would make it a mortal sin).
I’ve posted this before from my notes of my November 2, 2004 discussions with Bishop Fisher and Dr. Rowland but a refresher might be good:
Bishop Fisher stated that there was no theological basis for asserting *categorically* that a Catholic could not, in good faith, vote for either US candidate since both had serious problems from the perspective of Church teaching. Fisher said that if he were an American, he’d be voting for Bush – precisely because of the abortion issue, but that it would be a matter of personal prudential judgment. Life issues had been his personal passion since he was at university and naturally they dominate his moral appraisal of the current scene. Fisher noted that other people with other expertise would naturally be pre-occupied with different areas of grave concern that would shape their prudential judgment.
Fisher then made a fascinating comment that I have not heard elsewhere – that there is no basis in Church teaching for comparing two very different “intrinsic evils” and determining that one is objectively and absolutely more grave than the other.
One can compare levels of a similar intrinsic evil. You could say that 4,000 abortions is more grave than 40 or that a genocidal conflict that killed 10,000 was a more grave evil than one in which only 500 died.
But you can’t, on the basis of current Catholic teaching, categorically determine that abortion, for instance, is always and absolutely more grave than a given unjust war or torture or severe economic injustice. By definition, something that is truly intrinsically evil can’t be relatively less evil than another intrinsic evil.
If abortion were “objectively and absolutely more grave” than any other intrinsic evil or any other combination of intrinsic evils – we’d be saying that a single abortion would morally outweigh 1,000 tortures or the genocide of millions. Catholics would have to have supported Adolf Hitler who actually outlawed abortion late in his regime (while he was firing up those gas chambers, you know). No Catholic anywhere in the world could ever consider any factor other than abortion in voting ever again.
So one cannot state, as definitive Church teaching, that the gravity of the evil of abortion must outweigh all other intrinsic evils or any possible combination of intrinsic evils in our political calculations. An individual could arrive at such a *prudential judgment* in a particular situation in good faith but one’s prudential judgement on that score isn’t definite Church teaching and only obliges oneself, not others. It is possible that an equally faithful Catholic could come to a quite different prudential conclusion in good conscience.
When I said that it was my observation that quite a few serious Catholics in the US were under the impression that doctrine had developed in this area, Fisher responded that a few bishops making personal pronouncements simply isn’t the development of doctrine.
When I asked Rowland why some US bishops had made such statements when Church teaching did not support it, she pointed out that many bishops are not familiar with the nuances of Church teaching in this area. Rowland (unlike Fisher, who thought that any talk of ex-communication in the midst of an election was imprudent) believed that Ratzinger had made a good case for refusing communion to a politician who publicly supports abortion but also agreed that there simply wasn’t any clear Church teaching about voting as a form of formal cooperation with evil.
So here’s the deal:
A Bishop cannot go where the Church has not yet gone. No bishop can define, as a matter that obliges all Catholics under pain of sin, something which the Church herself has not yet defined. It isn’t a matter of spinelessness or covert dissent. No individual bishop has the authority to do such a thing. A Bishop can only teach what the Church herself teaches.
I can understand people being unhappy that the Church does not have a definite answer in this area and eager that the discernment begin but we have to face the fact that the teaching just isn’t there yet, folks! So its time we stop judging our bishops for something that they cannot do.



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michigancatholic

posted August 20, 2005 at 11:35 pm


Zippy, all this is circular. What makes you think they will agree to it ahead of time? Huh?
You guys have had your nervous systems rebooted too often listening to Catholic music……



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michigancatholic

posted August 21, 2005 at 12:10 am


Consider this: Next bishop’s meeting. The USCCB holds a vote and 76% vote to accept Wuerl’s proposal, 24% vote not to accept it. Passed–one of the options will be put into place, as proposed by Wuerl.
They opt, because this is the way the proposal is written, to try the formal route first. They vote. 70% never withhold, 30% withhold as needed. It is not unanimous, so they must seek a statement from Rome. Rome refuses because they’ve already addressed the issue.
So they have to turn to the informal option. They have voted 76-24% to adopt Wuerl’s proposal and the informal option is all they have left. That informal proposal says that each & every bishop must yield to the council to operate in his own diocese. And it has been passed and accepted by a 2/3++ majority.
So where does that put the bishops whose prudential judgment is that withholding HC is necessary in some cases??
At least one will defect I assure you, and they should. It’s a ridiculous setup to be overruled without one’s consent like that. The bishop loses the ability to use his prudential judgment in his own diocese!



