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A bishop's flexibility

As chairman of the bishops' committee that drafted the statement "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," Brooklyn's Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has had an important role in interpreting what it actually means. In the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign, he wrote in a letter to The New York Times that the newspaper had erred in a story on Joseph Biden and the Catholic vote in reporting the statement would explicitly allow Catholics to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights if they do so for other reasons.Later, Bishop DiMarzio joined those bishops who condemned the University of Notre Dame for hosting President Barack Obama, calling it a "serious error" on the part of the school's president, Father John Jenkins.Nonetheless, Bishop DiMarzio has aided two politicians in the 2009 election campaign who have a long history of being pro-choice on abortion. A Brooklyn newspaper reported that an organization called the Catholic Citizens Committee used an automated message from the bishop in which he thanked Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic leader, for supporting the Catholic Church's policy agenda. (Lopez is not running this year, but is waging a tough battle to elect a supporter who lost the Democratic primary for the City Council seat in Williamsburg, where the calls were reportedly made.)I checked on this with a diocesan spokesman, who said the call specifically referred to Lopez's successful opposition to a bill that would have temporarily suspended the statute of limitations on lawsuits over sexual abuse of minors, a measure that would have been very costly to the Catholic Church in New York State.Monsignor Kieran Harrington, the diocesan spokesman, told me that the bishop did not tape the message to support a candidate but simply to thank Lopez, whose office was targeted by protesters as a result of his stance on the sex-abuse bill.Bishop DiMarzio also appears in a full-page, color ad for the re-election of the resolutely pro-choice Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It ran in the diocesan newspaper, which in the past had as a matter of policy rejected all political advertisements so as to avoid taking ads from pro-choice politicians. The bishop and mayor are pictured in Yankee Stadium, the bishop in a Yankees hat and the mayor in a Yankees warm-up jacket. It says: "MIKE BLOOMBERG: PROTECTING NYC'S CATHOLIC SCHOOLS. FIGHTING FOR US."Monsignor Harrington said that the no-advertising policy was ended last March, and not for this particular advertisement. He said Mayor Bloomberg has not been invited to speak at churches, and that "I would expect the bishop to have a relationship with the mayor of the City of New York." The billionaire mayor co-chaired a fundraiser for diocesan schools.It sure looks to me as if the bishop is showing greater flexibility than he did during the 2008 presidential campaign. Monsignor Harrington pointed out to me that the situation differs, since abortion is not an issue in the New York mayoral race but was in the presidential campaign. But the bishop is certainly taking a more flexible position now than he did when opposing even Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to speak.

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Casuistry at work here, perhaps?

I don't think a Catholic cleric should be doing political ads or campaigning for any politician, whether the politician be a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Fascist, Communist, Tory, or Federalist.

Hypocrisy is the word.

Be careful what you say here about some hierarch, because some will think it uncivil or unethical.But Bill M. is right in spades.I continue to be dismayed by our Bishops in this sad era Of our Church.

Monsignor Harrington pointed out to me that the situation differs, since abortion is not an issue in the New York mayoral race but was in the presidential campaign.Has Monsignor Harrington been paying attention to the Bloomberg campaign? Bloomberg is running as strongly pro-choice and has been endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood. While his Democratic opponent is pro-choice, there is a pro-life candidate running -- Stephen Christopher (Conservative Party).If the theory is that when major opposing candidates have the same position on abortion, then abortion is "cancelled out" as an issue, it would make sense to me only if the pro-life people didn't claim abortion is the issue that trumps all others. If Bloomberg and Thompson were running on a campaign to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church, and the Conservative Party Candidate opposed them both on the matter, I don't imagine it would be regarded as not an issue on account of the two major-party candidates "cancelling each other out."

Really, why let "facts" clutter up a really good argument.We all should take a page from Cardinal George's new book; take him at his word and just ignore "bishops" for a while.This specific bishop seems to revel in political interference and buying influence. Where is the IRS and this diocese's tax exempt status.

Well, we finally found the cause that trumps abortion--- money. Or perhaps money and face-saving, which is what the defeat of the Victims' Rights bill did for this Bishop.He'd better have a care through, as once the election is over he may find a challengeto his diocese's status as a tax-exempt organization may be the "other shoe."

