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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Stupaks says White House trying to keep him quiet on abortion problems

    Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said the White House and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives have been pressuring him not to speak out on the "compromise" abortion language in the Senate version of the health care bill.

    “They think I shouldn’t be expressing my views on this bill until they get a chance to try to sell me the language,” Stupak told in an interview on Tuesday. “Well, I don’t need anyone to sell me the language. I can read it. I’ve seen it. I’ve worked with it. I know what it says. I don’t need to have a conference with the White House. I have the legislation in front of me here.”
    Remember, only a year ago, when some Catholics were promising that Obama would be a "pro-life" President?

    Now, after having lied time and time again that the health care bill he would be willing to sign did not include federal money to pay for abortions, Obama and his staff are pressuring a pro-life Democrat to keep quiet about his judgement that the current health care bill does in fact do that.

    We should remember this harsh lesson the next time we are tempted to believe the arguments of liberal Catholics who are more guided by their political views than their Catholic moral principles.

    Kathleen Sebelius, meanwhile, the pro-abortion head of the deparment of Health and Human Services who will receive huge, sweeping powers if the current health care bill is approved, as FRC reports, "in a new video uncovered today, [she] praises Nelson's language, because, according to the woman in charge of these reforms, it ensures that everyone will pay for abortion--no matter how the funds are divided up."

    The American bishops, for their part, have sent a second letter to members of Congress saying the current health care bill is "deficient" and should not move forward without "essential changes."

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    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Commentary: Catholic Politicians Face a Clear Choice in Health Care Debate

    I know it is not up to me to decide these things, but I think this is a very important post, so please bear with me.

    I am involved in the political health care debate every day here in Washington DC, and have been for months.

    The end game for this process is now in sight, so I can write with confidence about something which has been in the back of my mind for some time now.

    If the Democrat health care reform passes, it will pass with three major votes. The first one has already been taken: it was the vote on November 7th when the democrat majority passed health care reform in the House.

    Before that vote was taken, however, the pro-abortion provisions of the bill were fixed by the Stupak amendment. This means that Catholic politicians could claim they were voting for a "pro-life bill."

    But they cannot make the same claim for the next two votes, because this Tuesday Democrat Senators defeated their version of the Stupak amendment (named the Nelson amendment)

    This means future votes to push forward the health care reform are pro-abortion votes, and monumental ones at that.

    The US Bishops, as soon as the Senate pro-life amendment failed, expressed their "deep disappointment" at the news. Cardinal George, the President of the US Bishops, wrote this week:
    "Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent.”
    It should be remembered that the US bishops have stated on numerous occasions that if the final health care bill does not include Hyde language (represented by the Stupak amendment in the House, and the Nelson amendment in the Senate), then the US Bishops and all serious Catholics must oppose the final bill.

    As I have said, two more votes are required, one in the Senate, and one in the House, before this health care bill goes to President Obama's desk.

    First, as early as Wednesday or Thursday of next week, US Senators will vote to pass their version of health care reform. Second, perhaps before Christmas, the House will vote to confirm the bill passed by the Senate, at which point it will go to President Obama.

    I fully expect the final version of the Senate bill to remain pro-abortion. Furthermore, it is widely being reported that the House will get no chance to address abortion funding in the legislation before it is put to a simple Yes/No vote, which will deliver it to President Obama.

    This means that, in all likelihood, before Christmas, all Catholic members of both the Senate and House will cast a definitive vote for or against the largest single expansion of abortion access and federal funding since Roe v. Wade.

    We have seen isolated cases of brave bishops calling Catholic politicians to task for their support of pro-abortion health care legislation (Bishop Tobin comes first to mind).

    What will be the fallout, I wonder, if Catholics cast the critical votes to authorize this horribly anti-life legislation? Senator Bob Casey in the Senate could be a chief architect in allowing the pro-abortion bill to leave the Senate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is eager to rubber-stamp that same pro-abortion legislation in the House.

    This scenario leaves three urgent questions:
    • Will Catholic politicians defy the clear moral exhortation of their bishops and pass this anti-life legislation?
    • Will Catholic bishops, who have already bravely defended the interests of unborn children in this debate, continue to take the needed pastoral measures to defend the unborn?
    • Will serious Catholics, who elect these politicians, and wield influence over them, be active in helping them make the right choice and form their consciences objectively?
    It's not up to me to decide these things, but I know where my prayers, hope and actions will be in these next critical weeks. I now I can do three effective things:
    • I can contact my elected representatives through the USCCB action website here.
    • I can also contact my local bishop and (respectfully) ask that he continue to do everything in his power to defend the rights of the unborn through his influence and authority.
    • I can finally - and most importantly - pray and fast for the plight of the unborn this Advent.
    (There is a fourth thing you can do - please help me spread this important message to your Catholic friends via blogs, email, facebook, etc., so we all know what the stakes are as soon as possible.)

    As we prepare to welcome the child Jesus into our hearts this Christmas, let us take concrete and immediate action to see that every unborn child has room at the Inn of the World today.

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    Saturday, November 07, 2009

    Health Care Updates - have the bishops endorsed PelosiCare?

    Because this story is changing by the minute please follow my live updates on twitter.

    Today Pelosi is trying to get enough votes together to approve her deeply-flawed health care bill.

    It has been an eventful morning. From what I can tell, after failing to get enough promised votes for health care without an abortion-neutrality amendment, Pelosi decided to allow it.

