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Bishops fret about being too political

The bishops in question are in Canada, and their concerns regard a campaign against the Harper government's plan to sharply reduce international aid funding:

OTTAWA Canadian Catholic bishops have taken the unprecedented step of blocking an annual education campaign organized by the churchs foreign aid wing, Development and Peace, after deeming this years edition too partisan.The bishops are reported to have been concerned that the campaign, targeting the Harper governments controversial changes to Canadian international assistance, would divide parishioners and hurt the churchs work with the Conservatives on other issues.Organizers say they can appreciate the bishops concerns and are toning down the campaign so it is less political.

We certainly wouldn't want the church to appear to favor one side.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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A Modest Proposal. The American Catholic Church should voluntarily forgo tax exempt status in order to fully carry out its pastoral mission, including educating Americans on their political responsibilities to support their Catholic faith. We have seen several instances, most recently in Illinois and New Jersey, of pastors and Bishops having to tip-toe around State-imposed restrictions in carrying out their responsibilities to tell Catholics for whom to vote.How liberating it would be to throw off the shackles of State censorship that comes with tax exemption. In the history of the Church, faithful priests and Bishops have stood up to the State in the face of torture and execution. This is only money.Let's pay the taxes, and free our spiritual leaders to tell us how to be American Catholics!

The bishops are not acting in accordance with Matthew 25: 31-46. Then again they have not for a long time. They insist on living in grandiose mansions with servants while Jesus did not have a home. Of course that is not the part they want to imitate. The fact that Jesus was male they will use to exclude women but the fact that he was poor is irresponsibly ignored. Their answer is they have to live according to their status. Then what is Jesus? Chopped Liver? And have they not learned that the reason all the religious orders insisted on a vow of poverty was because the hierarchy had forgot its mission.The actions of the Canadian bishops is scandalous just as the political actions of the American bishops are in covertly supporting Republicans. Few bishops, in my opinion, will pass the bar of Matthew 25.

When I hear or read a member of our hierarchy or clergy has declaring in a statement or sermon that is decidedly political against the Democratic Party and our president and then say that he is not telling me how to vote, I call that deception.We have a longstanding aversion and loathing for deception in our tradition. It goes back to the Garden of Eden.

"Bishops having to tip-toe around State-imposed restrictions in carrying out their responsibilities to tell Catholics for whom to vote."Bishops have no responsiblity to tell me for whom to vote. If that were the case, why don't we lobby for a proxy system and they could just vote on behalf of all of us and save me a trip to the polls.

Re jbruns A Modest Proposal.When the hierarchy sided with the aristocrats before the French Revolution... as Palin would say "How did that turn out for you'

Bp. Paprocki offers a particularly dramatic example of the genre. He finds one party platform riddled with promotion of intrinsic evils and grave sins while the other has none, although it does contain a few prudential judgments. "My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote." "I have read the Republican Party Platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin." "Again, I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy." Keep him in mind as you close the voting booth curtain behind you.

@Irene and Ed: Does "A Modest Proposal" provide you with a clue? Just asking.

The bishops around the world are overplaying their hands... and the faithful say, "So...that's your opinion... " and go on... The radical demise of episcopal power can't be far off....

Maybe we should be praying for the day when the voting booth in question is the one in which we choose the next bishop for the diocese. I've heard there was a time when the sense of the Faithful mattered in that process.

Speaking of Bishop Paprocki's flirtation with partisan politics, we haven't heard much from Bishop Sheridan in Colorado Springs lately, have we? Have to wonder if he got a nod from the IRS last time around --- or if local Catholics told him to shut up and not endanger their income tax deductions.Money talks.And the hierarchs know it.

"Keep [Paprocki] in mind as you close the voting booth curtain behind you."Reminds me of years ago when, as a federal civil service examiner, I was called upon at times to serve as a federal poll observer down south. We had authority to enter a polling booth to watch assistance being given to illiterate voters --- unless voters objected. Thus, three pairs of feet behind the curtain :-) We did not record the vote, only anything out of the ordinary about help being given.During my times in GA, AL, MS, and LA, I don't ever recall seeing a Catholic hierarch showing up to help a poor guy or gal vote!My-oh-my, how times have changed!

The big surprise is that Canada has a foreign aid program worth talking about. About all most Americans know about our foreign aid budget is that billion and billions of dollars are going into the Swiss bank accounts of African and South American dictators. That's not precisely true, of course, but nobody wants to be bothered knowing that one-third of the foreign aid budget goes to keeping Israel and Egypt from fighting with each other, and the other two-thirds would embarrass Canada or a Scandinavian country if they had to admit to it. It's a tribute to Canadians that they have a foreign aid budget worth fighting over. We used to have that, took, but it was long ago and on another planet.