This says it all: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=4471And you wonder why catholic politicians are confused at times.

So let me get this straight. ND wasn't supposed to let the President speak bc of his views on abortion but the Brooklyn diocesan newspaper can take adds from a pro-choice candidate for mayor of NYC. I guess I still have a lot more to learn about church and politics.Paul, thanks for this. And sorry I missed your book party the other night. Tim Reidy told me it was great. (Oct 28 was my 40th birthday, so I was in mourning.)

Thanks Paul. Good reporting.

Oh, what tangled webs we weave. Despite the Seamless Garment, there is this common thread.

Anthony,The complaint against Obama being honored by Notre Dame was that it was done against the will of the American bishops. If the bishops want to apply one set of rules to themselves and another set to everyone else, that is their prerogative. They just have to send this clear message: "Do as we say, not as we do." It's very good advice.

Let's see what Sister Mary 8th grade taught me:- the ends never justify the means (unless you are a catholic bishop)- willing suspension of disbelief any time a bishop speaks- they learn from Rome and B16; make an anouncement followed by a clarification followed by a clarification; followed by "ad nauseaum"- follow the money- whatever happened to sackcloth and ashes - have a list of bishops.

This link is to a presentation that would be an excellent resource for this good bishop to reflect, adopt, and live by.In its own way, it also sheds light on the "spirituality for bloggers": http://www.elephantsinthelivingroom.com/Mature_Adult_Catholic_Characteri... of Mature Adult Catholic Characteristics.

Nicholas DiMarzio's see includes two of New York's five boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens. Looking merely at Brooklyn, threatening a loss of IRS tax exemption will bring screams that the leaders of other faiths often promote the candidacy of people running for office. The threat would not fly.

Regarding protecting Catholic Schools: http://www.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/faithbased/report.pdf

I wrote in reference to this thread noting that loyalty to Rome is the criteria for bishops rather than loyalty to truth. I referred to Oscar Romero as an example of a "loyalty" bishop who changed and became a truth or a gospel bishop which very few bishops do. I noted how John Paul ignored this true saint of our time. Some editor on this blog thought it was severe or out of bounds. Amazing.

Not being a political junkie, I'd like to know how does a big-city mayor or city councilperson affect the sanctity of life? Not trying to be argumentative - I'd really like to know.

Jim - apply that to a state rep of a small state (Rep. Kennedy) and compare to the mayor of the second or third largest city in the world (including catholic population).

Not being a political junkie, Id like to know how does a big-city mayor or city councilperson affect the sanctity of life? Not trying to be argumentative Id really like to know.Jim,From Bloomberg's own website.

NARAL PRO-CHOICE NEW YORK ENDORSES MAYOR BLOOMBERG FOR RE-ELECTIONInfluential Organization Cites Bloomberg's Stellar Record on Choice and Womens Health Care as the Primary Reasons for EndorsementMayor Mike Bloomberg was endorsed today by NARAL Pro-Choice New York. The organization applauded Bloomberg for his unwavering commitment to choice and for putting womens health at the top of his agenda."NARAL Pro-Choice New York is proud to endorse Mayor Mike Bloomberg," said Kelli Conlin, President of the organization. "We know that there are pro-choice elected officials who talk the talk and there are those who really walk the walk. Mayor Bloomberg walks the walk." Conlin continued, "His visionary leadership in expanding access to reproductive health services including training medical residents in abortion care, passing clinic access legislation and allocating millions of dollars toward emergency contraception education and availability -- has impacted the lives of all New Yorkers and made it clear that the health needs of women come first in New York City. We look forward to seeing what we will accomplish together in the next four years."Less than two weeks into his mayoral career, Bloomberg sought to make abortion safer by upgrading instruction in public hospitals and clinics in New York City. Additionally, Bloomberg directed and implemented a $3 million campaign to help reduce unwanted pregnancies that included a provision to increase access to emergency contraceptives. He also fought for a womans right to obtain morning-after pills directly from pharmacists and launched an aggressive strategy to provide free condoms to New Yorkers. As part of the Mayors Healthy Women/Healthy Babies initiative, womens healthcare has been expanded at school based health centers around the city, including dispensing contraceptives.Women should have the right to chart their own reproductive future and thats exactly what NARAL Pro-Choice New York fights for every day, said Mayor Bloomberg. When it comes to standing up for womens health and rights there is no fiercer advocate than this organization. I am honored to have their support and I know we will continue to work together to make long-lasting improvements in the health and safety of women.

