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January 15, 2007

Comments

Ephrem

As a native San Diegan, I have known the vile, slanted "journalism" of the Holman papers for decades. They frequently print bold headlines pasted together from rumors and innuendo. And the NEVER paint a bishop in a positive light. I would definitely take this reportage with a big sack of salt.

lickona

I want to add something without seeming snide. I was there for the Archbishop's address to CL, and in it, he granted that the Church, at least in America over "the '60s, '70s, and '80s," had, in large part, failed to pass along to its members many of the basic tenets of the faith, so that Catholics were leaving the Church not because they rejected its teachings, but because they simply didn't know them, because they didn't see the point of staying. He told a story about informing at stunned college student that Catholics really do believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I thought it a remarkable, even brave, admission from so high-ranking a source. And while it's dangerous to be disappointed over what people don't do that you wish they would (the list of such things easily become endless), I take your point about sending a message.

Rich Leonardi

Perhaps Archbishop Wuerl is catechizing and attempting to work with "Nancy" in private, and perhaps he didn't mention it because he and/or Archbishop Niederauer are engaged in this private outreach and the questions asked by this reporter did not directly ask him about that.

Yes. But would it hurt to make a reference to it? It would clarify what he means by a "different style of pastoral ministry."

lickona

Oh, and Ephrem,
You may not like the Holman papers, but you will not ever find an instance in one of them where a quote is fabricated. Since what Amy cites here is a question and answer exchange built on quotes, I don't think that sack of salt is required.
It's also false to say that they never paint a bishop in a positive light. I wrote a column for the News Notes for years under the name Broderick Barker, and one of those columns is titled Cheers for Bishop Brom. The paper was founded in response to the diocese's refusal to run a series of pro-life ads in its own paper - perhaps a measure of frustration with the hierarchy is understandable. I'm not going to defend everything that ran in the NN - for one thing, I haven't read it all - but I don't think it fair to call its journalism "vile."

Scherza

I'm disappointed that those in positions of leadership in our church refuse to challenge those who both publicly claim the Catholic faith and equally publicly flout the doctrines of Holy Mother Church.

Firstly, I'm married to a non-Catholic Christian, and I've spent quite a bit of time with various groups from his church. One of the most frequent criticisms of Catholics that I hear from these people is the charge of hypocrisy -- that Catholics don't practice what they preach and it doesn't seem to matter. All the publicity about politicians who embrace anti-Catholic positions and face no discipline from the hierarchy reinforces this stereotype.

Secondly, I teach in a Catholic high school. Our students are at a point in their lives where they question everything, up to and including the existence of absolute Truth. We live in a culture of moral relativism, where everything around these teenagers tells them that it's okay to do what you want and not worry about consequences -- that right is a matter of personal taste. When they see Catholics in prominent positions who are prophets of moral relativism and hear the deafening silence of the priests, bishops, and archbishops, it sends them a clear message -- that the Church really doesn't believe, evidenced by the inaction of her ministers, what she preaches in her words. And they go to college and many of them leave the church, because a faith that's built only on the tenet of "be nice to everyone and God will be happy with you" is too weak to bear fruit.

Why must we feel apologetic about an unwavering devotion to Truth? Where is the courage to take a stand against false prophets?

Mike

"Perhaps Archbishop Wuerl is catechizing and attempting to work with "Nancy" in private, and perhaps he didn't mention it because he and/or Archbishop Niederauer are engaged in this private outreach and the questions asked by this reporter did not directly ask him about that."

Yes. But would it hurt to make a reference to it? It would clarify what he means by a "different style of pastoral ministry.

Yes it would, if you take seriously the value of privacy in pastoral counseling. Note that I'm not saying that such an outreach is going on.

Randy

Russell Shaw wrote on Catholic Exchange about how the pope was trying not to focus on negative teaching. Is it possible Weurl is doing the same thing. If he would do what you want it would totally dominate his public image and put him deep in the mud of partisan politics. There is more to the faith than being against abortion. You need to pick you battles. I would not be so hard on him for not making a scene.

As far as the message others get. There will always be those who choose to disobey and find excuses. Sure they will use this. Do they really believe Catholicism isn't about discipleship? Not if they have been paying attention. If they get the Catholicsm from the Washington Post then maybe they do. If they make a serious effort to figure out what the church is about they won't think that.

Rich Leonardi

Mike,

He implies he operates from a "different style of pastoral ministry." It behooves him to define what that style is, and I would think he can do so without getting into specifics.

Rich Leonardi

... specifics about Nancy Pelosi's situation.

M.Z. Forrest

In the words of Bishop Bruskewicz, roughly paraphrased, a response to Rich from Bp Wuerl:

Some man from Ohio thinks he can tell me how to run my diocese. This person I do not recognize demands that others offer correction to me as if they had the authority to do so.

-----------------

Quite frankly, it is none of your damned business why Archbishop Wuerl offers Nancy Pelosi communion. He doesn't owe you an explanation. He doesn't have to consult you before he acts. He doesn't care if you put a frowny face on your next letter to him.

Why people have so much invested in such a low probability event, I can't figure out excluding the cause of rank partisanship.

Michaelus

This is the questions that should have been asked: What, your Excellency, are you doing to save the soul of Nancy Pelosi?
Forbiding her to receive the Holy Eucharist is not a punishment - it is a tool that may save her soul. As far as we can possible know Mrs. Pelosi has separated herself in a very serious way from God's love. Are you as her Bishop working to help her?

thomas tucker

Regardless of whether or not she is allowed to receive Communion, he should be forcefully speaking out about these issues and publicly opposing her stands (just as she publicly opposes the Church's stands) on these issues. I wish he would take his cue from the strong and memorable Cardinal OÇonnor of New York.

M.Z. Forrest

Michaelus,

First, it isn't any of your business what A.Bp Wuerl is doing to save Nancy's soul.
Second, as far as we know Nancy is in communion with the Church. In your and others' judgements she may not be a member, but your opinions don't matter.
Thirdy, A.Bp Wuerl is not her bishop! She is a guest of the diocese of Washington. Her bishop is in San Francisco.

Jimmy Mac

Michaelus: the only one who can save the soul of Nancy Pelosi, or you or me, is Jesus Christ, with her/our cooperation.

Janice

Benedict XVI may put a "positive" face on Church dogma, but he always includes the reasons why it is so. Wuerl offered nothing like that. Only excuses. They don't call him "don't rock the boat" Wuerl for nothing. I suspect he'd rather be sipping cocktails with "Nancy" than reminding her about her immortal soul.

Old Zhou

I think I have mentioned previously that I have been involved in a parish study group for the last year on "Deus Caritas Est." We just met, again, last Saturday morning. The topic of Catholic politicians, as discussed in Part II of the Encyclical, always comes up.

I think it is important to distinguish two dimensions here:
1. The "personal life" dimension, whether Pelosi's or ours, in which we must make our own efforts, and mistakes, in living out our Catholic faith.
2. The "political life" dimension, in which we are directly involved, as Catholic laity, in government. For me, that means voting according to my faith. But for Pelosi, who must represent ALL of her constituents, that means, sometimes, putting aside her personal faith and representing the people, ALL the people, she is supposed to elect.
We do not live in a Catholic country.
We do not even live in a "mostly Catholic" country.
Politician need to represent the people they represent. Californians, as a whole, are very liberal, very pro-abortion, very pro-ESCR, etc. Nancy Peolosi represents ALL the people in her district, not just the Catholics. That is what she is supposed to do.

Rich Leonardi

Other than your well-known aversion to Church teaching on pelvic issues, M.Z., is there any reason for your asinine post?

Father Elijah

I can certainly understand anguish not only over the culture of death, especially in regards to the the millions of unborn children swept away in the thirty four year holocaust of abortion here in the United States.