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michigancatholic

posted August 21, 2005 at 12:12 am


Sherry, a bishop certainly can withhold HC in his own diocese on the basis of his prudential judgment. It’s actually been done many times and the Church has spoken on it. It is permitted.



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Zippy

posted August 21, 2005 at 8:36 am


MC wrote:
Zippy, all this is circular. What makes you think they will agree to it ahead of time? Huh?
Not a thing, which is why I am not particularly worried about it happening. But your position seems to be that if they did, that would be an abdication of authority and violate canon law. Which is ridiculous: entering into agreements with your peers is not abdication of authority.
Colleen wrote:
So there will be bishops who disagree with whatever policy is adopted and they will be forced to act against what they believe is the right thing to do (either way this theoretical vote goes).
I don’t think so. An individual Bishop could ignore the USCCB, on his own authority alone, if he so chose. I can’t remember the particular issue but I think Bruskewitz did just that recently. A Bishop could conceivably opt out of the USCCB entirely.



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 21, 2005 at 8:42 am


Michigan:
What staggers me about these conversations is the apparent inability of many to grasp that the historic teaching regarding formation of conscience, intention, and formal coooperation still apply even if the topic at hand is abortion. Strangely enough, the very same commenters remember these principles perfectly clearly when the subject at hand is the bombing of Hiroshima or the war in Iraq.
The special circumstances of the 2004 US election did not revise or alter many centuries of Church teaching on what constitutes good faith, prudential judgement, and mortal sin.
No bishop can impose his own prudential judgement on his people on *pain of mortal sin* nor can he present it as definite Church teaching. If you come to that prudential conclusion only you are obliged; even if you are a bishop, you cannot insist that your neighbor rises and falls spiritually over their adherence to your conclusion.
The most we can say is that if you voted for a candidate that publicly supported an intrinsic evil with the *specific intention* of enabling the practice of the intrinsic evil in question (and you knew that it was an intrinsic evil), you would be in a state of mortal sin.
A bishop *cannot* pronounce that anyone who votes for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil is in a state of mortal sin *regardless of the voter’s understanding of the situation and intention*. He cannot say that all such voters must go to confession and “recant” their vote before receiving communion. He can’t because it isn’t the teaching of the Church. Period.
But that is exactly what a few bishops said quite publicly in the last election. And that is what a number of conservative Catholics in the US believed and insisted was Church teaching even though it has never been taught in the history of the Church (a universal electorate being a very recent development – the question simply hadn’t come up before).
The horror around St. Blog’s with which many regarded a Catholic who admitted to even thinking of supporting or voting for Kerry shows that some of us believed that the abortion issue absolutely and categorically trumped any other considerations – including those of other true intrinsic evils and that no one could vote for Kerry in good conscience. Indeed, I remember a few stalwarts here even proposing that abstaining from voting was formal cooperation with abortion because it would indirectly support Kerry’s candidacy. It just isn’t true.
A faithful Catholic could have calculated the issues at stake very differently and voted for John Kerry for other reasons in good faith and have no reason to go to confession about that. And an individual bishop’s pronouncement of his prudential judgement cannot change that.
And just in case anyone’s wondering, I did vote for Bush, reluctantly and specifically because of the abortion issue. But I don’t pretend that my prudential judgement applies to anyone else.



