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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Understanding Detroit.

The archdiocese, to be more precise. Inasmuch as it can be understood or explained, that is.

A bit of a furor is developing about the confusing leadership of the archdiocese on our Governor's race.

Five things to keep in mind.

(1) There is a history of official disdain for the good folks at Catholics in the Public Square. I have a very reliable report of an official attempt to stop CPS' advocacy in favor Michigan's marriage amendment proposal back in 2004. It was quickly repented of by the respected and decent person in question, but it was stunning that it was even tried. The good news is that the archdiocese and Michigan Catholic Conference did put in a yeoman's effort to support the amendment, however belatedly. Still, this episode is a prime example of number (2) immediately following.

(2) Detroit is a badly-divided archdiocese. From the pews to the chancery on Washington Boulevard, there is a fierce tussle between the late Cardinal Dearden's dogged progressives on one side and the more conservative Boomer and X-er generations on the other. It isn't pretty, and it results in the phenomenon that prounouncements from HQ are often confused or completely lacking. Put another way, Detroit is often quite literally of two minds on every important issue and those heads try to butt each other whenever they get the chance.

(3) Adam Cardinal Maida draws a very bright line between issue advocacy (generally good) and candidate advocacy (verboten). In the former, the AoD can be a very active player indeed, shooting down an attempt to legalize euthanasia in Michigan in 1998 and using an obscure Michigan constitutional provision to get a partial birth abortion ban past Governor Granholm's itchy veto pen. That the Merry Medeas at NARAL immediately drew a line in the dust and successfully sued to block the PBA law, shrilling "Abortion now, abortion tomorrow and abortion forever!" cannot be laid at the feet of the AoD. In short, the Cardinal has a record of backing words with action.

(4) One word: Triage. That is the best way to sum up the approach to governance here. Water the good ground and neglect the thornbushes. You can see this in the Catholic culture building efforts sponsored by the Archdiocese. Exhs. A and B: the womens' and mens' conferences. This year's conference for women featured--and please sit down--Alice von Hildebrand. [Heather is scouring the wires for her books.] The conference for the lads had Deacon Alex Jones (if you get the chance to hear him, drop everything and do so), and featured an exposition with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance used by Pope John Paul II during his visit in 1987. With singing in Latin. How Fr. John Riccardo managed to process with the monstrance for 30 full minutes remains a mystery. Pro-life themes in all their glory--along with lengthy lines for the confessionals--abounded.

Both conferences combined had approximately 4500 paying attendees.

Sure, the occasional fragrant [not a typo] dissenter speaks to 20-30 at a parish function (though the Cardinal reached out and barred Anthony Padovano from appearing on Church property, and in 2004 swung his Metropolitan crozier northward and kicked CTA off diocesan grounds in Saginaw). And yes, the oft-gestured-at Bishop Gumbleton still has his podium at the Reporter. But note that the retired bishop complained that Cardinal Maida had spent a decade pointedly ignoring him (Gumbleton was positively wistful describing his shouting matches with Cardinal Szoka).

And I have to point out that the pro-life movement definitely gets spiritual support from headquarters. Upon invitation from CPS, Bishop Boyea celebrated a Respect Life Mass in Warren three weeks ago (and did so despite suffering from a grim cold and the fact he had four Masses total that day). He also led the worshippers in a Rosary and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Prayer counts.

(5) Let's be blunt: Dick DeVos is not the most palatable candidate from a Catholic perspective, either. He has a certain bottom-line corporate mentality that makes it hard to get behind him. It is difficult to get the impression that life issues are all that high on his list of priorities. If Granholm were capable of showing any sign of independence from the Emily's List wing of pro-abortionism, she'd win the race in a walk.

Could the AoD do more? Sure. But it is doing more than critics may be aware.

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