As part of Project Rachel I have ministered to men and women who have in one way or another participated in this terrible sin and had received the grace of conversion enough to approach the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church for healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is one of the most wonderful aspects of the gift I received in my vocation to the priesthood.

It of course galls me to see or hear of Catholics in politics who either claim -outright to be pro-choice OR to be personally pro-life but publicly (politically) pro-choice.

The bishops have slowly [and I realize for many too slowly and not fast enough] begun to respond pastorally to this problem. In response to many years of harsh condemnations and the like, they had been reacting in the opposite direction with applying pastorally only the 'mercy of forgiveness'. I do believe there has been some change. I believe two approaches from the bishops are worth noting-the first is the catechizing of Catholic pols in Washington DC, begun AFTER the last Presidential election and secondly their teaching document last November for all Catholics approaching Holy Communion

There are IMHO (lol) several underlying issues however that lie even deeper (almost seems impossible to say this) this issue. There needs to be a clear teaching, in the USA-for the American context-of what the Vatican II teaching on "Religious Liberty" is and is not
In other words, the bishops need to first enable the Church in the USA to 'receive' this teaching-given in an authoritative and clear manner.

There are those both in the secular as well as the Catholic world who believe that this document confirms the French Revolutions fiery, anti-Church and anti-religious slogans and sentiments. While much of this interpretation is in Europe it has its own followers here in the States. And this is the last thing that this document teaches or affirms.

Because the bishops have never really catechized on this teaching-many in America have fallen into thinking that Vatican II has thus confirmed the famous [not in the Constitution] letter of President Jefferson to a Baptist minister of a high and total wall of separation of Church and State-and with it, the now famous address of the then candidate for the presidency, John F Kennedy concerning the role-or non role of his faith in his elected position.

It is not that the Bishops have to address-or should address-constitutional issues. That is not their 'expertise' but they can and should address in a clear teaching the Church's relationship with the State, with culture, the relationship of members of the Church with citzenship [some of this has been addressed when elections approach but not all at once] and the parameters of responsibilities Catholics in politics have.

Finally, to clarify clearly once and for all in the American context, the real issues surrounding 'conscience' and 'freedom of conscience'. Everyone, catholics and non-Catholics use the terms but what do they mean?
And in terms of a Catholic understanding- the real sanctity of the conscience but also 'its' relationship with the Church and magisterium

M.Z. Forrest

'well-known aversion'???

That is absolutely false. Retract it immediately.

Ephrem

Lickona, er, Broderick,

Isn't this a quote from "Cheers for Bishop Brom?":

So it is perhaps fitting that I got a rebuke from one of the subjects (targets?) of my discussions -- a bishop.

What is NOT present in the article that is the subject of this post is the context. When and where were these questions asked?

amy

Can we try to raise the tone just a touch, please?

And focus on the issue I've raised?

I think Thomas Tucker succinctly summarized what I labored to say in far too many words. I mean, I used far to many words. He used the right amount.

Big weekends are coming up in DC - the March for Life and so on. It will be interesting to watch.

g

MZ, St Paul has a boatload of things to say about what the responsibility is of believers when someone in the body of Christ is causing scandal. Perhaps you should look it up.

Randy

Benedict XVI may put a "positive" face on Church dogma, but he always includes the reasons why it is so. Wuerl offered nothing like that. Only excuses.

I think Wuerl has done things similar to Benedict. He is known as an excellent teacher. He was quoted on the back cover of one of my Scott Hahn books. Even Amy's quote from him is very good. It seems like he teaches the faith and supports other who teach orthodoxy as well. He doesn't need to inject himself into the relationship Nancy Pelosi has with her priest. He just needs to teach the faith. He is doing it. Not in the way you want him to but he is teaching.

lickona

Old Zhou,
Yes, politicians need to represent the people they represent. But that's not to say they need to represent every opinion of the people they represent. And I think it at least worth considering the notion that one's duty to represent the people who elect you ends where it would require you to violate your conscience. If she thought a war deeply unjust and injurious to innocent life, should she vote to support it because her constituency supports it? And if your faith informs your conscience, then it's not so neat a thing to set it aside.
I'll grant that it's a thorny and complicated matter, and I don't pretend to be the authority here. But I think if a politician is willing to violate his or her core beliefs about right and wrong for the sake of representing his or her constituency (not that such is the case with Ms. Pelosi), then that politician is perhaps not the one you want running the show.

Dan

For better or worse (most people would say the former), the days of utter deference and blind eyes toward the actions of our bishops are over. Abp. Wuerl has a particularly visible role due to situations precisely like this: there is no small number of professed Catholics in politics--who make public statements and actions within his jurisdiction--whose public acts may or may not be in accord with basic Church teachings.

Precisely for the reasons that Amy listed, the actions of Abp. Wuerl matter and deserve scrutiny. Even if the readers of this blog know what the church says and who is or is not acting in accord with her teachings, that cannot be presumed for thousands of others. Pelosi's public statements and visible sororitizing with vociferous pro-abortion peddlers, coupled with the silence of the local ordinary, sends the horrible message of assent (or apathy, or otherwise "not-a-big-deal").

Witholding Holy Communion is a difficult call, as it is a serious Canonical penalty. Private conversations and efforts to "evangelize" Ms. Pelosi, if that is what is needed here, are a necessity. So too, it seems, would be prophetic and courageous clarity on Abp. Wuerl's part.

Cornelius

Old Zhou re Nancy Peolosi represents ALL the people in her district, not just the Catholics. That is what she is supposed to do.

She may not act against a certain conscience - and she will be held to account if it is not properly formed (as it clearly is not). No principle of representation obliges one to act against one's conscience. Politics does NOT trump all.

M.Z. Forrest

g,

Show me the verse where Saint Paul says to anonymously post to Internet blogs complaining about Bishops offering communion to a person. If Bishop Wuerl wished to direct his priests to deny communion to Ms. Pelosi I would not object. Deriding him for not doing so is where I draw the line. Claiming for oneself authority to tell the bishop of a far away diocese what he shouldn't and shouldn't do is where I draw the line.

Kim

I think the issue here is related to the question of hypocrisy, not on the part of the laity or even the Catholic pro-choice politicians, but of the hierarchy. The official teaching of the church is that there is no difference, from a moral perspective, between killing a three-year old child and aborting a three-week old fetus. If Catholic politicians were supporting centers where three-year olds were taken to be euthanized if their parents (or just their mother) for whatever reason decided they were too much to handle, making the argument that while they, personally, wouldn't kill a three-year old, but they can't sit in judgment of another family, is it conceivable that the bishops' response would be in any way similar to the response to pro-choice Catholic politicians? So, from a lay Catholic perspective, don't you think we get the message that the bishops don't really believe the official teaching of the Church? That's what's so hard for me to deal with.

Ephrem

I would ask again, what were the circumstances under which these questions were asked?

Abp. Wuerl's comments were measured, and frankly well within his scope of discretion as a bishop. However, the fact that they are not a thorough statement (he's a thorough teacher) leads me to believe that he was caught off guard.

Was this "interview" "taken" at a Q and A, for example, about a completely different topic?

Cornelius

M.Z. Forrest - First, it isn't any of your business what A.Bp Wuerl is doing to save Nancy's soul.

This is true, but no man is an island. Public acts supporting abortion, like those of Pelosi, cause scandal - they require SOME public response.

lickona

Ephrem,
It is indeed a quote from the column. The column was an account of my personal spiritual life, and included accounts of my personal frustrations with the hierarchy. "Cheers for Bishop Brom" was an attempt to both acknowledge the cases where I let that frustration get the better of me, and to express my delight in being able to delight in my bishop. I cited it because of the latter reason, as a rebuttal to your claim that the NN never put bishops in a positive light.
As for your second point, yes, context is crucial in understanding meaning, but that doesn't mean that actual quotations need to be taken with a sack of salt. What was reported was what was said.
Amy has asked for the thread to get back on track, so I'll stop here. Last word is yours if you want it.