Amen to David Pasinski's comments. I am reminded that the Holy Spirit is guiding us (and our bishops) even now.

Certain bishops seem to think that only certain actions (e.g., abortion, theft) are sins. But there sins of omission (e.g., not paying a just wage, ignoring the destitute). Those bishops never seem to weigh the GOP platform agains sins of omission. Wouldn't it be nice and comfortable if sin were only a matter of what we actively do and not also a matter of what we don't do. Sigh.It seems to me that the old list of the seven deadly sins (anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony). were a matter of what was actively done, except for sloth. We need a new list which includes the deadly sins of omission. These days, with the our democratic responsibility for government, I'd include not-listening-fairly-to-our-political=opponents and not-voting among them.(I think we need some threads about common contemporary sins which are not usually described as such, but which are nevertheless sinful, whether of commission or omission. But, of course, we don't sin anymore, we just make mistakes, so maybe not.)

jbruns: sorry, i didn't realize you were being satirical.

jbruns --Perhaps you could swiftly follow up your Modest Proposal with something like "An Argument to Prove that the Abolishing of Christianity , as Things Now Stand Today, be Attended with Some Inconveniences, and Perhaps not Produce Those Many Good Effects Proposed Thereby." The 1708 version summarized in Wikipedia looks as if it could be readily adapted through suitable updating to address many of the problems of 2012, and with good humor. The USCCB might be a possible publisher.

@irene. And I am sorry my attempt was so lame :)@Jack:Great idea!

With the elections round the corner, our Bishops are frantically campaigning for the GOP candidates in the guise of Catholic morality. Their latest attempt is to register people to vote! All their instruction is geared toward rejecting the moral evil that is Obama, and embracing the moral right that is Romney-Ryan. The play up moral evils like abortion, birth control, gay marriage and assisted suicide and are totally silent on social commitment to the poor and needy. They, like the candidate they promote do not worry about the 47%, knowing well that more money comes from the other half. Widow's might is no more of value. They exhort the faithful to pay up with absolutely scant regard for the suffering mass who would be affected by the policies of the Romney-Ryan ticket. God come to our assistance!

David Gibson's article on Raymond Burke was on the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning. picture of Burke, "the face of Catholic conservatism," wearing one of his hats. From the article: "When some American Catholics worry that the hierarchy is tilting toward the Republican Party, or taking the church back to the 19th century (or earlier), they often point to Cardinal Raymond Burke as Exhibit A."

Cardinal Burke in scarlet dress wears a yard-wide bright red flower-pot of a hat with fluffy red pom-pons decorating its edges and says it's for the sake of Catholic tradition. What Catholic tradition is that? The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company? He's out of central casting.

Gerelyn: Years ago, I had an Easter bonnet that looked just like Cardinal Burke's headgear! (I don't know the "technical term for what he is wearing.) Sadly, I idn't win any prize in the Easter Parade.

Memories of Burke's trail in St. Louis are reflected in the contrast between the St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline and picture and those in the RNS version of the very good Gibson story. St. Louis history has been brought to mind recently not only by Burke in his galero but also by Finn, Rigali, Braxton, and Sheridan. Perhaps some local traditions?

Gerelyn, thank you. One picture is worth a thousand words. I wonder what the hat cost, not to mention the silk cape? Silk hose? Red slippers by Prada? Let them eat cake, indeed. It's an old church tradition.

On Thursday evening I attended a presentation by Sr. Simone Campbell here in Philadelphia.What a contrast: simple outfit, Gospel values. (Headline for picture: Trick or Treat.)

lauretta --See "The Cost of Looking Good in the Magic Kingdom"

Thanks, Jack. LOL at "perch". Good place for a galero.----Hi, Lauretta. I was wondering about the cost, too. I forget the name of the famous Roman tailor/haberdasher who supplies buskins, galeros, red socks, etc. Hi, Helen. (My husband was telling me this morning, while I was staring at Burke's picture, about nuns who buy cows for poor people in Kenya. One cow costs $1000. It provides income and security for the lucky recipient.)-----Aside from his clothes and his political views, what I find troubling about Burke is his power over seminaries and appointments of bishops. He recommended of Mariology as a "standard textbook in seminaries and provided the Foreword, the Imprimatur, and the blurb on the back cover. One of the contributors, Peter Fehlner, F.I., provided the Nihil Obstat. (Is that fair?)Entire thing free at Google Books. Note biographies of contributors, p. 885. Even though the strange book is about Mary and about various female "types" of Mary and about various female visionaries, not one contributor is a woman. Several are Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

(Jack, I posted that before I saw the Sipe thing.)

