US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Bishops' voices of reason reasserting themselves

By Meinrad Scherer-Emunds | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

For much of this year the public profile of the US Catholic Church seems to have been dominated by the rantings of extreme right-wing propagandists and a handful of their episcopal enablers who have been badly abusing the pro-life cause for an increasingly shrill, partisan attack on the Obama administration.

Now, though, it seems that the more rabid attack machine has overplayed its hand, and the silent majority of bishops is finally getting tired of the demagoguery and counterproductive tactics that are being employed in the name of our church.

The most recent example of episcopal voices of reason reasserting themselves is Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, a church leader with impeccable prolife credentials, who has been pilloried for participating in Senator Edward Kennedy's funeral by shameless zealots who apparently won't even let the dead rest in peace.

In yesterday's entry on his blog, the cardinal eloquently defended his participation and used the occasion as a profound teaching moment for the faithful:

At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure.

Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end. Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church (emphasis added), for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other....

It is my sincere hope that all people who long to promote the cause of life will pray and work together to change hearts, to bring about an increased respect for life, and to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn.

Amen to that from this pro-life, social-justice Catholic!

The cardinal's comments follow on the heels of

  • Pope Benedict XVI, in response to a letter from Sen. Kennedy delivered to him by President Obama, cordially imparting an apostolic blessing on the terminally ill politician
  • the resignation "under highly unusual circumstances" of Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino, one of the most controversial and outspoken proponents of using the Eucharist as a political weapon in the pro-life cause
  • a thoughtful interview with NCR, in which Santa Fe, N.M. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan decried the "combative tactics" of a minority of U.S. bishops
  • The Vatican taking a decidedly more measured and respectful approach than many U.S. bishops in engaging Obama before, during, and after his July visit to Rome, including, apparently Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio in Washington, privately warning American bishops "that harsh attacks on the president threaten to make the church look partisan."

Let's hope these positive developments will encourage the "silent majority" of U.S. bishops to do more to counterbalance the loudmouths among them who continuously grab the limelight and newspaper headlines. Archbishop Sheehan said it well: "To make a big scene about Obama – I think a lot of the enemies of the church are delighted to see all that.... I think we don’t want to isolate ourselves from the rest of America by our strong views on abortion and the other things. We need to be building bridges, not burning them.”


Bryan Cones is on vacation this week and will be back blogging here next week.