Sidney

Fr. Elijah captured the entire problem when he noted ... the bishops have never really catechized on this teaching ...

The great strength of the Catholic Church has been its adherence to the eternal Truth, and the great victory of the Father of Lies has been to convince the world that there is no eternal and objective Truth.

The bishops have as a primary duty the responsibility to pass on the faith, which means they must learn and then teach the truth. When they do not speak publicly on what is the Truth, they model cowardice, a lack of faith, and a lack of charity for the ignorant and the wayward. In Benedict XVI and John-Paul II, we have had two models for how to speak the Truth in Love to Power. It hurts those seeking the Way amid the sin of the World when the shepherds refuse to lead their sheep.

All the Bishop needed to do was to fit into his homily a line like this: "All Catholics are obliged to defend and protect innocent life from the moment of conception until the time of natural death. All Catholics speaking in a public forum risk the sin of scandal if they refuse to inform themselves of the Church's teaching on this matter. No Catholic sits in judgment of another person, but each has a pastoral responsibility to help his brethren follow Jesus."

There is no need to single out one public official, but there is great need to encourage the faithful and catechize the world.

lickona

Ephrem,
Getting back to the thread: the Archbishop may have been caught off guard - I wasn't there for the interview. But I was there for the Q&A following his talk, and so I can say with certainty that the questions were not asked at that time.

Rich Leonardi

M.Z.,

Every time the discussion turns to doing more than paying lip service to Church teaching on abortion, and to putting into practice the requirements of paragraph 2273 of the CCC, or taking seriously the obligations under canon 915, you and a handful of other posters kick sand.

Moreover, it is Archbishop Wuerl who indicated he had a style that differed from what the questioner offered. That -- and not "a man from Ohio" -- begs a question. As to Bishop Bruskewitz, regardless of how feel about his pastoral approach, he is crystal clear about what it is.


Jeannine

Old Zhou, I just don't get it. Nancy Pelosi is, as a Catholic, obliged to support and promote abortion as much as possible because her constituents do so? Please! As a Catholic, Nancy Pelosi should not support and promote abortion. She should not run as a pro-abortion candidate. She should not vote as a pro-abortion Representative in Congress.
Back in the 70s, prominant Catholic Democrats should have pushed to make their party a pro-life party. Instead, they capitulated to the spirit of the age and became pro-abortion Catholics--what an oxymoron! About 75% of American priests and bishops are Democrats, and their natural sympathies are all with that party. It must be painful to them to even consider denouncing a fellow Democrat's position in regard to the issue of abortion.
Of course I hope that Bishop Wuerl is privately counseling Nancy Pelosi about her policies in regard to abortion. But my cynical side doubts that he is doing any such thing. Again, I hope that I am wrong.
The Catholic politicians who promote and support abortion give grave public scandal, and the bishops who allow them to do so unchallenged also give grave public scandal--perhaps even more serious and damaging scandal. I agree that the result is that the faithful believe that there is no need to consider their beliefs in the public square. Their religion seems to be viewed by the elites in our society as a sort of private hobby, an eccentricity that they are free to practice but not free to take seriously--especially in the voting booth.

Mark

Ephrem:

There's no contradition between Archbishop Wuerl's answer to these question and his actions, or the statement of his Communications director last week. I see no reason to question them.

David R.

I don't think that Nancy is excused for her fanatical abortion support just because a purported majority of her constituency are pro-choice.

First, this is schizophrenic. If she is really pro-life, but must disregard her faith to follow the latest gallup-poll, that is no faith at all. (Of course, I don't even think she would acknowledge that being pro-life is part of her faith. I imagine that her faith is in whatever is expedient for Nancy Pelosi's career at the moment.)

Second, it ignores those same constituents who she had fraudulently led to believe they were electing a committed Catholic. Based upon her actions at Trinity College as well as her many references to her deep Catholic faith, there is undoubtedly a group of people who are not deeply committed to learning about candidate's real positions who have been misled.

Third, she is now a national figure as speaker of the house, and she is causing even more confusion for non-constituents who, absent proper Catholic formation, are starting to hear from her that it is A-ok to be pro-abortion and Catholic.

M.Z. Forrest

The bishops have publicly stated their opposition to abortion numerous times. That the Catholic Church is opposed to abortion is uneqivocally understood by nearly all, including Ms. Pelosi and many pro-abort Catholics. (See interview Amy posted about a two weeks ago where Ms. Pelosi articulates that the Catholic Church teaches abortion is wrong.)

I witness divorced-and-remarrieds receiving communion at Church every Sunday. I witness marriages between couples living together. I witness First Communions of children whose parents I've never seen in a pew. These things seem far more an issue of scandal than some politician all the way out in Washington, DC, receiving communion.

Mark

I think a question that needs to be answered by defenders of the status quo are:

1) Do you believe that Pelosi's unapologetic support for abortion rights and reception of support from abortion-rights organizations stands in any kind of conflict with her professed Catholic faith?

2) Do you think bishops - either Wuerl or Niederaurer should do or say anything about this? If you don't think they should do anything...

What should they do or say anything about? Are you saying that bishops should stay silent on matters of public policy - immigration policity, poverty programs, health care, capital punishment - war?

This is straying a bit from topic, and I apologize, but I really don't understand the defenders. If not this - what is worth teaching about?

Matt

It seems to me that there are two dimensions to this issue. The first, the state of Nancy Pelosi's soul, is none of my business (at least no more business than the state of my auto mechanic's soul).

The other dimension is the public scandal that this issue causes. When a person very publically uses a Catholic parish and a Mass as part of her victory lap, it is a huge problem for all of us. It is a problem simply because the Mass is worship, not a political staging event. It becomes an even bigger problem when the Mass is used as a staging event to inaugurate a "100 days" agenda which includes sacrificing human embryos for scientific experiments.

ISTM that we all failed on all levels on this issue. The Bishops routinely fail to do anything when they are confronted by this. The priests also let themselves be used as pretty little accessories in the politician's credentials portfolios. Last but not least, we have a parish full of laymen who sat on their hands while Pelosi used the Mass and her "conservative Catholic" assertions in the service of embryo sacrificing research.

M.Z. Forrest

Rich,

I like Bishop Bruskewicz.

Your interpretation of Can. 915 while certainly not being unique is not the interpretation understood and used by the vast majority of our bishops. You speak with certitude on this when you have no standing as defined in Canon Law to bind this interpretation.

amy

MZ:

I appreciate your last comment. I simply see all those issues as not unrelated.

Clare Krishan

Last week Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice linked to a December interview on the occasion of an academic conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with the International Association for Catholic Social Teaching on why a Catholic's position on abortion must presage any social justice discussion of the Common Good:
"Abortion and Catholic Social Teaching ... Here is a taste:

Q: What does Catholic social thought offer to the debate on abortion that bioethics doesn't? What is its specific contribution?

Father Williams: ... As I mentioned earlier, the Church's teaching on the content and requirements of the "common good" sheds important light on respect and reverence for human life as a pillar of the just society.

Moreover, the principle of equality, based on the equal dignity of all human beings, not only grounds our democratic system but also demands that we deprive no one of this essential dignity.

Historically the greatest social evils perpetrated on humanity -- genocide, racism, abortion, slavery -- have always violated the principle of equality, relegating an entire sector of the human family to an inferior status, with a dignity lower than the rest. Since human rights flow from human dignity, once the latter is called into question, rights fall at the same time.

As a legal "right," abortion brings forth countless social issues requiring a reasoned response: questions of conscientious objection, the rule of law in a democracy, the pedagogical function of law, *my emphasis* and the role of moral truth in a democratic system, to name but a few."

