ca•coph•o•ny: dissonance, lack of agreement
There's been such a hodgepodge of things Catholic in the news this past week, that it could become mind-boggling if one did not sort it all out, or at least make an effort. That is what I will do today. But from the get-go, it should be obvious that all is not peaches-and-cream among members of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States.
I want to focus first on the bright side! So, let's take a look at the “Braveheart” of Catholic bishops, Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pennsylvania. His heroic deeds of the past few weeks are inspiring, especially his second warning to Senator Robert Casey, Jr., who persists in his political support of aborting children, while claiming he has no response to Bishop Martino's repeated warnings, and his office even claims that his vote against the Mexico City policy was actually a “pro-life” vote!
However, Bishop Martino does not see it that way, and in a second letter to the senator, he wrote,
[I]t is never permissible to use immoral means such as artificial contraception to achieve a good end, namely, the reduction of unplanned pregnancies. In fact, the mistaken view that artificial contraception may be used to regulate population growth and the size of families has led to countless evils in America and abroad, including the attitude that having and raising children is a burden to be avoided. This attitude has contributed mightily to the acceptability of abortion as a means of contraception both at home and abroad.
This courageous bishop has also turned his attention toward Misericordia University, a Catholic institution, after it hosted a speaker who favors the homosexual lifestyle. In response to this flagrant contradiction of Church teaching, the bishop publicly admonished the university, stating,
As Catholics, we must distinguish between authentic tolerance and an "anything goes" mindset. For example, would the Diversity Institute be justified in hosting a speaker who believes the Holocaust is a myth? Or one who believes slavery is okay because certain people are inferior? Or one who believes women can be exploited because they are the "weaker sex"? There are people out there who actually believe this nonsense, and they would be perfectly willing to come to the campus to tell you why.
Their views are certainly "diverse," but does that qualify them to be given a platform in the name of tolerance? Or should they be allowed to make a presentation without any retort from the Catholic perspective?
As Catholics, we believe there is an objective, moral Truth – given to us by Jesus Christ. This Truth is timeless, and it cannot be altered by the shifting tides of popular culture. If our faith and our actions are not rooted in this Truth, we risk contributing to the "dictatorship of relativism" cited by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in a homily given just prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI.
In addition, Bishop Martino has voiced concern about the possibility that the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Scranton may be another source of scandal, due to the possibility that there could be disruptive behavior during the parade.
In Boston, Caritas Christi Health Care has entered into an arrangement with the Commonwealth Care Program, a program that makes referrals for abortions and for contraception services. A few days ago, Cardinal O'Malley issued a formal statement on this matter, stating,
In recent days, concern has been raised about the proposed arrangement involving Caritas Christi Health Care with the Commonwealth Care Program. I understand and support the desire of Caritas Christi to serve as a health care system collaborating with this program. If it can happen without compromising the Catholic identity of the system it would benefit both civil society and especially the poor in our community.
At the same time, as archbishop I have the responsibility to insure that Caritas Christi Health Care adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and that in every aspect of the hospital system the teachings of the Church are protected and maintained.
Consistent with this responsibility I want to confirm for the Catholic community and the wider interested public that Caritas Christi Health Care has assured me that it will not be engaged in any procedures nor draw any benefits from any relationship which violate the Church's moral teaching as found in the Ethical and Religious Directives. Caritas Christi has been consistently faithful to these standards in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
Not everyone is feeling at ease with the cardinal's statement, however. The Catholic Action League issued a statement on March 5 criticizing the cardinal's statement, as reported by Catholic World News:
Local Catholic activists were not convinced. C. J. Doyle of the Catholic Action League called the cardinal's decision "a shameful betrayal of the pro-life cause and a shocking failure of episcopal leadership." Doyle observed: "The cardinal refuses to acknowledge in his statement what Caritas has already admitted – that it will contract with other providers in making referrals for abortions." That cooperation cannot be morally justified, he argued. The Catholic Action League urged concerned Catholics to contact the apostolic nuncio with their complaints.
Further, Catholic commentator Deal Hudson observed,
The first Catholic hospital system to bend to the pressure is Caritas Christi, owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Boston. Only a few days ago, maybe eager to cozy up to the Obama administration and Sebelius, Caritas Christi announced a joint venture with the Centene Corporation to join a state-mandated health-insurance program that would include coverage for abortion and contraceptives – what the Catholic hospital system calls "confidential family-planning services."
Finally, we witnessed a rather stunning display of political correctness by Roger Cardinal Mahony, who collaborated with two officials of the American Jewish Committee to issue a joint statement about Holocaust denier SSPX Bishop Roger Williamson. The statement said, in part, "Holocaust deniers like Williamson will find no sympathetic ear or place of refuge in the Catholic Church, of which he is not — and may never become — a member." However, American Life League pointed out in a media release upon hearing of the cardinal's rebuke, “Since Cardinal Mahony is taking such a strong public position against the Nazi holocaust denier, Bishop Richard Williamson, SSPX, we are hopeful it signals a new attitude towards those who deny and actively support the American holocaust of abortion.”
The statement continues, quoting Michael Hichborn, the head of American Life League's Canon 915 project, which encourages bishops and priests to protect the Holy Eucharist from sacrilege:
Cardinal Mahony's apparent ire regarding one Holocaust denier should provoke him to enforce Catholic Church law when it comes to pro-abortion public figures, that is, if he is to be consistent.
Canon law is clear. Supporting so-called abortion rights is intrinsically evil, and obstinate persistence in grave, manifest sin requires denial of Holy Communion. For pro-abortion public figures to be allowed to receive Holy Communion is a huge scandal. How many people have taken this as a form of silent consent?
Banning a brother bishop from even entering a church is a serious and extreme step. We are waiting for Cardinal Mahony to take similar measures for those who support the intrinsic evil of abortion.
We aren't going to hold our breath waiting for Cardinal O'Malley to intervene in the relationship Caritas has established, nor are we waiting for Cardinal Mahony to announce his enforcement of Canon 915, but we are making a stark comparison here. The cacophony of contradicting statements that flow from some dioceses versus the totally orthodox statements coming from others make it perfectly clear that Catholics cannot, at least in the short term, hope for unity among Catholic bishops. While we encourage them and pray that they will lead the battle against the murder of innocent babies by abortion, we are disheartened by what we see and hear from some of them. As Catholics, we should be able to expect a united effort to make it clear that public figures who support abortion while claiming to be Catholic will be refused Holy Communion until they repent of their evil ways, but that appears to be a long way off as well.
In my many years of pro-life activism, it has always struck me as odd that disunity of any kind would ever occur when the teachings of the Catholic Church are so obvious, so clear and so succinct.