2.16.2006

Poor Bryan Hehir...

Two items about the role of Catholics in public life:

1) The R.C. bishops of Massachusetts may attempt to obtain an exemption for Catholic Charities from accepting adoption applications from gay or lesbian applicants. It looks as though some members of the board, upon hearing their president, the eminent theologian and ethicist J. Bryan Hehir, report the bishops' plans last week, decided to go public, both on and off the record. After the recent flack here in November when Catholic Charities honored Boston mayor Thomas Menino and Sean O'Malley refused to attend, this is one more instance where we see a very public disagreement between the bishops of Massachusetts and their flock. But, despite angry voices to the contrary, this is not a question of a few wild-eyed, anti-Catholic liberals finding an excuse to stand up to their bishops; the Catholics who run and support Catholic Charities are some of the most dedicated and responsible members of the church in Boston. In the firestorm of the last five years, they have been the backbone for an ailing community. Poor Fr. Hehir is caught in the middle again; he obviously can't publicly disagree with the bishops, for both theological reasons (in his position, he is representing their authority), and for more practical reasons (they are also, mundanely, his bosses). But it must pain him deeply to see an institution to which he has devoted so much of his energy in the past few years, which is back on track financially in large part due to his efforts, keep getting kicked in the shins by the very men whose task it is to hold the local church in unity. The only silver lining that might come of a very public disagreement is the existence of a very public disagreement among Catholics; but here in Boston, I think that we've already had a strong lesson in the fact that faithful Catholics can faithfully disagree; we're more in need of some lessons in how that disagreement can be carried out in love, rather than suspicion.

2) Another story about Catholics and public life comes to us from my new favorite blog in the universe, Whispers in the Loggia. The author is a very bright, and very well-connected, Vaticanista; picture John Allen, but then make him a bit more snarky (in other words, combine a deep respect for the importance of ecclesial authority with the chutzpah to start referring to Benedict XVI as "His Fluffiness"). The Pope Whisperer wrote yesterday about a lecture at SLU by Andres Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Your humble blogger had his money on Rodriguez Maradiaga, figuratively and literally, via http://paddypower.com, and still has hopes that, if it pleases the Holy Spirit, this man could be the first American pope. But in talking about the question of distributing communion to politicians whose votes might come into conflict with church teaching, he shows a real respect for the sanctity of conscience, and for the agency of individuals to discern those judgments in private, with God, their pastors, and their fellow Christians, rather than in front of a bank of news cameras. This is not an issue that's going to go away in American Catholic politics...

1 comment:

Michael said...

To paraphrase the great St Thomas More, the time has come for many of us to say, "The bishops' good servant, but God's first."

Some of the American bishops seem willing to suffer for their principles. That is their prerogative and an admirable thing. Some also seem willing to make others suffer, including vulnerable children and loving gay and lesbian (even Catholic) people who would reach out to them, and that I am not so sure about.

What am I saying? I am sure about it. It is evil.