Fr. Williams solution would require a huge sea change to the way the Church promotes its social justice teachings here in the US, and as any mariner knows you can't change tack without first setting your sails (reflect on that metaphor to gain some perspective as a Bishop: here's Wikipedia's advice "In small boats with low booms, the skipper should generally announce, "Ready about" to prepare the crew for the tack and the swinging of the boom, which can otherwise cause serious injury to an unprepared crew member. Upon the acknowledgement of the crew, the skipper announces, "Coming about". or alternatively "Helm's a-lee", "Hard a-lee", or "Lee Ho" during the actual tacking." in other words a skipper facing a port tack (sailing into wind from the left) is obliged to inform his crew in the boat first, ie our pastors must preach from the pulpit, while ceding right of way to starboard tack vessels, those sailing into wind from the right, ie secular leaders such as our Madam Speaker).

amy

I was referring to M.Z's next to last comment. We cross-posted.

M.Z. Forrest

1) Do you believe that Pelosi's unapologetic support for abortion rights and reception of support from abortion-rights organizations stands in any kind of conflict with her professed Catholic faith?
Yes. It is a profound conflict.

2) Do you think bishops - either Wuerl or Niederaurer should do or say anything about this? If you don't think they should do anything...
I do not believe they are compelled to interdict. I think an argument can be made that it would be prudent to do so. I'm not going to stand in judgement of a bishop on this question however. I will certainly petition those politicians who support abortion, to cease their support. Those politicians obstinate in their support, I will oppose.

Rich Leonardi

"Speak with certitude?" I simply indicated that the canon should be taken seriously. And the contents of canon law are not determined by a vote of this country's bishops.

tim

I wonder what Archbishop Burke's approach to Catholic supporters of baby-killing would be?

Actually, I don't wonder. He says what he means. Thank God for him, wish more were like him.

TM Lutas

There have been a few posts stating that it is none of our business or questioning why we should care. I find very few calls to indifference in Catholicism. We are, after all, our brothers' keeper.

That being said, I find the personalization of the topic unfortunate. I think that the good archbishop might have been much more forthcoming and much more informative if he had been asked how politicians who claim Catholicism and present for communion while promoting abortion in various ways should be approached and corrected. Laying out a plan of attack that applies to a class of straying Catholics is a far different thing than perhaps betraying personal confidences of conversation, even confession, that such a question may demand when it is personalized.

This doesn't mean that Archbishop Wuerl is right or wrong but rather that the approach to the topic was badly done and that personalization continues in this thread which is likely a good deal of reason why there's been more heat than light so far.

Terrence Berres

"any mariner knows you can't change tack without first setting your sails"

Actually, as the explanation then quoted implies, it's only after you complete the change of course that you again set your sails.

Rich Leonardi

Great post, T.M. Given Archbishop Wuerl's voluminous writings on this subject as a point of doctrine, one of which Amy cites above, it would have been helpful for him to explain his pastoral "style" given the high profile of this situation. (Perhaps he did and it ended on the cutting room floor.) No one, or least not yours truly, is calling for his head.

M.Z. Forrest

Are you maintaining Rich that a bishop doesn't take Can 915 seriously if he interprets,
Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.
it as saying that political supporters of abortion are not inclusive of those "perservering in manifest grave sin?" Many pro-lifers speak with certitude that this canon is applicable. I would say that the canon is not in opposition to such an interpretation.

Amy,
I bring up those examples due to their proximity. Proximity should always heighten our awareness to evil. Admittedly, those in the pro-life community enjoy a proximity to that issue, but it is of a different nature.

Mark Windsor

With all due respect to the esteemed Old Zhou, I think your comment above is a cop-out.

Californians, as a whole, are very liberal, very pro-abortion, very pro-ESCR, etc. Nancy Peolosi represents ALL the people in her district, not just the Catholics. That is what she is supposed to do.

(First off, a sweeping parenthetical generalization - These days it seems that even the GOP in California are just varying shades of liberals…at least as seen from those of us in Texas. Just like our Democrats are just not quite conservative enough to be taken seriously.)

Technically, Zhou’s point is true, but only as far as it goes.

If a Catholic politician stood before the voters of California, and said, “I’m Catholic, here’s what I stand for. Vote for me or don’t, but this is what I am.” The voters would then have the information necessary to vote for this person based on where their conscience directs them. But to say that an elected leader must somehow give over their own conscience to the whim of the mob is galling to say the least.

Under your must-represent-ALL-the-people theory, a Catholic politician would be almost incapable of being consistent with Church teachings. As soon as the political wind shifted, the politico in question would shift as well. They might get ousted at the poles, but that’s a whole different issue. The bottom line is that Catholics in a liberal state would be de facto required to abandon their faith in order to get elected. Am I the only one that sees a problem here?

Feinstein has already said that Catholics who believe what their church teaches are unfit for the federal bench. Well, in California at least, that seems to apply to statewide office holders as well.

Cuomo gives Catholics a pass on Church teachings, and before long some of the hierarchy goes along. The Archbishop gives Pelosi a pass, and before long the Old Zhou’s of the world do so as well. It eventually gets to the point where you have to say, why do I care if they don’t? There’s your scandal. Someone said that it’s none of my business what’s been said personally to Nancy Pelosi. That seems shortsighted to say the least. She’s a public figure, and a public figure capable of shaping life altering legislation. The rules are different for public figures given that so many people can then say; “why should I care”.

MrsTomasz

Old Zhou, I used to think you were old and wise, but with your last post I see you are lost and hold a pitiable view. Nancy Pelosi built her career largely by courting her pro-choice, pro-abortion constituency. She herself said something like, "So you don't like abortion, don't get one."

She is currenly acting as if she were the devil's handmaiden.

Abortion is often called a holocaust. It promotes the annihilation of those humans deemed undesirable just as the Jewish Holocaust strove for the annihilation of that race of people. Pelosi's being honored at Mass at Trinity would be akin to Third Reich members being lauded by the German Catholic Church of the 30s and 40s. I'm not sure the average German was aware of the machinery of the "final solution" but the American bishops have NO excuse...they know the scope and pervasiveness of abortion, as well as the bone-crushing, brain smashing details of partial birth abortion and still they are silent, schmoozing with the likes of Democrats like Pelosi and Kerry. Could the German hierarchy of that era have been as craven as the current American hierarchy?

I think struggling Catholics, who respect the teaching of Holy Mother Church ought to march at the next meeting of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in protest.

Richard

Politician need to represent the people they represent. Californians, as a whole, are very liberal, very pro-abortion, very pro-ESCR, etc. Nancy Peolosi represents ALL the people in her district, not just the Catholics. That is what she is supposed to do.

I'm sort of surprised by this occasion - the very first post from Old Zhou which has not left me floating in admiration. In this case, it's more like adrift in perplexity.

We can all grant readily the obvious nature of Pelosi's congressional district. Yet circumstances cannot alter the fundamental nature of a moral act.

The difficulty with Archbishop Wuerl is - I think - not so much that he has declined to deny communion to Rep. Pelosi, but that there has not even been any accompanying effort to hammer home Church teaching on this subject. It's certainly defensible to show reluctance to single out public figures for denial of communion. But that has to be accompanied by a vigorous effort to say why positions like Pelosi's are gravely, intrinsically morally unacceptable. There's a teaching office here hat needs to be fulfilled. Archbishop Wuerl shows no public evidence right now of filling it.

And I think that's what Amy is getting at here.

To take concrete examples, it's hard to see how Old Zhou's logic would not apply equally well to other, clear-cut cases of nominally Catholic politicos upholding intrinsic evils: say, a southern Catholic in the 60's pushing segregation and Jim Crow, or a German Catholic member of the Reichstag voting to deny full citizenship to Jews and endorse violence against them - all because, well, so many of their constituents favor these sorts of things.

Mark Windsor

...as any mariner knows you can't change tack without first setting your sails (reflect on that metaphor to gain some perspective as a Bishop...