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Colleen

posted August 21, 2005 at 11:08 am


Thank you very much Sherry. You are so clear and precise!
One great thing I think happened during the last presidential election is that all Catholics who are Catholics first really had to think about life issues (birth, death, war, social issues) and vote their faith first – whichever way it went. For us, issues really came out first in this election and not the personality of the guy running.
I voted for Bush as well – probably because Kerry is one of my state senators and I know exactly where he stands on issues from over the years close up exposure to him. I disagree with Bush on the death penalty and I am still up in the air on the war but the body bags of our guys break my heart and I seriously question if it’s worth it (although it seems Kerry would have [by his own admission at the time] opted for war as well). I guess only time will tell on the war. The social issues made me nuts in a way because with Kerry, they would only benefit those of us fortunate to escape the womb alive and kicking.
Particularly the partial birth abortion horror precludes me from voting for anyone who would further its tentacles. All we can do is pray for the person who embraces it because that person is really lost in the wilderness. Instead of creating a nitch in the USCCB to make a hard and fast rule deciding what Catholic is in good enough standing to receive the Blessed Sacrament (are any of us), maybe those resources should be used to further (down to the pews) the Catholic understanding of the sanctity of life so that consciences will be better formed. This would start with CCD and also be addressed in homilies –> with concrete help from the parish community giving help to those girls finding themselves in the position of accidental pregnancy. I think it was Marvin Olasky who wrote an excellent book on how the parishes of old were responsible for those who found themselves in times of need. Now it is the government and layers of anon bureaucracy who is responsible for deciding who is worthy of help.



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catholic

posted August 21, 2005 at 2:45 pm


Thank you, Sherry. Your clear exposition of the current state of Church teaching is a refreshing change from the usual accusations and name calling.
peace



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Mary K.

posted August 21, 2005 at 3:03 pm


I would also like to thank Sherry Weddell for her contributions to this thread.



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tcreek

posted August 21, 2005 at 4:37 pm


People can fudge Church teaching regarding war and abortion all they want but this does not change their responsibilities before God. The Catechism makes it clear that there is no moral equivalence between these issues. A Catholic with a correctly formed conscience would know this.
George Bush has the God given right and responsibility to use his prudential judgment to decide how best to protect the people of this country. That right and responsibility is his alone (not yours, not mine and not the bishops) and it is in accord with Church teaching to support that decision.
If John Kerry was president there would be many more abortions and he would appoint pro abortion judges who would prolong this “grave moral evil”.
“When Catholic officials openly support the taking of human life in abortion, euthanasia or the destruction of human embryos, they are no longer faithful members in the Church and should not partake of Holy Communion. Moreover, citizens who promote this unjust taking of human life by their vote or support of such candidates share in responsibility for this grave evil.” — Archbishop Alfred Hughs



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 21, 2005 at 5:56 pm


“People can fudge Church teaching regarding war and abortion all they want but this does not change their responsibilities before God. The Catechism makes it clear that there is no moral equivalence between these issues. A Catholic with a correctly formed conscience would know this.”
The difference between Church teaching on war and church teaching on abortion is that the Church recognizes, that under certain limited circumstances, a war *might* be just and abortion is always an intrinsic evil. Certainly abortion would be evil and a just war would not be (in itself – of course, many intrinsic evils could be committed as a result of the war)
But we can’t make any blanket statement about wars in general vs. abortion because the issue is “what war are we talking about?”. We can’t say that abortion is always more intrinsically evil than any war that has been or could be fought. I have to first ask “which war” and “how does this war shape up in terms of the Church’s teaching about just war”?
If a particular war does not meet the criteria of a just war, (lets say it wasn’t defensive and involved intentional large scale carpet bombing of civilians to induce terror) that particular war is an intrinsic evil (that is, an act that is objectively and intrinsically wrong, no matter what the intention behind it).
In that case, as Bishop Fisher pointed out, there is no basis in Church teaching for comparing two very different “intrinsic evils” and determining that one is *objectively and absolutely more grave* than the other. That means that any given abortion doesn’t automatically “outrank” any given unjust war on the “evil scale”.
I could make (and might need to make) a prudential judgment that the deaths of 100,000 civilians in a terror bombing in this particular war is a more grave evil than 100 abortions that occurred in town last year, for instance. Or that the death of a thousand babies through abortion is more grave than this particular low-level war that isn’t just but only involves a few hundred people. But I can’t make any blanket statement that obliges all believers about wars in general vs. abortion in general.
Anytime we have to make a practical decision about a real life situation, we have moved into the realm of prudential judgement.
The Church’s moral teaching isn’t based upon sweeping generalizations and according to party lines. It is always oriented to real life choices made in real situations by real people who do what they do for all sorts of reasons. That’s why it takes real intellectual and spiritual effort to discern: the effort to really look at, think through and pray through the actual situation before me.
Just FYI, the catechism, while a wonderful source, isn’t a definite source of authoritative Church teaching in itself. It is an approved summary of Church teaching, an “interpretation” but not a direct source of revelation. I mention that because I often noticed posters trying to use the catechism to “interpret” out of consideration or even nullify some statement in magisterial teaching that, in fact, has a much higher level of authority. One understands the catechism in light of authoritative Church teaching as found in Scripture, ecumenical councils and papal encyclicals. One cannot set the catechism against its sources.