This is about Bloomberg as a presidential candidate.

Bloomberg criticized abortion-rights supporters who support abortion-rights opponents in elections, saying that supporters must exercise vigilance so that lawmakers do not try to nuance themselves away from that commitment in the interest of political expediency. Some analysts say Bloombergs comments signal a condemnation of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other abortion-rights supporters who are supporting candidates who oppose abortion rights. Schumer heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which recruited Bob Casey (D) as the only way to beat Sen. Rick Santorum (R) because Pennsylvania voters are split on the issue of abortion. Casey opposes abortion rights with exceptions for cases involving rape or incest or to save the life of the woman and supports family planning programs. Bloomberg said, Reproductive choice is a fundamental human right, and we can never take it for granted, adding, On this issue, youre either with us or against us.

David N. - yikes!

It's real simple. When you get to the Chancery: "Money Talks....."

"MIKE BLOOMBERG: PROTECTING N.Y.C.'S CATHOLIC SCHOOLS. FIGHTING FOR US."How exactly does one protect Catholic Schools while banning Religious Instruction and covering Religious Symbols in the building?http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/nyregion/08schools.htmlWhy not have the Catholic Schools finance the Catholic Instruction and the Religious Symbols in the buildings? It would be a bajillion times cheaper than having to build new facilities to educate those students who will need to enter the Public School system if the doors to the Catholic Schools are closed.

This link ties back into a much earlier blog on Vito Lopez, the dear bishop, that location's pastor, and now another Democratic politician who supports the local pastor but not Vito Lopez.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/opinion/03tue4.html?_r=1If I were the bishop, I would be embarrassed by this situation. He seems to be playing politics rather than fulfilling his role as a teacher, leader, and one who speaks/lives the gospel message. Again, the message seems to be: Follow the money.Nancy - interesting question. Sort of like when one bishop states a position but then a neighboring bishop takes a different stance....or a former pope said one thing but another pope says another. What is the magesterial tradition in these situations? What do you do when you have a significant politician who will do the church a lot of good but whose posiitons are not 100% catholic....geez, sounds like many of our national catholic politicians who try their best to follow the gospel message. It really is not black and white; it is grey and nuanced.

We've had threads on the ethics and spirituality of blogging and now Bill M. tells us he was censored out; I've often disagree with him but never found him offensive, just opinionated (guess he could say that about me.)Still, as far as this blog, th eeditotrial control, selection of thread makers and topics always makes me wonder about the classic question of who wil guard the very guardians.I might add that's particularly germane at the intersection of religion/politics issues.

It seems obvious enough. In the NY mayoral race, ALL the candidates support abortion.And so faced with that reality, rather than sit out the election by not endorsing anybody, the bishop chose to take the course of trying to determine - from among the pro-abortion choices available - which one will help the Church or at least, which one poses the least harm to the Church and public morality.I do not see the mystery on this one.

Ken, not so obvious. See David Nickol's comment, above: the Conservative Party candidate is prolife.

To add: that same approach has been used by many others including good, catholic politicians and differences in bills that support the common good (but are not perfect bills). Yet, USCCB, Burke, Finn, etc. condemn this. Look at the Notre Dame incident - the loud extreme overcomes the gospel and common good message.

Read Tobin's comments about Patrick Kennedy's statements. Using your example, Kennedy did nothing wrong (which I happen to agree with). These two bishops seem to have radically different agendas and approaches. I once studied the Principle of Double Effect - well, now we have the Principle of Double Bishops - read the small print.

This really does illustrate that clergy should not actively campaign for candidates, for exactly the reasons outlined in the original post. Bishops, we're told, are responsible not only for their local dioceses but for the well-being of the universal church - hence national conferences, synods and the like. Those Faithful Citizenship statements are extremely important, and we need bishops to be able to be credible when they speak up about them.