I take your point about announcing the change before it happenss, but the metaphor is seriously flawed. You have to change your tack before setting your sail. It's physically impossible to set your sails first (the main is "unset" as the boom swings, the sheet being set as the sail fills on the new tack).

Not that this is off-topic, or anything...

lickona

M.Z.,
You make a good point about proximity, but isn't Amy's point here, to some extent, that Pelosi is a national figure who is very public as to her opinions on this issue? She's not just some politician way off in Washington; she's a particularly powerful politician whose views are reported on across the nation. Couldn't a person argue that she, by her statements, has made herself proximate on a grand scale?

Rich Leonardi

M.Z.,

My reference to canon 915 was directed at you, not the bishops. And since you've spent the last half-dozen posts "walking back the dog" you let out with your first, it seems to have hit its mark.

Like I wrote early on, it would behoove Archbishop Wuerl to outline, in at least general terms, his "different pastoral style" in these matters, if for no other reason than it's going to be the second or third question of every interview until he does.

Donald R.McClarey

"Perhaps Archbishop Wuerl is catechizing and attempting to work with "Nancy" in private, and perhaps he didn't mention it because he and/or Archbishop Niederauer are engaged in this private outreach and the questions asked by this reporter did not directly ask him about that."

Perhaps. More likely they are simply prelates who do not wish to anger a powerful Catholic politician by publicly telling her the simple truth that her position on abortion is anathema to the teaching of the Catholic Church. We expect leadership from high clerics in defense of innocent human life and not meaningless platitudes about styles of pastoral ministry.

M.Z. Forrest

Shove it Rich.

fjh

Old Zhou was being ironic. That's not the Old Zhou we know.

Dave Hartline

There are two points I wish to make. 1. When Catholics (prelates included) hold firm to Catholic teaching, they gain the respect of everyone. These decisions may not be liked but they are respected and I say that from meeting with and speaking to liberals as well as fundamentalists.

2. I would hope on Martin Luther King day we would agree that simply reflecting the views of your constituents is not real leadership. Otherwise, we would have never had civil rights legislation. Again, as mentioned above it has been my experience that people want leadership even if it is not always popular. Voters often vote for leaders whose decisions they may not agree with but respect i.e. President Harry Truman & President Ronald Reagan.

Ephrem

Lickona, thanks for your remarks. I would actually like to ask you to have the last word on our subject by answering this question: Do you think that the Holman publications have, as one of their main goals, holding bishops to account?

Henry C. Luthin

A couple of points. Old Zhou, thank you for shedding light on many issues. However, re Pelosi as an elected representative, please see Edmund Burke's Speech to the Electors of Bristol: "But his [the elected representative's] unbiassed opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable."
Second, I am saddened by Archbishop Wuerl's comments but, unless bad faith has been shown, we are to assume good faith on the part of those with whom we disagree. And we are in serious danger of schism in this country. I assume that Archbishop Wuerl is doing his best to keep the Church from being divided, though I suspect that the substance has been fractured and the form will follow.

Mark Windsor

Shove it Rich.

Personal foul. Uncalled for rudeness. 15 yards and loss of down for Team Forrest.

Marc

And the message we get is that - it doesn't matter. Do whatever you want.

The laity are just too dumb

lickona

Ephrem,
I think it varied from time to time and from paper to paper. I know that the NN in its later years did a lot less intra-Church stuff and a lot more reporting on abortion/homosexuality issues. Certainly the papers sounded a critical note with regard to certain actions or inactions on the part of the hierarchy, but I thought it was within the context of a larger effort to report on issues of import to Catholics that were going unreported elsewhere.
That said, I want to stress that I'm not making a blanket defense of everything that ran in all the papers. I know many people had objections to various aspects of them, and I can't speak with any authority to some of those objections. Nor do I have a thorough enough knowledge to do so.

Randy

The bishops document on reception of communion was a step forward here. I think it is the best approach. It should have mentioned public figures specifically because that was the motivation for the document but you can't have everything. I think it should still be left to her own priest and her own bishop to deal with her in a pastoral way. The standard the document sets for reception of communion should be presented to her and see if she feels she meets that standard.IF this isn't being done the primary responsibility for it lies with her local priest. Then with her local bishop in SF. MZ is right in that the priest should not single her out but should consistently ask people involved in grave sin the same questions.

Daniel H. Conway

I am interested in how the technique of direct confrontation of politicians, a technique used by the anti-abortion activists for over 30 years can be supported as demonstrating any merit.

The anti-abortion activists have clearly identified to pro-abortion politicians they support a "culture of death." That Democrats are the enemy as the activists have embraced the Republican party.

And in 2006 anti-abortion law cannot even pass in South Dakota.

No one is talking "pro-abortion" here. I think the talk is technique. And the technique of the politically active anti-abortion activist in Pennsylvania was to support Santorum. The consequence is that anti-abortion politics is wedded to a brand of severe hawkish, Grover-Norquist-type Republican. Universally, the movement has been smeared by its clear association with Republicans.

Has this technique of large rallies and Republican embrace with threats of ostracism of pro-abortion Catholic Pols truly advanced the cause? Are more converted to the side of the anti-abortion activist as a consequence of nearly 35 years of this brand of activism? I suggest the opposite. I suggest anti-abortion activists have lost hearts and minds, based on their own endeavors to achieve power with dalliances with the Deal Hudsons and clear embrace of powerful Republicans.

The biggest loser in 2006 wasn't really conservatism as a cause, nor Republicans as a party, but the pro-life movement lost big. Because it ended up on the opposite side of the Iraq War (by its affaire d'amour with Santorum-who really only campaigned as a pro-Bush War on Terror Man), and because it ended up on the opposite side of "get out the vote" campaigns with the minimum wage. And are these the strategic enemies that are desired?

A discussion of technique of how to promote the conversion of others may be the proper discussion. And I contend that the pro-life movement and its attachment to harsh conservatism has set it back and resulted in 35 years of progressive faliure and decline.

Wuerl may be right in his approach.

Rose

I agree with Sidney- Arbp Wuerl needs to actively preach the Church's moral doctrine that abortion is wrong. And he should also point out that politicians who publicly support legislation permitting abortion while professing to be personally against it, are being dishonest. None of this requires him to single out Ms. Pelosi.

Donald R.McClarey

"And I contend that the pro-life movement and its attachment to harsh conservatism has set it back and resulted in 35 years of progressive faliure and decline."

What rubbish. The willingness of leftist Catholics to eagerly hand over their votes to pro-abort Catholic politicians is why the pro-life cause has not yet politically triumphed. Leftist Catholics are always eager to bash conservative Catholics, but conservative Catholics have succeeded in making certain that the conservative movement in this country has overwhelmingly embraced the pro-life cause. Leftist Catholics support a political movement that has, with certain honorable exceptions, viewed abortion on demand as a key, perhaps the key, element in its political platform dating back to the Democrat convention of 1972.

Greg Popcak

Daniel,

A few points.

First, regarding your first question, I think the issue is that the laity has been fighting this out amonst themselves and we are all tired and longing for leadership that is simply not forthcoming. Whichever side the bishops come down on, direct engagement or a more laissez faire approach, there needs to be more active catechesis about WHY this is the preferred approach. Without more direct leadership from the top, the laity will never be able to sing from the same sheet of music.

Second, it is my understanding that the South Dakota law would never have survived a Supreme Court challenge and would have only damaged the pro-life cause. Even staunch pro-lifers were not all that sad to see the law fail.

Third, your notion that the pro-life cause lost the election is incorrect. Republicans lost significantly more seats than pro-lifers did (about twice as many). Republicans lost over Iraq, not pro-life.

So, the upshot is this. There are two possible strategies for addressing the abortion scandal, direct confrontation and indirect approaches. The laity needs guidance on which approach the bishops think is more effective and we need instruction on why this is the preferred means of engaging the culture.