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Liam

posted August 22, 2005 at 7:18 am


Sherry
As someone who in good conscience could not vote for either Kerry or Bush, I appreciate your detailed analysis. I was shocked to find some St. Blog’s comboxers accusing me of thereby supporting evil. This helps close the loop on that loopy notion.



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tcreek

posted August 22, 2005 at 7:25 am


Sherry says – “Just FYI, the catechism, while a wonderful source, isn’t a definite source of authoritative Church teaching in itself.”
John Paul II says in APOSTOLIC LETTER FIDEI DEPOSITUM – GUARDING THE DEPOSIT OF FAITH on page 5 of the Catechism
The Doctrinal Value of the Text
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.”



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Zippy

posted August 22, 2005 at 9:20 am


A few more or less distinct thoughts:
The catechism is a sure norm for teaching the faith. (That is the core purpose of any catechism – to teach the faith). It is a textbook for the faith, making it accessible to a very wide audience.
A good college civil law textbook is a sure norm for teaching the law. But it shouldn’t be confused with the statutes themselves. Sherry’s point about the character of the catechism as a source is a reasonable one, though it isn’t necessarily clear exactly how it applies here without that application being made more explicit.
In my view the fact that actual moral choices on the ground always involve an evaluation of particular facts, and thus are always prudential judgements, is ultimately cold comfort both to those who provide support to the abortion hegemon and those who support manifestly unjust wars. Yes, whether the act in question is in fact an abortion or an unjust war (both of which are intrinsically evil: unjust wars are intrinsically evil too) depends on the facts on the ground.
Policies deal with categories of things though. A policy that favored unjust war in general (say, a policy of preventive war) and a policy of unrestriced (that is, a “right” to) abortion are both intrinsically evil policies. A bishop is well within his rights to require that the faithful in his diocese must not support intrinsically evil policies. A bishop is well within his rights, and indeed it is arguably his responsibility, to require of the faithful that they not treat evil categories of acts as good categories of acts. Categories of acts should not be conflated with particular acts. It may be a prudential judgement (that is, it is fact-dependent) whether a particular act falls into an evil category or not. But that does not translate into a license to treat evil categories as “prudentially” good categories. There is no such thing as a category of evils that can be “prudentially” good.
Whether a sin is mortal or not depends upon subjective factors, that is, not just grave matter but knowledge and consent. But the criteria for denying Communion isn’t “mortal sin”, it is “manifest grave sin”: the objective third-party observable properties in question.



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 22, 2005 at 11:00 am


Zippy:
I agree with most of your comments in the entire thread and appreciated your thoughtful tone. I have one caveat.
The only way that voting could be a “manifest grave sin” is if the person involved had huge public attention, made it very public as to how they would vote and clearly indicated that they were voting for the policy of intrinsic evil in order to promote the evil in question.
Obviously, some politicians were and are in that situation but many are not and the average voter almost never is.
Again, since this is a matter of practical judgement of the actual situation on the ground by the bishop or priest responsible, there is no hard and fast rule per se. In some cases, it would be manifestly necessary to refuse communion.
But the outcry among some conservative Catholics seems to be “away with prudential judgement – its just a cover for dissent and cowardice”. Let’s just issue our own blanket edict that ignores little details like situation and understanding and intention and says “if you vote X, its a mortal sin”. It’s so much cleaner (and satisfying) to just drawn lines in the sand.
Honestly, I think that some of the hysteria was a cover for trying to use this issue to force people to vote for Bush without taking time to really think or pray over the multiple issues involved, which heaven knows, were full of life and death considerations.
The stakes were so high that some people felt justified in abridging Church teaching to a few sound bites that would galvanize the faithful in the way we wanted them to be galvanized. And since most lay Catholics have never gotten decent formation in moral decision-making, a number swallowed it whole.
Now is the time to form people in the full teaching of the Church to prepare them for 2008 and all the elections to come . . .
It’s time for the real deal, folks, the whole faith, not simply slogans.