Vito Lopez has very serious ethical problems. For many years, he has been steering huge amounts of City and State money to a non-profit he founded and which is now run by his long-time girlfriend Angela Battaglia. Vito's dealings are well known here in NYC, and there is actually a lot of info on the internet about him. While the agency in question does some good work, Vito's active influence has led to a diversion of funding from other community groups to support the one he is involved in. The person he is trying to unseat in Williamsburg is one of the good guys; Councilwoman Reyna has been strong on housing and community issues in the Council and, overall, a good advocate for her district. If the Bishop is going to support politicians, he should find some cleaner ones than Vito.

Bill D., with all due respect, the Gospel message is neither black and white nor grey and nuanced, the Gospel of Life is grounded in The Truth, and has been consistent from In The Beginning...

P.S., Just to be clear, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Patrick Kennedy, would be among the group of "those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles".

Sorry, Nancy, but you left off the bishop from your list. Just because he is a bishop does not change the fact that his behavior is no different; in fact, may be worse than those you have named above.Ms. Baldwin - I live in the great state of Texas so am unaware of your local politics (but it appears to be similar to those in Texas). You do realize that the NY Bishops Conference used Vito's influence to defeat the statute of limitations window bill that has been in front of NY legislature for a number of years. This protected bishops such as dimarzio from having to explain their past behaviors if not current behaviors in terms of shifting, proteccting, and defending pedophile priests. BTW - isn't there an accused inactive priest who is one of the mayor's principal advisors or was that Guiliana - get my NY mayors confused; it is NYC.

Mr DeHaas- Yes, I heard Vito blocked the bill. In return, in addition to this bizarre phone endorsement, I believe he also somehow got site control for a pretty big project. There was also an advocacy campaign here - I think its called Catholic Advocacy Network-by the NYS Catholic Conference- to get folks like me to e-mail form letters to our legislators to block the Markey bill. I took a pass on that. The advocacy network often encourages good reforms, like fair treatment for farm workers, but they should be totally ashamed of themselves for their role in killing this legislation. Our state legislature is unbelievably dysfunctional, so I'm not surprised by anything that happens there. RE the Mayoral Advisors: I don't know about any discredited priests advising either Bloomberg or Giuliani. Giuliani did have a few Commissioners who either did or will be doing some serious jail time, though, (two housing commissioners were convicted and, currently, a former police commissioner is on trial). It gets a little discouraging sometimes that some of our politicians aren't very high-minded.

Bill D., since it is true that Assemblyman Vito Lopez and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are among the group of "those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles", by honoring them, Bishop DiMarzio is among the group of those honoring "those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" rather than among the group of those who support our fundamental moral principles and Witness to The Truth.

Well, it doesn't appear as if Bishop DiMarzio's intervention in behalf of Vito Lopez did much good for Lopez's Council candidate, Maritza Davila, who got under 35 percent of the vote. Diana Reyna, the candidate the bishop was evidently trying to defeat, was re-elected to the City Council with about 60 percent of the vote.I've focused on a national issue in the post above. But locally, the issue is whether the Diocese of Brooklyn, which has a proud tradition dating to the 1970s of helping church-based, grassroots activists to challenge the powers that be to secure housing for the poor, will continue on this path. These groups have always had testy relations with Brooklyn's Democratic bosses, and the diocese stood behind them. These activists aren't impressed by people in power, so I don't expect the issue to die anytime soon.

I just want to thank Paul for both his excellent thread abd update.As a born New yorker, now far awy, i am saddened by the Church's leadership involvemen tin politics -a couple of weeks ago, we had a series of sermons about how love is the real power.( That's a truth from the beginning.)It seems to me today that what matters most at the top is real power if it can be had.

Bill DeH said:" -- just ignore bishops for a while."From my experience, albeit out here on the Left Coast city of San Francis, most of the populace, and a large portion of the Catholic populace, have not given two hoots about what most bishops have been saying for a very long time now.I think a fork in the road has been reached and the believers and the followers are taking different paths in how they live out their Catholic Christianity.