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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Another Entry in the Devil's Dictionary for Faithful Catholics.


PRONUNCIATION: pass-tore-l.
ADJECTIVE: 1a. Of or relating to a pastor or the duties of a pastor: pastoral duties; a pastoral letter; 1b. A term often used by a Catholic ordinary as an excuse for his refusal to actually perform any such duties that might involve bad publicity.

Here's another free insight, FWIW: whenever a Catholic bishop gets a rhetorical tongue bath in the secular media, he's not doing his job.

Exhibit A: this frippery on L'Affaire Kerry, featuring very special guest star Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, in full bob-and-weave mode.


So it was a relief to hear Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington respond with a pastoral voice on the Kerry issue.

I'm really, really, really beginning to hate that word. Fun thought experiment: Every time you see it used in conjunction with a bishop's inaction on a scandalous issue, try replacing it with "retiring," "diffident," "timorous," or even "pathetic." It's very instructive.

I mean, by the same token, Bernard Cardinal Law's handling of Paul Shanley could also be called "pastoral."

McCarrick is heading a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops task force on how to handle Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.

Which will get back to you on the issue around the same time they decide to refer that whole "plenary council" idea to the USCCB's Joint Episcopal Subcommittee For Furled Brow Dithering (interestingly enough, the JESFFBD shares an office with the Ministry of Silly Walks).

Hell, they'll probably refer it to the same subcommittee. Whoopsie!

In an empty meeting room at St. Matthew’s 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 we’d have someplace to sit while we talked. When I asked about Kerry’s 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.

Uh, ever heard of excommunication? Oh, that's right--communion is a civil right for the Easter People these days--a symbol of our surface unity despite the fact some of us refuse to believe "that crap" anymore. It's like getting your driver's licen--oh, wait: they revoke that when you maim somebody with your Buick. OK, bad analogy. Um, it's like the right to vote--oh, they'll yank that if you commit a felony, too.

Oh, forget it--it's the great big agape table--Josh didn't have any standards, so why should we? What the hell--next time I'm in DC, I'm going to let my freak flag fly at the good ol' eucharistic celebration!

"You don’t know what’s in anyone’s heart when they come before you. It’s important that everyone know what our principles are, but you’d have to be very sure someone had a malicious intent [before denying him communion.]”

Technically true, but it nicely ignores the fact that while you can't read hearts, you can judge actions. And unrestricted abortion has had no better friend in this country than John Forbes Kerry. Just check the voting record and full-throated endorsements. I mean, what does Kerry have to do here--walk up to the rail wearing a T-shirt that says "I LUV Dr. Carhart" showing a picture of the bad doctor working briskly at his Mengelesque finest?

Or does the Abp. perhaps suspect that Sen. Kerry suffers from some defect in intention--i.e., JFK's barking mad?

McCarrick is surprisingly humble, and a reluctant judge.

"And the winner of our 2004 Strange New Respect Award goes to...."

Alas, however: It's not true. Abp. McCarrick is a swift and stern judge of perceived orthodoxy--when the issue is important to him. Consider this effort to lay down the law concerning a Catholic sportsmen's raffle at a Washington parish in 2003:

[The head of the sportsmen's group] set out to do something about the tattered uniforms of Catholic Youth Organization sports teams. An ordinary raffle might raise $100. But Hyattsville is not far from the Prince George's County Trap and Skeet Center, where gun enthusiasts practice and take lessons. A fundraiser there, with a gun giveaway, might get the kids the support they need.

* * *

The cardinal decided that the sportsmen's group could raise money for St. Jerome's only if the events are not "related in any way to the use or sale of guns."

See? He can set boundaries!

“It’s between the person and God,’’ he said.

Unless icky guns and gun owners are involved. Then he waves the interdict. But, since this just involves a possible Catholic president whose career has helped ensure that the obliteration of human life in the womb is legal at any point during the pregnancy--well, no big whoop. By the way, your eminence: my firearms have killed fewer people (zero) than the abortion doctors John Kerry supports (40,000,000).

Should Kerry or someone in his campaign seek counsel on Catholic protocol? “What they do,’’ he demurred, “is really their business and not mine.’’

Unless the Senator decides to have a gun raffle. Then all bets are off!

No, really--this is the nadir of the Abp's presentation. It's not merely the waffling, the pastoral dodging and so forth--here, the Cardinal goes way beyond in the Surrender Sweepstakes: Not only will he not offer the Senator any counsel on the issue, he says he won't answer the phone if Kerry calls.

Yes, "pathetic" is the best substitute word here. Far from being a recognition of the weakness of the Church following the scandals, it is the continuation of the same gutless bureaucratic mindset.

Shame on him.

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.’’

Sounds like you've got a fine catechetical department there. The confusion of your flock mirrors that of their shepherd.

On a concluding note: I was in Washington for a conference in August 2002. The conference lasted a week, and the Assumption fell during the middle of it. I had to decide whether to go to a parish in Washington or Arlington. By a quirk of timing, I ended up going to St. Ann's in Arlington.

Thank God.

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