“A Whole Different Style”

I’m glad I missed this one. Amy posted at length yesterday on Washington Archbishop Wuerl’s “unsatisfactory” remarks when asked if he planned to take Speaker Pelosi to task on her abortion stance. This is part of the conversation between California Catholic Daily Reporter Allyson Smith and the archbishop:

Smith: “Do you intend to discipline her at all for being persistent and obstinate about her support for abortion and same-sex marriage?”

Wuerl: “I will not be using the faculty in the manner you have described.”

Smith: “Will you make a statement to your priests and deacons to warn her not to allow her to receive if she presents herself for Communion?”

Wuerl: “You’re talking about a whole different style of pastoral ministry. No.”

It has to be sending the traditional Catholics across the land fuming. Amy says:

I think what Archbishop Wuerl and others fail to understand is the impact of things like this on the lay Catholic who is struggling to be a faithful disciple in the world. The message that is sent by silence is strong, in terms of the lay apostolate in the world, in terms of the unity of faith and life.

Not exactly. Many faithful Catholics know the principle of log, speck, eye, their sins, and the sins of others. They discern that the pro-life movement is shifting onto unsteady ground when it moves from advocacy of rights for the unborn to political-style vendettas. Many of us grew tired of continued 2004 attacks on John Kerry–and we weren’t even his supporters.

I don’t believe that hard-core pro-lifers are dismayed by silence to the extent that their own positions in favor of the unborn are weakened or eroded. And I don’t hear the calls for censure from “struggling” lay Catholics. Ask those “strugglers” what would be most inspiring to them, and you can bet that personal examples of holiness from their bishops and priests would be high on the list. Since when has the use of authority been an inspiration?

What Amy and her posse don’t get is that priests have long been pressured into being used as bullying clubs for infighting in the community. Most clergy resist being manipulated for others’ ends.

The pathology of some of the Catholic pro-life movement is on display here. The frustration and feelings of impotence build up. Desperate measures are called for. That desperation continues to alienate the “struggling lay Catholic” on the fence. That fencesitter doesn’t see principled people making their own sacrifices for a cause so much as a bunch of shrill scolds who want their opponents humiliated.

The real scandal and shame is the amount of energy spent on cries for punishment. Archibishop Wuerl is wise for not giving in to the hate and despair of people who should retreat from the pro-life political efforts and retire to praying–where they will do more good for the cause. Wuerl hints at what is really needed as we head into the next election cycle: a whole different style.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to “A Whole Different Style”

  1. Jim Cork says:

    I agree, Todd… and I’m disappointed because I was at the event where the Archbishop was interviewed. The article has absolutely nothing to do with what was said that evening. Catholics are always complaining that the mainstream media approaches Catholicism from their own biases, but I don’t see how the Catholic media is any different in this case.

    Archbishop Wuerl was interviewed in San Diego, after a speech he gave to at the CL national diaconia. We were also joined by Fr. Julian Carron, who succeeded Fr. Giussani as the head of the movement worldwide, and Pastor John Wright.

    Wuerl’s talk was about the state of catechesis in the US today. He gave an overview of the problems, but also gave some insights into the reasons for hope that he sees, including an encouraging inquisitiveness among young people.

    Fr. Carron’s talk was an outline of the method of our movement, and focused on the reasonableness of faith. Why is faith reasonable? Because I have encountered Christ, and he is the answer to what I lack. When we reduce Christianity to ethical or moral coherence, it no longer interests anyone. What passes for Christianity these days is nothing but Kant.

    None of this made it into the article. Instead, we get the same old stuff about whether bishops should be publicly confronting politicians who step out of line. If that’s what Christianity is all about, I don’t see why anyone should care about it in the least.

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