Timothy Dolan would’ve sided with the Republicans, NOT Jesus, had this actually occurred… do reflect on that…
In recent years, many American bishops drew a harder line with parishioners on what one could consider truly Roman Catholic, adopting a more aggressive style of correction, and telling abortion rights supporters to stay away from the sacrament of Communion. Liberal-minded Catholics derided the approach as tone-deaf. Church leaders said that they had no choice given what was happening around them… growing secularism, increasing acceptance of gay marriage, and a broader culture that they considered more and more hostile to Christianity. They felt that they were following the lead of the pontiffs who elevated them.
However, in blunt terms, in an interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, the new pope, Francisco Bergoglio, called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage, and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away. Now, the American bishops face a challenge to rethink a strategy many considered essential for preserving the faith. John Green, a religion specialist at the University of Akron‘s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said, “I don’t see how the pope’s remarks can be interpreted in any other way than arguing that the church’s rhetoric on the so-called culture war issues needs to be toned down. I think his language calls for less stridency on these issues”.
The leadership of the American church is composed of men appointed by Popes John Paul II or Benedict XVI, who made a priority of defending doctrinal orthodoxy. Over the last decade or so, the bishops worked to reassert their moral authority, in public life and over the less-obedient within their flock. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) warned Catholics that voting for abortion-rights supporters could endanger their souls. Church leaders in Minnesota, Maine, and elsewhere took prominent roles in opposing legal recognition for same-sex marriage in their states. Bishops censured some theologians and prompted a Vatican-directed takeover of the largest association for American nuns by bringing complaints to Rome that the sisters strayed from church teaching and paid too little attention to abortion.
Terrence Tilley, a theologian at Fordham University, said that Francisco wasn’t silencing discussion of abortion or gay marriage, but indicating that those issues should be less central, for the sake of evangelisation. However, he noted that bishops have independence to decide how they should handle local political issues, saying, “Although Francis is sending a clear signal that he’s not a culture warrior, that doesn’t mean the bishops will follow in lockstep“. Few of the American bishops who’ve commented so far on Francisco’s interview indicated that they planned to change.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore MD, head of the USCCB Religious Liberty Committee, said in a phone interview, “Issues do arise and we can’t always control the timing. However, every time I make a statement about one of these things I’ll certainly take another look at it and ask, ‘Does this really lead people back to the heart of the Gospel?’ That’s what he’s asking us to do. I think that’s a fair question”. Lori said that he expected no changes in the bishops’ push for broader religious exemptions from the contraception coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act. Dozens of Catholic charities and dioceses, along with evangelical colleges and others, are suing the Obama administration over the regulation. The bishops say the provision violates the religious freedom of faith-based nonprofits and for-profit employers.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco CA, head of the USCCB Defence-Of-Marriage Committee, said in a brief statement, “We must address key issues and if key issues are in the minds of those who are talking with us we will address them”. Christine Mugridge, a spokesman for Cordileone, said, “In San Francisco, these issues are very relevant to daily life for the people of this archdiocese. As long as the people of the archdiocese have particular talking points that are pressing upon them, the archbishop will respond to those talking points”.
Francisco, the first Jesuit elected pope, said in the interview, “We can’t insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods”. He said that the church should instead act like a “field hospital after battle, to heal wounds and to warm the hearts” of people so they’d feel welcome in the church. The day after the article appeared, Francisco denounced abortion as a symptom of a “throw-away culture”, in an address to Catholic gynaecologists. He encouraged physicians to refuse to perform abortions. However, in the interview last month, conducted in Rome by the editor of the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, Francisco said, “it isn’t necessary to talk about these issues all the time”. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York NY, president of the USCCB, said that he thought the pope was telling everyone… inside and outside the church… to focus less on polarising debates on sex and morals. Dolan said on CBS This Morning, “I don’t know if it’s just the church that seems obsessed with those issues. It seems to be culture and society. What I think he’s saying is, ‘Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way’. If we keep kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive”.