Jack, thank you for that site. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. With all that silk and satin I don't suppose they would wear ordinary boxers or jockeys underneath. Unless, of course, they are wearing a hairshirt. PS I know you can make a smiley face with symbols but I'm not sure how, so just imagine one right here. Thanks.

Lauretta, in addition to the Sipe link about Burke's ostentation, an Asian Catholic news service reported awhile back that a cardinal's liturgical outfit cost in excess of $30,000 --- and *that* was for merely ONE SEASON of the church calendar!!! As reported at the time, a cardinal would typically have *several* such outfits, each of a different color to conform with a liturgical season. As they say, "Do the math!"His Eminence is both farce and jackass as far as I'm concerned.

Here's the sentence I like from the Gibson piece:"The vestments, everything, are part of a tradition," Burke says in his defense. "We need to understand that and not just discard it and say, well, it was all just an ugly accretion."What tradition precisely does he have in mind that governs his dress? Though I am no ecclesiastical fashionisto, I would imagine that the heavily bejewled robes, hats, frocks, and such, don't go back much before the Renaissance (copying the fashions of secular potentates of the day), and thus are rather latecomers to the tradition. And the lace (I'm guessing) is 18th or even 19th century. I wonder how old the cappa magna is. It is not easy to understand how someone in a position of authority can wear such things and expect to be taken seriously save perhaps by those who inhabit the same bubble. Granted that the Mother of Parliaments has some weird and wonderful costumes when it opens a new session ini Westminster, but not (I think) among those who exercise much authority.

FLASH (DIGRESSION)In the trial of Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's butler, the evidence compiled by the investigative commision of three cardinals will not be allowed into Gabriele's trial. Why? Here's why:". . . chief judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, sitting before a crucifix and with a large, framed picture of Benedict looking down from the wall, said the commission answered only to the pope and had "no relevance" to the Vatican City's penal code."In other words, in the Vatican system of justice evidence is only what the Vatican police present as evidence. What the police have to say and what the Pope's Commission has to say concern facts which are so separate from each other that the Commission's report is "irrelevant". That's like saying if you're an NFL quarterback and you murder the temporary referee that the people in the stands who witnessed the act can't be allowed to testify either for or against you because they aren't part of the game, Sheesh.

Burke is one of a number of currently noticeable hierarchs who went off to junior seminary at about age 14. He thereby missed out on much of the extremely potent, multifaceted ripening process that most boys (and girls, I'm told on good authority) experience in a variety of ways in those years of dramatic transition from childhood to young adulthood. Major formative education, leading toward lasting effects, takes place. Specifics vary widely among individuals but, in one way or another, likely include new forms of awareness of the other gender, of interacting as a responsible individual with others, of decision-making, and of perspectives on formal and informal authority. We may be watching deferred maturation.

I was told that the cappa magna originated in the Middle Ages. When a bishop was riding a horse, he needed to look dignified. The cappa magna was used to cover the horses a** (oops, hindquarters).

Fury said to a mouse, That he met in the house, "Let us both go to law: I will prosecute YOU. --Come, I'll take no denial; We must have a trial: For really this morning I've nothing to do." Said the mouse to the cur, "Such a trial, dear Sir, With no jury or judge, would be wasting our breath." "I'll be judge, I'll be jury," Said cunning old Fury: "I'll try the whole cause, and condemn you to death."'(Lewis Carroll -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland).

There are lots of differences among this Canadian issue, the German bishops' response to the tax matter, and the various political statements put out by members of the USCCB, but there appears to be at least one striking thing they all have in common. So far as I can tell, there has been no serious consultation with the laity about any of these matters.I do not doubt that the bishops involved have talks with various lay people about these things, but serious consultation needs a well defined structure and some considerable transparency. No well run business today would eschew significant consumer research, input from competent consultants, and serious input form at least upper level middle management. The Church, i.e., the people of God, have every reason to want and push for such organized consultation both about how the clergy represent them in the public square and about how practical matters (budgetary, senior clergy appointments, etc.). I don't have the expertise to make a detailed proposal about the structure of this sort of consultation and I do realize that no structure will be so good and effective that it won't need regular review and adjustment. Nonetheless, let me make one suggestion.I would suggest that every Ordinary of a diocese be required to discuss and say how he deals with the advice he receives through this consultative process. in his "ad limina" report to Rome the consultative practices in place in his diocese. By itself, my suggestion is clearly too inconsequential to be adequate. But one has to get started somehow. If it ever was enough to take shelter beneath the notion that because bishops are "successors of the apostles" the quality of their decisions is adequately assured simply by virtue of their office.

