Vincible ignorance

The bishops on prochoice politicians

Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York City, says he sometimes wondered how he had managed to have such a good relationship with the late Cardinal John O’Connor despite their opposing views on abortion rights. Koch, who is Jewish, says he once asked a Catholic law partner why O’Connor would not let prochoice Catholics speak at the cathedral and yet “he never hesitates to invite me.” “I’m grateful,” Koch said, “but I don’t understand.” “You’re invincibly ignorant and therefore you’re excused,” his partner explained. Koch says the cardinal “roared with laughter” when he heard a phrase from moral theology textbooks applied to his friend, the mayor.

Koch told me that story when I asked him about a passage in the U.S. Catholic bishops’ interim statement Catholics in Political Life, which was approved in a 183-6 vote at their June meeting. “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,” the bishops wrote. “They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

This paragraph has gotten relatively little attention because news accounts focused on the hot-button political topic of whether bishops can deny Communion to prochoice Catholic politicians. Yet if the bishops follow through on this passage, it could have significant consequences for the everyday interactions between...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).