During the 2004 presidential election, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis MO launched what was dubbed “Wafer Watch” when he said that he’d deny Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a Catholic who supported abortion rights. Other bishops followed suit or suggested that abortion-rights supporters refrain from the sacrament. Benedict later appointed Burke head of the Vatican high court and elevated him to cardinal. By 2007, the bishops revised their moral guide for Catholic voters to put a special emphasis on the evil of abortion, so the issue wouldn’t be lost amid other concerns such as poverty or education. The document, called “Faithful Citizenship”, warned voters that supporting abortion rights could endanger their souls. In the 2012 campaign season, it was much more common to hear bishops warning Catholics that voting for a particular candidate would amount to “formal cooperation in grave evil”. Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria IL compared the policies of US President Barack Obama to those of Hitler and Stalin. At Mass on the Sunday before the presidential election, Jenky instructed his priests to read a letter saying politicians who support abortion rights reject Jesus.
Theologically-conservative Christians disagree over how much, if anything, needs to change in response to Francisco’s comments. Mark Brumley, chief executive of Ignatius Press, a theologically-conservative publishing house that Pope Benedict XVI chose as his English-language publisher, was among those who said, “I don’t see a major shift”. Just last week, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence RI said in an interview with his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed” that Francisco hadn’t spoken out about abortion. On Friday, in a statement responding to the pope’s remarks, Tobin said that he admired Francisco’s leadership, noting, “Being a Catholic doesn’t mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both. We’re grateful to Pope Francis for reminding us of that vision”.
21 September 2013
As quoted in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis MN)
The pope’s remarks stunned the righties… they’re deer caught in the headlights. Of course, they claim that nothing’s changed. However, do note what Dolan (a known suck-up to the woollier factions of the GOP) said:
What I think he’s saying is, “Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way”. If we keep kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive.
In short, Dolan found out that the Vatican doesn’t appreciate his smarmy schmoozing with the Republicans. After all, the GOP supports constant warfare, a rapacious Free Market, lawless libertarianism, Wild West gun laws, and out-of-control consumerism and individualism (that is, godless Neoliberalism in all of its sickening glory), all of which are EVIL according to encyclicals issued at Rome since the 60s (even Wojtyła and Ratzinger condemned the evil found in American me-first crapitalism). Note well that Dolan “got the message”. He’s going to pull in his horns, as are the other bishops. Mind you, Francisco’s not going to make them lose public face, but they’re going to have to watch themselves from now on. By the way, contraception and state-provided single-payer healthcare aren’t an issue. To put it bluntly, Catholic bishops in other countries haven’t put up the brouhaha that the American bishops have (part of it is a hangover from Irish-American Jansenism)… most of the Catholic Church lives in countries where contraception’s covered by national health insurance, and the RCs haven’t fallen into the sea.
Let’s be clear what the Catholic bishops were trying to do. They were attempting to use the police power of the state to enforce their policies, which ain’t kosher, no way, no how. The Catholic Church as a business and the Catholic Church as a religious body are two very separate things. Catholic hospitals employ thousands of people, many of whom aren’t Catholics. The Catholic Church can’t forbid them access to contraception… perhaps, a Catholic hospital could get an exemption in dispensing such, but only if there’s an alternative location easily accessible to dispense contraceptives to those who want them. That is, it isn’t an “assault on religious liberty”… indeed, the Catholic bishops’ position is the assault on religious liberty, as they claim that they can forbid all of their employees, both Catholic and non-Catholic, from having access to legal contraceptive materials. This was an open attempt on the part of the Catholic Church to use the state (through their greasy Republican pals) to enforce Catholic doctrine on non-Catholics. That’s a serious no-no… and Francisco saw it, and nipped it.
Never forget that the moral theology of Orthodoxy and Catholicism isn’t identical. Indeed, the areas where it differs the most are marriage and contraception. We allow divorce, the Catholics don’t, which means that the largest number of converts that we receive from the papists are those eaten up by the Catholic marriage mill. As for contraception, we allow it… full stop. We don’t agree with the papists on that at all. In general, oikonomia informs Orthodoxy… we’re simply not crusaders… either in the moral or literal sense of the word.
Francisco Bergoglio isn’t a clueless and drooling American culture warrior… he’s a Latin American who dealt with rightwing dictatorship first-hand. I do daresay that the righties amongst the American Catholics better wise up to that. Hats off to Pope Francisco… he knows how to discombobulate the right. I think that I’m not alone in thinking that…