Skip to comments.Who Are the ‘Real’ Catholics?
Posted on 04/13/2004 11:49:17 AM PDT by johnb2004
April 12 - I was waiting outside Senator Ted Kennedy's office not long ago, listening to one side of a conversation on a subject on which one side is all anyone ever seems to hear. "Yes, Ma'am, he is Catholic,'' the young man answering the senator's phone that day told the caller wearily.
"The senators are not doctors, Ma'am, with the exception of Bill Frist...And I think one of them is a veterinarian...I'm sorry you feel that way, Ma'am...The Pope has met him on several occasions and he considers him Catholic.'' Yes, the aide sighed as he hung up, he gets those calls all the time.
Catholics have also been dialing the Washington archdiocese to weigh in on whether another pro-choice Catholic, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, could, should or would take communion on Easter. (In the end, he did, in Boston, without incident.) Why would such a private matter even be open to public debate? Because, previously on "How Catholic Is He...'' Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis began the discussion back in February when he announced ahead of the Missouri presidential primary that he, for one, would refuse Kerry the Eucharist since his public stands on abortion and gay unions contradict church teaching. Last week, Kerry brought fresh misery on himself when he fought back by citing a non-existent pope, "Pius XXIII" as a source of his mistaken belief that Vatican II essentially tells Catholics: Whatever. Someone from a group called Priests for Life then accused Kerry of "supporting the dismemberment of babies.'' And for those who just can't get enough on the subject, there are now several new Web sites solely devoted to Kerry's standing in the Church, including ExcommunicateKerry.com.
I can only imagine how smirk-worthy this exercise must seem to non-Catholics, including a few of my acquaintances who are amazed that anyone would want into our not-very-exclusive club after all weve learned about how our leaders protected child abusers instead of children over the decades. And the Catholic Church has not survived for more than 2,000 years by excluding, but rather by co-opting everything from Roman holidays to elements of African animism.
So it was a relief to hear Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington respond with a pastoral voice on the Kerry issue. McCarrick is heading a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops task force on how to handle Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. In an empty meeting room at St. Matthews in downtown D.C., where the cardinal led a prayer service last Wednesday, he pulled a couple of dusty folding chairs down from a stack so wed have someplace to sit while we talked. When I asked about Kerrys standing, he seemed pained by the idea of turning him, or anyone else, away. I would find it hard to use the Eucharist as a sanction, he said gently. You dont know whats in anyones heart when they come before you. Its important that everyone know what our principles are, but youd have to be very sure someone had a malicious intent [before denying him communion.] McCarrick is surprisingly humble, and a reluctant judge. Its between the person and God, he said. Should Kerry or someone in his campaign seek counsel on Catholic protocol? What they do, he demurred, is really their business and not mine. The archdiocese has gotten some calls on the subject from rank-and-file Catholics, but he declined to characterize the faithful as a monolith: Obviously, we run the spectrum in the Catholic Church, from people who feel very annoyed with their politicians to those who are very supportive.
Though this attitude is sure to be criticized as more watered-down Catholicism Lite, I dont see it that way. At a less orthodox time in my own Catholic life, a nun in my parish in Northern California improved my understanding and appreciation of the sacraments through the underusedand doubtless desperatestrategy of working with me instead of turning me away. I had agreed to teach a parish Sunday school class for second-graders preparing to make their first communionuntil it dawned on me that I would also be expected to instruct them on the sacrament formerly known as confession. I havent been in a while myself, I told her. Thats fine, she said briskly. Maybe youll go now. Like her, McCarrick seems to feel that we only get better if we stick around and practice.
For some, this willingness to meet people where they are amounts to an acknowledgment that the clerical sex scandals have undermined the bishops ability to lead. But McCarrick disagrees. You have conversations that are compassionate but clear. Youre not doing anyone a favor if youre not clear. He seems confident that the church as a whole is ready to move beyond the scandals now. But, he said, You can only move forward if the people believe that we appreciate the harm thats been done, and understand the sadness and the betrayal.
Weve had this trauma, but we cant stay in darkness; thats the whole Easter message. Were an Easter people and Alleluia is our song, he said, quoting Augustine. Throughout the trial that the scandal has been to all American Catholics, that song sometimes seemed impossible to sing. The wounds will not heal quickly, and they are sure to be ripped open occasionally, too. Only last week, a 72-year-old priest in Orange County, California was removed from the ministry after pleading guilty to molesting a 15-year-old girl as he sat with her in the back seat of a carwhile her parents rode up front.
(Excerpt) Read more at msnbc.msn.com ...
So it was a relief to hear Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington respond with a pastoral voice on the Kerry issue. McCarrick is heading a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops task force on how to handle Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. In an empty meeting room at St. Matthews in downtown D.C., where the cardinal led a prayer service last Wednesday, he pulled a couple of dusty folding chairs down from a stack so wed have someplace to sit while we talked. When I asked about Kerrys standing, he seemed pained by the idea of turning him, or anyone else, away. I would find it hard to use the Eucharist as a sanction, he said gently. You dont know whats in anyones heart when they come before you. Its important that everyone know what our principles are, but youd have to be very sure someone had a malicious intent [before denying him communion.] McCarrick is surprisingly humble, and a reluctant judge. Its between the person and God, he said. Should Kerry or someone in his campaign seek counsel on Catholic protocol? What they do, he demurred, is really their business and not mine.
I would find it hard to use the Eucharist as a sanction, (Unless the villian proposed saying a Latin Mass?) What they do, he demurred, is really their business and not mine. (Unless the villian proposes saying a Latin Mass?)
Great! Lesson learned! Now it is time for your as Cardinal to impart that wisdom to your listeners, especially a 'presidential candidate' named Kerry. Otherwise, no lesson was learned.
888 Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task "to preach the Gospel of God to all men," in keeping with the Lord's command.415 They are "heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers" of the apostolic faith "endowed with the authority of Christ."416
889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a "supernatural sense of faith" the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, "unfailingly adheres to this faith."417
890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:
891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421
892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.
The sanctifying office
893 The bishop is "the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood,"423 especially in the Eucharist which he offers personally or whose offering he assures through the priests, his co-workers. The Eucharist is the center of the life of the particular Church. The bishop and priests sanctify the Church by their prayer and work, by their ministry of the word and of the sacraments. They sanctify her by their example, "not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock."424 Thus, "together with the flock entrusted to them, they may attain to eternal life."425
The governing office
894 "The bishops, as vicars and legates of Christ, govern the particular Churches assigned to them by their counsels, exhortations, and example, but over and above that also by the authority and sacred power" which indeed they ought to exercise so as to edify, in the spirit of service which is that of their Master.426
895 "The power which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church."427 But the bishops should not be thought of as vicars of the Pope. His ordinary and immediate authority over the whole Church does not annul, but on the contrary confirms and defends that of the bishops. Their authority must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope.
896 The Good Shepherd ought to be the model and "form" of the bishop's pastoral office. Conscious of his own weaknesses, "the bishop . . . can have compassion for those who are ignorant and erring. He should not refuse to listen to his subjects whose welfare he promotes as of his very own children. . . . The faithful . . . should be closely attached to the bishop as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father":428