It appears to me that the frustration from the pew comes not from the bishops reluctance to damn any particular politician to hell, but from the bishops perceived reluctance to educate the faithful--by both example and direct instrution--about the direction they would like to take the discussion. And in the absence of this direction, all we can do is fight amongst ourselves while more babies die.

Greg Popcak

Phil

Pelosi's very public contradiction of the Catholic Church's teaching on the abortion issue along with her very public position (and the media attention it draws) demands a public response from the Catholic Church. Once she holds herself out as "Catholic" and pro-abortion, the Catholic Church must publicly respond. To do otherwise allows scandal to be brought upon the Church and confusion to ensue.
The interview with Arch. Weurl begs the question (which apparently was not asked) what action if any are you going to take in response to this very public pro-abortion position taken by this very public "Catholic"?
Weurl's responses leave everything to be desired. He does not even have to call out Pelosi by name (although I think that would be more than fair in light of the public image Pelosi portrays) but a firm statement of the Church's teachings along with a reminder that those in a state of grave sin should not receive communion and should seek reconciliation would, at a minimum, suffice.

Rich Leonardi

The consequence is that anti-abortion politics is wedded to a brand of severe hawkish, Grover-Norquist-type Republican. Universally, the movement has been smeared by its clear association with Republicans.

Would that be "severe hawkish, Grover-Norquist-type Republicans" like George Voinovich and Henry Hyde, just to name two?

Daniel H. Conway

The willingness of anti-abortion activists to genuflect to the right wing controlling the anti-abortion agenda has led to the debacle its poorly unified response to embryonic stem cell research. Instead of embracing a decade ago at minimum an anti-abortion agenda that was consistent and condemned the daily embryonic holocaust in fertility centers since the 1980's (something that would alienate supportive conservative Protestants), this legitimate concern of the anti-abortion movement was hushed up. And as a consequence, no teaching on this was done for the public, and then ESCR hit the center stage.

And why, with embryos in fertility centers routinely deposited in bright red biohazard bags, is this not as dramatic a concern as ESCR? Is it because a ban on IVF and its carnage has no political traction in conservative circles? You bet.

Conservative politics has warped the pro-life agenda so dramatically, the movements are fairly indistinguishable. And will set back the anti-abortion cause even further.

Marion (Mael Muire)

Old Zhou has expressed an opinion, and many Catholics share a similar view.

But the teachings of the Church on this subject are quite different. Maybe O.Z. and others who have expressed a similar opinion would perhaps reflect upon the words of the late Holy Father on this matter, and would see whether it appears opportune to reevaluate and perhaps adjust their views somewhat, as a result:

(I admit I have to go through this process all the time, and have even in the very recent past held and changed some views formerly very much at variance with Church teaching!)

"In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it'". - Pope John Paul II

From Evangelium Vitae

" . . At times, it is claimed that civil law cannot demand that all citizens should live according to moral standards higher than what all citizens themselves acknowledge and share. Hence the law should always express the opinion and will of the majority of citizens and recognize that they have . . . the right even to abortion and euthanasia . . .

"(Some) maintain that in a modern and pluralistic society people should be allowed complete freedom to dispose of their own lives as well as of the lives of the unborn: it is asserted that it is not the task of the law to choose between different moral opinions, and still less can the law claim to impose one particular opinion to the detriment of others.

"In any case, in the democratic culture of our time it is commonly held that the legal system of any society should limit itself to taking account of and accepting the convictions of the majority. It should therefore be based solely upon what the majority itself considers moral and actually practises. Furthermore, if it is believed that an objective truth shared by all is de facto unattainable, then respect for the freedom of the citizens-who in a democratic system are considered the true rulers-would require that on the legislative level the autonomy of individual consciences be acknowledged. Consequently, when establishing those norms which are absolutely necessary for social coexistence, the only determining factor should be the will of the majority, whatever this may be. Hence every politician, in his or her activity, should clearly separate the realm of private conscience from that of public conduct. . .

"Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a 'system' and as such is a means and not an end. Its 'moral' value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behaviour, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs . . .But the value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. . . .
The basis of these values cannot be provisional and changeable 'majority' opinions, but only the acknowledgment of an objective moral law which, as the 'natural law' written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself. If, as a result of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience, an attitude of scepticism were to succeed in bringing into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations, and would be reduced to a mere mechanism for regulating different and opposing interests on a purely empirical basis.

" . . . Even in participatory systems of government, the regulation of interests often occurs to the advantage of the most powerful, since they are the ones most capable of manoeuvering not only the levers of power but also of shaping the formation of consensus. In such a situation, democracy easily becomes an empty word.

"It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote.

". . . Civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something which - were it prohibited - would cause more serious harm, it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individuals - even if they are the majority of the members of society - an offence against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life. The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom. . . "


* Italics mine.

Won't all of you who read this please continue to pray ardently for guidance and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit upon the leaders of our Church and our country? Thank you.

TerryC

To say that a person can separate their "private" life and their "public" life is a fallacy of secular society. A persons life is their life. The way they live it is either an example of holiness, such as was given by Blessed Mother Teresa or a scandal, such as that given by Nancy Pelosi.
What politician would say, "Well I'm personally against premeditated murder, but since most of my constituents are for it I have to support it."
Oh, Pelosi already has, in effect.
As for Archbishop Wuerl, M.Z. you're quite right, he does not answer to us. He answers to God, and it is to Him who he will eventually have to account for his actions.
As a pastor he also answers to Rome, who does not seem interested at this time in calling members of the episcopate to task for any of their failings.
As far as I know Nancy Pelosi is not in communion with the Church. She has espoused positions in direct conflict to major Church teachings on abortion, the dignity of the human person, and other issues. She is a nonrepentant public sinner.
It would be better if there was not a single Catholic politician in Congress if the reason they were not there was because they supported Church teaching on abortion.

Ephrem

Daniel, I have it from a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Catholic sociologist, a true sixties believer, a real lay-empowerment-worship-community kind of person, that the Democratic leadership will only support pro-life Democratic candidates in those districts that have shown themselves to be unwilling to elect pro-choice candidates. In other words, one-issue voting works.

Judy

Right now the Polish bishops are being called to account for some of them conspiring with Communists when the Communists were in power. I'm sure a lot of them can come up with practical reasons for what they did or didn't do. When and if the Gospel of Life triumphs over the culture of death in our country, there will be the same kind of examination of conscience and accountability demanded of our bishops/clergy. Then a number of them will have a hard time defending why they tried and mostly succeeded in having it both ways for 40 years - writing strong pro-life statements/articles on the one hand, while taking a hands-off policy regarding militantly pro-abortion Catholic politicians such as Pelosi on the other. John Paul II’s Gospel of Life is an urgent and passionate appeal to defend life, but most of our bishops don’t seem to be losing any sleep over the million plus babies aborted each year. (There are exceptions: among them Burke, Yanta, Chaput, Bruskewitz and others.)

Daniel H. Conway

Mr. Popcak,

Anti-abortionists lost seats, and the seats they did not lose, like PA's senatorial seat, in my view, remain debated as a loss in some anti-abortion circles.

Let's look at PA's senatorial contest. The right to life groups supported Santorum. Now, if Casey is a "lukewarm" pro-lifer, how did this technique of supporting the opponent actually assist these groups in "getting in the door" to convinve Mr. Casey of difficult positions? How did opposing him promote their cause?

Why hasn't the anti-abortion "majority" been growing? Why has it been shrinking?

The people in the pew vote Democratic in my area. Perhaps the noisy pew sitters think one way, while many others think another way. Why is my daily communicant, pro-life mother tiring of abortion politics? As are all her pro-life, Mass attending friends?

The techniques in play for 35 years are failing. Dramatically.

Pro-life candidates didn't lose because of being pro-life, they lost to the Iraq War and a movement to increase the minimum wage.

