Bishop (soon to be Cardinal) Wuerl has been named as the replacement for the retiring Cardinal McCarrick of the Diocese of Washington, D.C. Being the seat of the Nation's capitol in some ways it could be said that this is the most prestigious and influential Bishopric in the country. Naturally with that amount of power comes massive responsibility.
Bishop Wuerl is a big believer in collegiality. Collegiality has become on of those "uh-oh" words. It signals a horizontal model of liberal leadership rather than hierarchical. And on no issue is this approach more flawed than on the matter of abortion. During the 2004 Presidential election, Senator John Kerry, a self professed Catholic who supports abortion anytime and anyplace without restriction, was censured by a few (way too few) Bishops; Bishops who stated publicly that if John Kerry presented himself for Holy Communion he would be denied.
However the liberal Bishops sought to find a way to protest that though they say they are prolife they do not expect John Kerry to be prolife. That would be asking Way Too Much. After all Senator Kerry is from Boston (and France)and we have transcended all that sentimentality here and do not tolerate Catholicism in our politicians.
Cardinal McCarrick first spun a document from the Vatican that declared proabortion politicans should not be given Holy Communion and concluded that it said the exact opposite. Unfortunately, McCarrick was not alone in this approach. His willing accomplice was Bishop Wuerl. In this letter on the subject, Wuerl states the following:
Refusal of Communion implies, according to applicable Church law, that the person who is not admitted to Holy Communiion is one who is excommunicated or interdicted, or obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin. (cfC915)
Seems to me that that is the very basis for refusing Communion to proabortion politicians. But then Wuerl parses and parses some more. I think he will be a natural in Washington.
Given the long standing practice of not making a public judgment about the state of the soul of those who present themselves for Holy Communion, it does not seem that it is sufficiently clear that in the matter of voting for legislation that supports abortion such a judgment necessarily follows. The pastoral tradition of the Church places the responsibility of such a judgment first on those presenting themselves for Holy Communion.
Don't understand that conclusion? Well, no one does because it doesn't make any sense. Ever courageously, Wuerl goes on to state that there may be Other Sanctions. He proposes:
- Proabortion politicians being made unwelcome at Catholic Colleges
- Proabortion politicians not receiving honorary degrees and awards from Catholic colleges, and
- Proabortion politicians being barred from using Catholic facilities.
Guess that didn't work out too well.
Bishop Wuerl proposes a "national collegial" approach:
"One such approach would be an actual mechanism of the conference to facilitate some consensus and unified pastoral practice," he said. "Another approach, which would be less formal but perhaps more effective, would be the commitment on the part of all the bishops to discuss beforehand, through some conference structure, decisions that will impact all of the bishops and the church as a whole."
He said a formal mechanism of review by the conference before barring a politician from Communion would require either a two-thirds vote of the bishops and a mandate from the Vatican or a completely unanimous decision by the bishops.
This would effectively tie the hands of any Bishop who wanted to correct anyone. And I guess that is the goal. Silence the few courageous bishops and our opposition to abortion becomes merely rhetorical and theoretical. Afterall it's not as if babies are really dying or anything. Oh, right, I guess they are.