I really liked Cardinal Burke's outfit; it's a form of self-expression.

I understand that words need to be weighed carefully, but I do not believe that there is a Gospel mandate to not take sides. In fact, the opposite is most probably be true.In 1987 I received a copy of an article "Taking Sides" by Fr. Albert Nolan, OP. Many other things have been jettisoned over the years to deal with the accumulations of life. "Taking Sides" has never come even remotely close to the scrap heap. I have taken it with me everywhere I have moved. "That is why every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings both new and old things out of his treasure chest."Add this to your treasure:

What does it say that an archbishop who admits to drunk driving is appointed as Archbishop of San Francisco?

Bernard D. --Agree with your opening observation. Try a thought experiment. Assume bishops with rare exceptions are fundamentally incapable of the interactive communication you recommend, even though the need for it appears obvious and its potential is well validated in other spheres. Their conduct is not a result of decision, policy, or antipathy but rather a necessary consequence of the lack of capacity. The bishops are all produced by a nearly unique life-long process of selections, education, formation, enculturation, team training, formalized obedience, and mutual reinforcement. One result is not that one will not do as you suggest but that he can not. Furthermore, the present process of nomination, vetting, and appointment tends to ensure that the body of bishops will be self-reproducing in its own image. The needed change at their stage in life appears highly unlikely in view of common, very solidly embedded, personal characteristics, whatever motivations or potential consequences may be. if so, how does the needed information flow occur?

Through forty years I have been privileged to know some exceptions, but I believe Jack Barry's analysis to be spot on.

Jack B. --Thank you. I fear you're right. "Judge not" applies to the bishops too. Sigh. The problem, however, is that the exceptions make us impatient with the others. It's the old 'why can't Pope Benedict be more like Pope John?'

Jack Barry, thanks for your comment.Re the photo of Cardinal Burke that Gerelyn posted: Someone should warn the cardinal that he is at risk for being mistaken as a very odd transvestite.

"Furthermore, the present process of nomination, vetting, and appointment tends to ensure that the body of bishops will be self-reproducing in its own image."Guaranteed mediocrity. But who cares as long as they are obedient.

Bernard --"Mistaken" ?

Bill --- to your comment at 10:35 am:What does it say that a bishop convicted of failure to report possession of child pornography is still the bishop of Kansas City - St Joseph, MO?And not a peep from the Vatican!(not even on NCROnline's main page)

Jack --- to your comments at 12:06 pm:Spot on!I understand that incest repeated over time ultimately results in weakening of the gene pool.Might B16's papacy be the "Last Hurrah"???

"I was told that the cappa magna originated in the Middle Ages. When a bishop was riding a horse, he needed to look dignified. The cappa magna was used to cover the horses a** (oops, hindquarters)."Helen, "The cappa magna, now worn according to Roman usage by cardinals, bishops, and certain specially privileged prelates on occasions of ceremony, is not strictly a liturgical vestment, but is only a glorified cappa choralis, or choir cope [Thurston, H. (1908). Cope. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 30, 2012 from New Advent: ]." Note original year of publication!A lot of young Catholic boys years ago "played priest" with their cardboard tabernacles, white chasubles (i.e., bed sheets), glass chalices, flat communion hosts (scrunched down Wonder Bread), etc. I'd like to think His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke never graduated from his "pretend" experience --- but merely ascended to a higher level of "make-believe" :-)

Jack Barry: do you have any idea why those bishops, Bp Paprocki and others, are lobbying for the Republicans? Is there some hidden strategy that we do not know?I think about the Legionaries of Christ and their bribes helping to explain the protection they enjoyed for many years, enabling them to satisfy one man's quest for power and abuse. Without knowing anything about the bribes behind the scenes, it was hard to understand the favor that they enjoyed. What's the hidden truth this time?

Claire -- Desperation. Keep an eye on Carl Anderson.

I wonder: could this have something to do with the next papal election? If by some strange turn of events the next pope was American (say, Dolan or Burke), then they would want to have been noticed by him for the sake of some hypothetical future promotion. What would count for them would be the reaction, not of their congregations, but of the people who matter for their career. Those bishops' letters are ostensibly written to the faithful, but in reality are meant for the eyes of their mentor or of Rome. In that way, Cdl Dolan and Cdl Burke can have an influence that extends well beyond their official roles.

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