I’m not often sure what to make of Archbishop Burke, over on the other side of my state. Morning’s Minion has a pretty fair measure of the man and his latest adventures in public relations.
At first, I wasn’t going to say anything about the Sheryl Crow Archbishop Burke fiasco. MM pretty much nails it:
For a start, this was a pretty stupid move. If the aim is to promote Catholic teaching on these topics, it clearly backfired. This kind of ham-fisted intervention just creates sympathy for Crow.
My main problem, though, is the inconsistency. Yet again, we have criticism of a public figure (I suppose an entertainer qualifies as a public figure!) based on opposition to selective moral principles, in this case, abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.
I think Archbishop Burke is well-intentioned and from what I can see, a man of principle. He also strikes me as tenacious, if not stubborn. And I think this is where he gets into trouble. We saw it in the case of the excommunication of the laity of St Stanislaus Church in St Louis. I think the pattern repeats itself with his recent tussle with Crow through the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
The basic ideas are easy enough to grasp: Crow’s public positions on ESCR and abortion are well known. Burke, as a bishop and leader, has a responsibility to uphold aspects of the faith entrusted to him. No sensible person denies any of this.
I also admire that the archbishop attempted to negotiate quietly and out of the spotlight to resolve the situation. But when it couldn’t happen, then he got into trouble.
We should realize by now that withdrawing an invitation to a specific person is covered not as an issue of principle, but as a one-on-one confrontation. Like it or not, unfair as it may be, the details of making such a stand by confronting people has too much of a sense of being personal rather than being principled.
The media, non-Catholics, and Catholics themselves see and observe the inconsistent approach of the hierarchy to which MM alludes. It may not always be correct, but the scent hounds start zeroing in on the story as an interpersonal conflict. The St Stans laity defied Burke. He excommunicated them. The previous bishop didn’t resort to excommunication. And other bishops with problems don’t excommunicate. But Burke did. Can we completely rule out that it didn’t get personal for him? Given his track record, I think not.
Burke picked a bad setting for his protest. A children’s hospital? One named after a cardinal? He was right to attempt behind-the-scenes negotiation. When they didn’t work, this was a battle from which he needed to quietly withdraw. If anything, sending a letter directly to Sheryl Crow would have been a far better effort. Is this about her political views? Why not go to the target and avoid the people in the middle? Keep the media out of it, and there might have been hope for a conversion of heart.
Even though pro-Lifers are cheering their “courageous” bishop, I think they’ve lost another battle by hauling out that old war plan that has cost them so much in the past. “Let’s make a principled stand in the public eye that makes us look like jerks.”How many babies were saved this time? It’s really time to put this plan into retirement.
In any aspect of life, you win some, you lose some. Cutting one’s losses is sometimes a necessary strategy for long-term hopes. Players of games know it. Warmakers and even pacifists realize it.
Unless of course, we’re talking about an infusion of personal pride into life’s conflict. Hanging on like a bulldog when the cause is lost is not only embarassing it’s ultimately counter-productive for the cause. But public opinion will begin regarding it more as an exercise in one’s personality flaws rather than a stand forged in sacrifice and principle.
More prudential judgment, please.