Why did these pro-life candidates lose like this? Who is the brain trust that devised this strategy, to be beaten by embracing candidates supporting a failed war and a desire to keep the minimum wage set at 1977 levels?

David R.

Daniel:

I can't help but reach the conclusion that what you want is for pro-lifers to shut up and live with the status quo. So, we harmed the pro-life cause by actually throwing support to the only party that listens to us?!! Please.

To be fair, maybe you could tell me what your strategy is so I can be enlightened.

Rich Leonardi

Mr. Conway,

Can you do more than throw stones at members of a political party you dislike? That "the inalienable rights of persons must be recognized by civil society and the political authority" lays a heavy burden on Catholics. What, specifically, would you do to help them carry it?

Old Zhou

Well, that was fun. Previous post was hasty as Mrs. Zhou was pushing me to get off the computer and out to the gym.

As I said, the topic of Catholic politicians, and the treatment of same by certain US bishops over the past year, has been a constant "hot topic" in our year long discussion of "Deus Caritas Est."

Apparently still a hot topic.

The discussions we have had are informed by some of the following parts of "Deus Caritas Est."

Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now. But this presupposes an even more radical question: what is justice? The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.

Here politics and faith meet. Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God—an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. But it is also a purifying force for reason itself. From God's standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly. This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.

The Church's social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church's responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church's immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically.

The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply. (n. 28a)

If you want US law to be more in conformity with Catholic teaching, perhaps you should work to make all your neighbors Catholic (i.e., make the people Catholic). They are the one's who elect the political leaders. Focusing too much ire on the political leaders (of all the people), rather than on the people themselves--your neighbors--is, really, shooting the messenger. Even less should you direct ire to the bishops. It is not the job of the bishops to punish national politician who don't follow Catholic teaching; rather, they bishops should be beacons of light, doing the proper work of the Church--enlightening the people.

Enlighten the people, or, as Pope Benedict said, pruify the reasoning of your neighbors, of your community, of your state. Then the enlightenened populace will demand politicians who represent their enlightened reason.

But now, at least in California, we live in a land of moral relativism and deconstructionist ethical idiocy. You get appropriate politicians. What do you expect? Twice in recent years Californians have voted down propositions to require parental notification before young girls get abortions.

And if you can't change the people, can't influence your neighbor, why worry about some remote bishop and congressperson?

paul zummo

As I live in the DC diocese and Bishop Wuerl is not some remote Bishop, I'd like to briefly weigh in on this issue. Old Zhou makes a very good point about needing to do more than just chastising our political leaders. If the people themselves are poorly catechized, or simply just hostile to Church teaching, then in our democracy they will elect leaders that reflect that.

But I also think that's why we should expect more from our Bishops, in this case Archbishop Wuerl. Any chastisement of Speaker Pelosi would not be solely for her benefit. It would behoove the Archbishop to make his case, from the pulpit (or just in general) as to why her position is problematic, because in doing so he would be reaching the very same people that might not be fully aware of why her public support of abortion is wrong.

Obviously we are favored here in this area with a Bishop whose strength happens to be in instruction of the faithful, as is evidenced by his primary authorship of the Catechism for Adults. Many of us are just a little anxious to see him actively teach on this matter in public and in Church because it is a matter of instructing the faithful at large as well as the individual politician. Personally I don't need to see some fire and brimstone condemnation, but it would be nice for Archbishop Wuerl take a somewhat firmer stance.

Again, it's not just about reaching Nancy Pelosi, it's about reaching all of the faithful, many of whom may not fully appreciate what's at stake.

paul zummo

As I live in the DC diocese and Bishop Wuerl is not some remote Bishop, I'd like to briefly weigh in on this issue. Old Zhou makes a very good point about needing to do more than just chastising our political leaders. If the people themselves are poorly catechized, or simply just hostile to Church teaching, then in our democracy they will elect leaders that reflect that.

But I also think that's why we should expect more from our Bishops, in this case Archbishop Wuerl. Any chastisement of Speaker Pelosi would not be solely for her benefit. It would behoove the Archbishop to make his case, from the pulpit (or just in general) as to why her position is problematic, because in doing so he would be reaching the very same people that might not be fully aware of why her public support of abortion is wrong.

Obviously we are favored here in this area with a Bishop whose strength happens to be in instruction of the faithful, as is evidenced by his primary authorship of the Catechism for Adults. Many of us are just a little anxious to see him actively teach on this matter in public and in Church because it is a matter of instructing the faithful at large as well as the individual politician. Personally I don't need to see some fire and brimstone condemnation, but it would be nice for Archbishop Wuerl take a somewhat firmer stance.

Again, it's not just about reaching Nancy Pelosi, it's about reaching all of the faithful, many of whom may not fully appreciate what's at stake.

paul zummo

Sorry for the double post. I have no idea why that happened.

c matt

Has this technique of large rallies and Republican embrace with threats of ostracism of pro-abortion Catholic Pols truly advanced the cause?

I really don't see where the "ostracism of Catholic pols" has been tried, much less failed. Can you name one Catholic US pol who has been denied communion because of his/her stand vis-a-vis abortion? I don't know that it would or would not work, but I really don't see where it has even been tried.

I do agree however, that Zhou is right - the politicians we elect are a reflection of what our society believes, not the cause of what our society believes. On the other hand, the election of such pols reinforces said beliefs. Somewhere, somehow this vicious cycle needs to be broken. One rather obvious point is the public reception of communion by pols.

TerryC

Certainly public admonishment of Nancy Pelosi and criticism of Bishop Wuerl is not the point. One of the most profound statements on the battle against abortion was made by a fourteen year old member of my parish's Rock for Life group. "Our goal is not to make abortion illegal, it is to make abortion unwanted."
So far we have too often allowed the pro-abortion lobby to control the conversation, set the tone and decide the basis of how the subject should be discussed.
We have been unsuccessful in convincing large numbers of Christians that pre-birth babies are ensouled human beings who are independent creations of God.
We have been unable to convince moral secularist that pre-birth babies are human beings deserving of the same rights of other societal victims.
We have been unable to convince the media hacks that the story of the wide spread victimization of the unborn is a story more worth pursuing than the wants of their parents.
We should be making the case that abortion is the new holocaust. That the unborn are the helpless victims.
We have not convincingly made this argument. Most people who are not against abortion do not really support it. It does not touch them, and so they vote on other issues. It is someone else's cause. We need to make it their cause or people like Pelosi, Kennedy, at all will continue to be re-elected.

Jimmy Mac

In most of this country, and in particular, in states such as California, Oregon and Washington, the Catholic church lacks the political clout that it has enjoyed in the East. Politicians rarely if ever feel the need to be deferential to the influence of the Catholic episcopacy.

In the matter of abortion, Catholic teaching has rarely been persuasive and even more rarely been compelling. Hence, the laws are and remain what they are. All of the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth will not make the non-persuasive compelling.

None of this, of course, can nor should dissuade the church and individual Catholics from operating informational channels, rescue centers, etc. That is their right and duty. It is also their right to continue to try to persuade and ultimately compel, but only by force of argument, not force of law.

Nancy Pelosi reflects the position on abortion of many Catholics and most others in the US. She may not be orthodox relative to Catholic teaching, but she is truly representative of the current mind of the country. If Californians don’t like her position(s), they have the power of the ballot to rectify that. If the rest of American don’t’ like her position(s), they have a larger task at the ballot box, i.e., return control of the House to the Republicans, but at great peril to the rest of the social contract.

c matt

In the matter of abortion, Catholic teaching has rarely been persuasive and even more rarely been compelling.

We have been unsuccessful in convincing large numbers of Christians that pre-birth babies are ensouled human beings who are independent creations of God....

