Brazil’s Archbishop Emeritus Jose Cardoso Sobrinho — best known for his efforts to prevent a raped nine-year-old pregnant with her stepfather’s twins from receiving an abortion and his immediate public declaration of the excommunication of her mother and others involved in the abortion — proclaimed last week that pro-abortion candidates “cannot represent honest citizens.”
That’s a long public step beyond the private denial of communion to pro-choice Catholic political figures in this country — a practice Randall Terry would like to see in widespread use.
Agree or disagree, it is nonetheless an honest expression of the doctrine which underlay the conflict over the nine-year-old Brazilian girl’s abortion.
Catholic figures have since protested that there was no medical necessity involved. But it is not clear that for Catholic clergy the debate was fundamentally over medical necessity, as senior Vatican official was quoted as saying at the time:
“We have laws, we have a discipline, we have a doctrine of the faith,” the official says. “This is not just theory. And you can’t start backpedaling just because the real-life situation carries a certain human weight.”
Remember that the Vatican’s top bioethics official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who argued in the Vatican newspaper that human and theological “mercy” should have been applied to those involved in the abortion, saw his view rejected in a “clarification.”
“Moderazione” is the message from the powers that be, persuasively argues Mark Silk of Trinity College’s Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.
Catholic religious journalist David Gibson wrote that some bishops may be uneasy with the “more strident and even partisan tone of many church leaders”:
Last week, Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan publicly broke with that minority, telling National Catholic Reporter that the anti-Obama views represented a minority of bishops, and that the majority was hesitant to speak up.
“The bishops don’t want to have a battle in public with each other, but I think the majority of bishops in the country didn’t join in with that, would not be in agreement with that approach. It’s well intentioned, but we don’t lose our dignity by being strong in the belief that we have but also talking to others that don’t have our belief. We don’t lose our dignity by that,” he said.
Too bad for the protestant Religious Right? It relies on what Silk calls “take-no-prisoners” members of the Catholic hierarchy to echo and add credence to its campaigns – most recently the counter-factual campaign against health care reform.
Debate over the University of Notre Dame’s awarding of an honorary degree to President Obama in May continues in conservative Catholic reaction to the announcement that Obama will deliver a eulogy at Senator Edward Kenndy’s funeral mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston.
Not that the debate ever quite stopped.
Archbishop John R. Quinn argues in the Aug. 31 issue of America magazine that had Notre Dame refused to award Obama an honorary degree, it would have done harm to the church’s and its mission by fostering “false messages” about itself. He argues instead for “a policy cordiality:”
It proceeds from the conviction that the integrity of Catholic teaching can never be sacrificed. It reflects a deep desire to enshrine comity at the center of public discourse and relations with public officials. It is willing to speak the truth directly to earthly power.
Yet the Holy See shows great reluctance to publicly personalize disagreements with public officials on elements of church teaching. And the approach of the Holy See consistently favors engagement over confrontation. As Pope John Paul II put it, “The goal of the Church is to make of the adversary a brother.”
Grant Gallicho of dotCommonWeal writes:
While one might disagree with Bishop D’Arcy’s version of events, it’s tough to take much issue with the way in which he has voiced his displeasure. In other words, he’s never approached the unhinged shenanigans of some of the protesters at Notre Dame. (Speaking of, I never thought Randall Terry could jump the shark. Wow, was I wrong.)
Bishop Sheehan of Sante Fe in an interview with the National Catholic Recorder this week said:
I don’t feel so badly about Obama going [to Notre Dame] because he’s our president. I said we’ve gotten more done on the pro-life issue in New Mexico by talking to people that don’t agree with us on everything. We got Governor Richardson to sign off on the abolition of the death penalty for New Mexico, which he was in favor of. … We need to be building bridges, not burning them.
Expect more of this debate.
Brothers, once when bishops leveled penalties, the effect was to isolate the miscreant from society. Now the effect seems to be to isolate us. Before we take that as a sign of how close to perdition everyone else is, perhaps we should think about our own inadequacies in dealing with the world around us.
Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today writes
“It’s galling, really galling, that they are so eager to speak out now on things they have no influence at all, when they kept silent when they could have done some real good,” says David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). . . . They are grandstanding to score points with with the Catholic right wing, just as Mahony and O’Malley were grandstanding to the left with their gratuitous denunciation of Bishop Williamson.
Does the contrast between past quiet and current political involvement begin to explain their collective loss of authority?
Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson balked at immediately meeting the pope’s requirement that he recant.
“Since I see that there are many honest and intelligent people who think differently, I must look again at the historical evidence,” the British bishop was quoted as saying.
Germany’s Catholic bishops responded by calling for his re-excommunication.
“Mr. Williamson is impossible and irresponsible,” said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference in an article published Saturday. “I now see no room for him in the Catholic Church.”
The German tabloid press was even less oblique in its statements and characterized Williamson as dishonest in a variety of ways.
Williamson is “holed up in the seminary he runs in Argentina,” and isn’t talking to reporters.
Responding to revulsion at the anti-Semitism of four traditionalist bishops whose excommunications were lifted Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed his “full and unquestionable solidarity with Jews.”
The pope said in his angelus prayer at his public audience Wednesday: “While I renew with affection the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our (Jewish) brothers, I hope the memory of the Shoah will induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of hate when it conquers the heart of man.”
While I renew my affection for and complete solidarity with our Brothers of the First Alliance, I urge that the memory of the Shoah lead humanity to reflect on the unforeseeable power of evil when it conquers the Human Heart. May the Shoah be a warning to all against oblivion, against denial or revisionism, because violence committed against any one single human being is violence against all humanity. No man is an island, a well known poet once wrote. The Shoah teaches both the new and older generations, that only the demanding journey of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness can lead the world’s peoples, cultures and religions towards the desired goal of brotherhood and peace in truth. Never again may violence humiliate the dignity of man!
In an unusual front-page editorial the Vatican’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, attempted to push back the appearanc of anti-Semitism apparent in restoration of the four bishops, said the gesture does not yet mean a return to “full communion” with the Church and moreover is a call to the “full acceptance of the Magisterium, obviously including the Second Vatican Council.” The editorial clearly addresses anti-Semitism in general and the Holocaust denial of Bishop Richard Williamson:
After noting that the declaration “Nostra aetate” deplores “the hatred, persecution and all manifestations of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews of any time and by any person” and that this is “a teaching for Catholics that is not open to opinion,” L’Osservatore Romano said that the recent statements of denial by the British bishop “contradict this teaching and are therefore seriously grave and lamentable. Made know before the document lifting the excommunication, they are thus—as we have written—unacceptable.”
Gently understating matters, E.Evans at GetReligion says:
Judging by the extensive coverage given here to church officials distancing themselves from William’s views, it appears that Catholic leaders do not now believe this to be solely an internal church matter, but one that has consequences for external relationships.
Indeed. The positions taken are clear, forceful. With both additional action to restore damage ties and absent further missteps, they may should heal the old but reopened wounds.