Skip to comments.Dolan lauds result of bishop's actions against lawmakers
Posted on 01/25/2004 5:50:30 AM PST by ninenot
Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, a firm supporter of sanctity-of-life teachings and a friend of La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke, is happy that Burke's disciplining of Catholic politicians who support abortion "front-burnered" that issue.
But Dolan, who was installed as archbishop a year and a half ago, is waiting for a task force from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to propose guidelines for bishops this fall before deciding whether he will emulate Burke.
He shared those thoughts - his first public comments on the Burke controversy - in an interview with Journal Sentinel reporter Tom Heinen last week after celebrating a Mass for Life with several hundred people in Gesu Church on the Marquette University campus to mark the 31st anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Dolan said he had not sent letters to Catholic politicians regarding their position on the abortion issue, nor has he sought them out specifically to bring it up in conversation.
Burke got national attention in December when it became known that he had sent a number of letters to three Catholic Wisconsin politicians, warning that they were endangering their spiritual lives and scandalizing others if they persisted in supporting abortion rights.
He refueled the ensuing national church-state debate on Jan. 8 by publishing a notice telling Catholic politicians - in his diocese - who support abortion and euthanasia not to receive Holy Communion, and ordering his priests not to give it to them if they try.
That prompted the American Life League in Stafford, Va., which Dolan supports, to urge other bishops to follow Burke's unprecedented, broad action in a newspaper ad campaign last Thursday titled "The Way of La Crosse." The group's Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church has targeted a large number of Catholic politicians nationwide for action, including some in the 10-county Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Burke will be installed Monday as archbishop of St. Louis. Here are excerpts from the interview with Dolan:
Q. You are known for your strong, pro-life stance. What's your position on Bishop Burke's actions?
A. In my book, it's that classical distinction between principle and pastoral practice. And, you know, Bishop Burke and I go way back. I've known him since 1972, and I have tremendous admiration and respect for him. Boy, his intellect, his piety, his wisdom have been a blessing to me.
So, what's come of this, I think, which I'm happy for, is what you might call we front-burnered this issue again. And no matter where you stand on the particular style of what he's done, I think all of us - certainly as bishops, Catholic leaders, people committed to a pro-life cause - are glad that it's front-burnered. And we're saying this is a principle that we can't waffle on. This is a cause that for us is the premier cause of social justice in America today.
(Dolan said Burke's actions had prompted him to examine his own conscience, to see if he had been as "effective" and "cogent" as he should have been in presenting church teaching.)
I know that Bishop Burke himself has said, "I'm not saying every bishop should do it this way." He's said, "This is the way that I prudentially made up my mind as pastor of the Diocese of La Crosse, that I need to do this." And I would respect his pastoral judgment. But I know every bishop's just got to kind of make up his mind prudentially as to the way, the style he's going to do it in his own diocese.
Q. Have you decided how you're handling it?
A. I'm pretty much at peace with the way I've been handling it.
Q. And how is that?
A. I think being very strong in preaching, being very clear in the message, keeping it alive in peoples' minds and hearts. It's rare that I would give a homily that I wouldn't mention the particular pastoral urgency of the pro-life cause.
Q. What's your approach to Catholic politicians, as opposed to more general speaking?
A. I think we've got to be much more vigorous in promoting the pro-life cause with everybody. It bothers me if any politician, Catholic or not, is for abortion. Because in my mind, we're talking about a civil right, we're not talking about a matter of Catholic Church discipline. We can't allow the noble pro-life cause to be reduced to a denominational issue.
Q. You are new in your episcopacy. The U.S. bishops are still formulating guidelines. So, it's in flux. Do you know how you are going to handle individual Catholic politicians?
A. I don't. I can honestly say that. I don't know. I think what the bishops collectively decide, I would take very seriously. But ultimately, it's something I'm going to have to say, how best can I lead, and guide, and form, and challenge my people to live up to all of the demands of the church. And I don't know, to be honest with you. And nor does Bishop Burke. I mean, it took him 10 years and a lot of dialogue and a lot of overtures before he came to that.
(Dolan, a native of St. Louis, who has a doctorate in American church history, added some thoughts about faith and conscience.)
Can you remember back in the early 1960s, in New Orleans, when Archbishop (Joseph) Rummel excommunicated those Catholic politicians and judges who were segregationists? And, of course, he was held up as a hero on every editorial page.
Or in St. Louis. We had the famous Archbishop (Joseph) Ritter, who came after the Second World War, and he announced the integration of the schools. And a lot of people - politicians, prominent business leaders - stood up and said, "This can't be." And he said, "Cease and desist. You're risking the health of your soul, and you're risking the imposition of an ecclesiastical penalty." He's held up as a hero. I mean, every textbook now says what a brave, courageous man.
Q. What about, in a democratic society, the principle of an elected official representing everyone? That's where the rub is.
A. That's where it comes down, doesn't it. That's where the delicacy of the whole issue is, when he says, 'Well, I'm elected but . . . ' That was used, of course, to justify opposition to civil rights. That was used for slavery. That was used for segregation.
You know, we American bishops - again (speaking as) the church historian - I look back to our stance on slavery, and it wasn't a good one. And we look back and say, 'Darn it. We missed an opportunity to be prophetic.'
And I guess that's something we bishops have to ask ourselves now. Are we missing an opportunity to be prophetic?
Too late. I've already seen it; and I agree with the Pope.
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