On one level, yes, this is correct - obviously the Church has not "convinced, compelled or persuaded" enough people in this country to end the abortion holocaust. But it is not because the Church's arguments or positions or teaching are not convincing, compelling or persuasive - it is because people just do not want to let go of the back-up contraception that is abortion. They just don't. The argument that "convinces" them is "I want to have sex with my girlfriend, the Church says I can't, therefore, the Church is wrong." It comes down to a contraceptive mentality - a mentality that says we get sex when we want it, and on the terms we want it, everything else be damned. No amount of reason, no matter how compelling, will change that because it simply does not want to be changed. It's hard to convince a society that does not recognize logical, reasonable arguments as convincing.

And why should it? What are the consequences of not changing? Is it really made immediate to the person seeking the abortion that it will have eternal consequences? Is it really made immediate to the society that allows it that such society is demographically doomed? Not until its too late. In short, they just don't feel it. And by today's standards, if you don't feel it, it isn't real.

This is a monumental challenge - on one hand, modern folks have such higher levels of technical knowledge than just about any other time in history, they think they are so much smarter; on the other, they have less wisdom than a rock.

TerryC

I do not believe that the great majority of people have the attitude that, "I want to have sex with my girlfriend, the Church says I can't, therefore, the Church is wrong."
When I discuss abortion with supporters it quickly becomes clear that most of them simply refuse to believe that a pre-birth baby is a person. Christians often hark back to Augustine's "delayed ensoulment" belief which originated with Aristotle. One ECUSA member put forth the argument that the unborn infant was not a baby because it could not survive outside the mother's womb. When asked if he included survival with artificial means as proof of personhood he said yes and looked very troubled when I pointed out that medical science seemed destined to be able to eventually support a baby from time of conception until birth artificially.
I've only ever met one person who was totally indifferent to the personhood of the unborn. He is a unrepentant Nietzschian whose attitude is completely self-centered and self serving. He is the exception.
All of which explains why so many women who have had abortions later have so many spiritual and psychological problems with the decision they often made under pressure from parents and the child's father. They realize in their heart that their baby *was* a person and regret their action.
Perhaps Ms. Pelosi is so cynical that she knows that the unborn are really persons and doesn't care, because she is so interested in power that she is willing to support killing then anyway. More likely she rationalizes her actions by telling herself that they are not really people. Either way I can't but believe that a public repudiation by the Church would do more good than harm.

MichaelR

c matt,

You're not going to persuade people that the church's teachings are logical and reasonable simply by declaring them to be so. And if the church's arguments and positions have not convinced and have not persuaded, then by definition they're not convincing or persuasive.

In the end, this boils down to irreconcilable differences between those who accept the church's view of the nature of human life, sexuality, procreation, marriage, etc., and those who do not. It's not a matter of you not getting your message across. We understand the message. We just don't agree with it.

Marion (Mael Muire)

Old Zhou,

I agree with you that the object of our - not ire, but efforts - should be not be, as you rightly point out, bishops and politicians, but (1) ourselves, (2) our families (3) our parish, neighbors and communities. That said, I think it is reasonable to expect outrage among bona fide Catholics toward Catholic politicians who benefit politicially by presenting themselves as bona fide Catholics, when in fact, they have seceded from the Catholic Church by committing excommunication-latae-sentiae-incurring offenses to curry polititcal favor among non-Catholic and dissenting Catholic voters!

I understand the outrage. I am outraged, too. It's a shame.

And how to reconcile the seeming contradiction between what I took from Evangelium Vitae with your equally compelling remarks from Deus Caritas?

"The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom. . . " (JPII - E.V)

"The Church's social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church's responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life . . ." (BXVI - D.C.E.)

Perhaps it might make sense to say that while it is by no means the role of the Catholic Church as an institution to attempt to impose Church law upon religiously diverse secular democracies, Catholic citizens living in and participating in such democracies are under no obligation to accept civil laws and decisions that violate fundamental human rights, even when a majority of their non-Catholic neighbors support such laws, and that, indeed Catholic citizens are obligated to work within the framework of civil society to overturn laws that violate fundamental human rights.

Similarly, Catholic politicians campaigning and serving in secular democracies are not dispensed from their obligation as Catholics to support fundamental human rights both in their private lives, and as they exercise their duties as legislators, and are indeed required, as Catholics, to support only civil legislation that is not intrisically evil according to the natural law, even when these laws are supported by a majority of their constituents.

Understood in that way, I think the two passages would be in agreement.

Art Deco

And if the church's arguments and positions have not convinced and have not persuaded, then by definition they're not convincing or persuasive.

That people are unconvinced and unpersuaded can little to do with the quality of the arguments. (On this issue, nothing).

Mark in Spokane

The sad fact is, with a few exceptions, the bishops of this country don't really care about the pro-life issue. Look at their distribution of resources within the Conference of Bishops, look at their refusal to publically discipline pro-abortion politicians, look at their lock-step allegiance to the Democratic Party. With a few exceptions, the bishops simply don't care to have a dust up with the liberals in Congress or anywhere else because the bishops themselves are overhwhelming liberal when it comes to political issues. Sad but true.

In Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, the character of Thomas More looks at one of his friends, a nobleman who was going along with Henry's attack on the Church, and told him "The nobility of England would have slept through the Sermon on the Mount." I imagine that the same could be said about the bishops of the United States on the pro-life issue.

Marion (Mael Muire)

Michael R.

Many people did not agree in the 1850s and the 1860s that African-American slaves were people, too.

With rights.

Many people found that notion preposterous.

This led to "The War of Northern Aggression."

Which is what many Confederate apologists call the U.S. Civil War.

Do you support the right of our Southern States to determine who is and who is not a legal person?

Donald R.McClarey

"And if the church's arguments and positions have not convinced and have not persuaded, then by definition they're not convincing or persuasive."

No arguments will convince all people of anything. In reference to abortion most people do understand that a human life is being ended, certainly this is the case if polls are to be believed. Pro-aborts simply don't care. Slaying the unborn is convenient for them, and hence it must remain a protected "right". Demographics will ultimately decide this political battle, as many pro-aborts continue to put to death their own progeny.

Marion (Mael Muire)

No arguments would convince our Southern states in 1861 that black Americans were human persons, too, with rights.

The Southerners were unconvinced and latered the Feds.

We went to war over this. They still weren't convinced that black Americans were worthy of human rights.

A century later, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the "Civil Rights Act of 1965" ending a century of segregation and deprivation of American blacks of their rights.

Because, you know, white Southerners still weren't convinced.

And Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in that school doorway to block the way of those black schoolchildren attempt to come inside to attend class.

Because the arguments for full equality weren't convincing.

Marion (Mael Muire)

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his I Have A Dream speech because so many people still weren't convinced after 350 years!

Joseph R. Wilson

In the words of Abp. Wuerl, as quoted by Amy, "It is said that evil exists when good people do nothing. We must find a way to make our convictions known and effective. For Catholics, the parish community is an ideal context in which to do this and the role of the priest, as leader, places him in a perfect position to reiterate this most basic principle of respect for life. In particular, the homily at appropriate times can be an effective means for communicating this truth. Other opportunities include the regular intentions of the general intercessions, the use of the parish bulletin, parish newsletters and increasingly web sites."

As thomas tucker says of Abp. Wuerl above: "Regardless of whether or not she is allowed to receive Communion, he should be forcefully speaking out about these issues and publicly opposing her stands (just as she publicly opposes the Church's stands) on these issues. I wish he would take his cue from the strong and memorable Cardinal OÇonnor of New York."

Abp. Wuerl had an opportunity to frame the discussion in order to "make our convictions known and effective." He DIDN'T USE IT!

I resent his missing the moment, risking the appearance of fecklessness, if not passivity in bad faith. Many may share my feelings of shame. If I'm wrong, will some of the bishops please do the job of trying to instruct me? I, for one, am deeply sad.

Sonetka

MichaelR - You're assuming that they really know the arguments, instead of just hearing simple statements of the wrongness of something. I'd hesitate to make that assumption.

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