Friday, September 12, 2008

" te domine Gloria...exultate"

Yea, Gloria is traditio.

Suzanne knows a foul when she sees one and calls 'em like she sees 'em. You have to love those, like the anonymous author on the oddly named Catholic Culture website, who are more Catholic than either pope or bishop. I don't mean that in a snide way- you have to love them. I find it tremendously problematic that the attack piece is anonymous. Go figure! As many of my fellow bloggers know, most of the slash and burn comments to blog posts are also anonymous. What courage!

It also amazes me how many people are chomping at the bit to witness the spectacle of a bishop publicly denying communion to a prominent politician. To paraphrase something Cardinal McCarrick said back in 2004, the communion line in the middle of the church is no place to sort out these issues. Don't get me wrong, there are times when such an unfortunate denial would be appropriate, but it is never a matter to be taken lightly and,in the Catholic Church, such determinations are not left to just any ol' body.

It is fine, even healthy, to disagree with our elected leaders. In my opinion, it is not alright to question another person's motives or intentions. Further, I think it shows a distinct lack of caritas when Catholics challenge another person's faith, saying things like "He's not a Catholic", even when the person is baptized, confirmed, married in the church, attends Mass every Sunday and holy day, is a loving and attentive spouse and parent, generous with their time and resources, etc. Fred asked a good question not too long ago- Can a Catholic be confused? Yes! I daresay there are matters on which I am in need clarification and guidance. Does confusion bar you from communion? Generally, no. Otherwise who could receive? When it comes to those issues of grave importance, as a deacon, it is not my place to decide. The Catholic Church is hierarchical, which means sacredly ordered. In this ordering, some are given the responsibility of shepherding the flock. We can't only be hierarchical when the said hierarch, in this case a bishop, does what we think he should do in just the way we think it should be done. To think in such a way is to arrogate all judgment to one's self and to subject a bishop, who is an authentic teacher of the faith, a successor of the apostles, to your private judgment. How Catholic is that? Not very! Foul, indeed.

When those serious issues arise, I suppose it depends on what you are confused about and what implications your confusion has on the way you live your life and the effect it has on the lives of others, and specifically on the church's communion. Of course, we are not to receive communion being conscious of having committed a grave sin or having committed sins with grave matter. In such cases, who knows but us, God, and whoever else may have been involved? We are left to examine ourselves. Our inward disposition is our responsibility, unless we are engaged in persistent, obstinate, and manifest, that is, public, sinful behavior. Whether the positions of an individual Catholic politician rise to the level of persistent, obstinate, and manifest is not mine to judge and it is not one-size-fits-all. It is not my place to question or impugn Sen. Biden's and Speaker Pelosi's stated personal and moral opposition to abortion. Besides, while the Catholic Church is dogmatically committed to ending abortion, we are not not doctrinally committed to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as Dennis O'Brien's article shows. How to end abortion, short of formally cooperating with evil (i.e., ends do not justify means), is a prudential judgment. We have to be able to distinguish between ends and means. To wit: Catholics, on the whole, are committed to ending the unjust situation of abortion on demand, but we have legitimate differences about the best way to accomplish this desired end.

In cases likes the ones involving quite a few Catholic politicians, bishops are presented with a complex, not a simple, pastoral problem. Pastoral solutions are not worked out in the news media, they are not spectacular, but worked out one-on-one. Which, as Suzanne astutely notes, is in accordance with the Lord's own teaching, which is what last Sunday's gospel was all about. Hence, Archbishop Niederauer's invitation to Speaker Pelosi to meet. It is great news she has graciously accepted his invitation.

Look at it this way, if you ran afoul on some important matter, would you rather your pastor asked you to meet with him privately or make an announcement at the end of Mass to the entire parish, or begin his homily with something like "I'd like to take this opportunity to let Deacon Scott know, as well as all of you, that he is up-in-the night regarding his unfailing support of the increasingly hapless Oakland Athletics baseball club year after year"?

I liked very much reading the retired bishop of Wilmington, Delaware, Bishop Mulvee's, take on the matter, saying that he prefers communication to excommunication. As Archbishop Niederauer pointed out, though more eloquently, a responsible shepherd, who seeks to imitate the Good Shepherd, does not use his crozier to beat his sheep.


  1. I have a question, Deacon. Consider someone who has divorced and remarried. Now he may be in a state of grave sin, or he may not, depending on the status of the first marriage.

    While we wait for the tribunal to make that judgment, do we give this person the benefit of the doubt about receiving communion? No - they are told not to receive until the church determines their status.

    Yet in the case of politicians whose words and deeds are arguably facilitating the sin of abortion, we do give them the benefit of the doubt by allowing them to receive the Lord, unless and until the Church decides otherwise. Which it never seems to do.

    Why is this? It seems to me that it must be very discouraging to people who have divorced and remarried and find themselves unable to receive communion for months or years. Perhaps it is one reason why so many people in that situation end up leaving the church.

  2. So, are you arguing that people in irregular marriage sitiuations should be permitted to communion, or that certain Catholic politicians should not? Cutting to the chase, there is no analogy here, not even an indirect one. One's marital status is objective, easy to determine, and in a great many cases not difficult to resolve. The pastoral complexity regarding many Catholic politicians and their relationship to what the church clearly teaches about abortion arises from the fact that it is not so objective. This is why the matter is best left up to individual bishops to deal with in a pastoral manner. This is also the reason that different bishops may arrive at different prudential judgments in different cases involving different politicians.

    Once again, you cannot dismiss it when a politician says s/he is personally and morally opposed to abortion and then proceeds to give the reasons why there is a disconnect between that and the way they vote. It is that reason (i.e., one that keeps them from making a consistent judgment based on their moral conviction- Sen. Biden's claim that his belief about when life begins- at conception- is both a "personal and private matter," for example) not questioning their stated moral conviction that becomes the focus of dialogue.

  3. I'm not arguing for either, just pointing out what looks like a great inconsistency.

    I also don't think marriage cases are always as objective as you say. Retroactively judging someone's capacity to enter into marriage years after the fact is of necessity an extremely subjective matter. God in His Grace has given the church wisdom to make these decisions.

    I agree that the motivations of politicians are not always so clear. But sometimes they are very clear. Yet even in these cases, bishops never seem to act. That is what confuses me, and apparently a great many more of the faithful.

  4. While the process to determine the sacramental validity of a marriage, regardless of the kind of case, is objective and not a subjective judgment, arriving at a judgment, especially in a formal case, is not a forgone conclusion. Nonetheless, I didn't write that marriage cases are always objective. I wrote that a person's marital status is objective and easy to determine. To wit:

    Are you currently married? Yes/No If yes, have you been married previously? Yes/No. If yes, have you submitted the appropriate petition to the Marriage Tribunal in order to resolve your previous marriage? Yes/No. If yes, was your petition granted? Yes/no. It doesn't get any more objective than that.

    One important point that needs to be made is that neither you nor I know what a bishop may or may not have done in a specific instance. As Abp Niederauer wrote, it is regretful whenever a public correction has to be made.


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...