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Liam

posted August 22, 2005 at 11:53 am


“The stakes were so high that some people felt justified in abridging Church teaching to a few sound bites that would galvanize the faithful in the way we wanted them to be galvanized. And since most lay Catholics have never gotten decent formation in moral decision-making, a number swallowed it whole.”
And many more found the abridgment so unconvincing that it discredited the larger project with them. (And I am not talking about people who simply wanted an excuse to vote any way they wanted; people who want an excuse can always find one.)
And that is worrisome. Don’t forget those folks in 2008; they are going to need to hear some very clear clarification of the message. And that may necessitate some teachers admitting upfront that they ran too freely with things. That might help restore credibility with these folks.



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Zippy

posted August 22, 2005 at 3:28 pm


The only way that voting could be a “manifest grave sin” is if the person involved had huge public attention, made it very public as to how they would vote and clearly indicated that they were voting for the policy of intrinsic evil in order to promote the evil in question.
I agree, and I think it is important to distinguish between two sorts of admonitions: the admonition not to present ourselves for Holy Communion under certain conditions and the admonition that certain public figures will be publicly refused communion. The two situations are very much distinct. I don’t recall any bishop saying that a voter should be denied communion by a priest or extraordinary eucharistic minister based on how he voted. After all, such a thing can hardly be known, unless someone is bragging about it and making a spectacle of himself. I suppose I agree that someone who made a public spectacle of saying “I voted for Kerry because he will protect the right to choose” or “I voted for Bush because he’ll kill all those terrorist Moslems before they have a chance to attack us” might in principle qualify for refusal by an EEU, but I don’t think that was even discussed by bishops during the election.
At the end of the day, if someone quietly voted for Kerry because of his support for abortion or for Bush because of his doctrine of preventive war (in the latter case making a conscious choice to reject Catholic Just War teaching; in the former making a conscious choice to reject Catholic teaching on the intrinsic evil not just of abortion-qua-abortion but of supporting a legal right to it) then it might be reasonable for a Bishop to warn such persons – not in an enforced or individual way, but just in a general way – not to receive Communion until that issue is resolved with a confessor.
They are two quite different scenarios though: public refusal of a specific person by an EEU versus a general admonition to refrain of one’s own free will until resolving an issue with a confessor.



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Liam

posted August 22, 2005 at 5:03 pm


Zippy
Yes. The problem is that there were those who did not distinguish the levels of cooperation and intent on the part of voters. While I could not vote for either Bush or Kerry in good conscience, I could understand that there might be people who could, who voted for either man *in spite of* (rather than *because of*) their stands that I discerned completely disqualifying. (By the way, there were some — albeit fewer in my experience — lefty Catholics who did this, too; I have critiqued them, too.)
There were people in the comboxtariate who were quite resolute in reading certain bishops’ statements to annihilate such distinctions.



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Sherry Weddell

posted August 23, 2005 at 8:21 am


Liam, what our bishop said was 1) if you vote for a candidate supported any of 5 specific positions (with no qualifications as to why you did or exactly what the nature of their support of the evil in question was; 2)you are in a state of mortal sin and must “recant” your vote and go to confession before receiving communion.
As one elderly man said to my pastor:
“Have I been in a state of mortal sin for the past three years and didn’t know it? I voted for Bush in 2000 and he supports embryonic stem cell research.”
How far back was this sin supposed to go? “Father, forgive me, I voted for Ronald Reagon in 1984 . . .”



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