    Right now Politico is reporting that the US Bishops have endorsed the bill.

    That's not true - rather, it appears that the bishops are encouraging that members support the abortion-neutrality amendment (which is finally coming to a vote) and have laid out other conditions under which their primary reservations will be resolved.

    [update - Politico has changed the title of their "live pulse" story to clarify that the bishops have only endorsed the Stupak/etc amendment - not the whole bill. Because this story is changing by the minute please follow my live updates on twitter.]

    Politico has published a letter from the bishops that they issued today. It looks like in the final crucial hours of health care the "social justice" side of the bishops is calling the shots. I'll explain later.

    Also, as much as some people try to downplay the importance of abortion funding in this debate, another article in Politico today basically concedes that this entire process of approving PelosiCare was almost ground to a halt solely on this issue.

    Things on the hill are apparently crazy today. They are crazy because Pelosi is trying to push this health care bill through without time for deliberation and prudence. She wants to rush through an overhaul of the way one-in-six dollars is spent in this country without listening to the majority of the American people.

    That's a heck of a way to run a government.

    Please continue to email and call (202-224-3121 ) your representatives to demand that they vote YES on the pro-life stupak amendment, and then vote NO on HR 3962.

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    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    How many bishops support the current health care reform? None of them.

    Over a month ago, I started compiling a list of bishops who have written or spoken about the current health care reform proposals being debated in Congress. This list quickly grew to 44 bishops.

    Earlier this month, I copied the letter published by two key bishops and the top pro-life Cardinal in America (all of whom chair separate committees for the USCCB) who promised they must "oppose the health care bill vigorously" if crucial aspects of it were not changed. Well, it hasn't changed.

    Today, Marcel at Aggie Catholics alerted me to a new statement of the combined Texas Bishops just released yesterday which repeats that same USCCB language about "opposing [the health care bill] vigorously."

    The message of all these bishops is clear: "Yes we want reform, but we don't want this."

    That's a clear message to politicians in Washington DC, especially President Obama and Catholic politicians: "Change the health care reform bill, or Catholics will have no choice but to vigorously oppose it."

    Make no mistake, we are in the end game for health care reform right now. And right now, the health care bill is unacceptable to Catholics. Furthermore, the track record during this entire debate has been to downplay, ignore, or lie about the life issues that matter most to Catholics.

    Therefore, if it comes down to a yes-or-no vote now, the only acceptable vote is a NO vote.

    I'd like to see someone try to disagree with my claim. How can a Catholic politician vote for a bill which the combined US bishops say they must "vigorously oppose", without defying the clear practical teaching of the US bishops? 

    Of course, plenty of politicians will do just that, because they have established a career of voting for things which the bishops oppose, but I want the record to be very clear about what they are doing on this most-important-of-issues. 

    I don't mean to be authoritative, I mean to be very clear about what I am claiming. 

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    Thursday, October 08, 2009

    Important: US Bishops taking the gloves off on health care reform

    I'm literally about to step into a car and drive to Ft. Collins, CO tonight, where I will be presenting a speech to young adults on "Catholic Principles of Health Care Reform" (encore performance tomorrow night in Denver, details have been posted), but wanted beforehand to update AmP readers on an important development.

    This from religion and politics reporters Dan Gilgoff:
    After alleging that the House healthcare bill includes an abortion mandate and taxpayer-funded abortion, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have kept quiet as the Senate Finance Committee has wrestled with its version of healthcare reform these last couple of weeks. But in a letter to House leaders today, the bishops make clear that they're opposed to both bills as they currently stand—and skeptical that their grievances will be addressed.
    Abortion continues to be the top concern. Here's an excerpt [of the bishops' letter]:
        We continue to urge you to:
        1. Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test....
        We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria. However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously.
    Read full letter here.
    John Jalsevac at LifeSiteNews has a summary, as does George Stephanapoulos from a political perspective.

    As I said in my post title - this has the feeling of "taking the gloves off". Finally. Good.

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    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    List: *44* Bishops against Obamacare (and counting!)

    From time to time AmP has compiled (with the help of readers like you) summaries of statements by the American heirarchy on important current issues.

    There is now a growing list of bishops across the United States who have preached or written about their prudential opposition to the current health care proposal in Congress.

    I will update this post as time goes on....
    1. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, PA
    2. and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, NY
    3. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, CO
    4. Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, CO
    5. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, NY
    6. Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, IA
    7. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, ND
    8. Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, IA
    9. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, KS
    10. and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO
    11. Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN
    12. Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, VA
    13. Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, SC
    14. Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland, OH (PDF)
    15. Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, NC
    16. and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, NC
    17. Bishop Jerome Listecki of La Crosse, WI (PDF)
    18. Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, SD (PDF)
    19. Bishop Donald Trautman of Eire, PA (PDF)
    20. Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, PA
    21. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, CT
    22. Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, IL
    23. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, NJ (part II here)
    24. Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, AR
    25. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, WI
    26. Bishop Paul Coakley of Salina, KS
    27. Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, TX
    28. and Bishop Oscar Cantu of San Antonio, TX
    29. Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, NE
    30. Bishop Alex Sample of Marquette, MI
    31. Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, FL
    32. Bishop David Choby of Nashville, TN
    33. Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, CA
    34. Bishop Peter Sartain of Joliet, IL
    35. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, TX
    36. Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, IL
    37. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Lousville, KY
    38. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, TX
    39. Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore, MD (PDF)
    40. Bishop Joseph Galente of Camden, NJ
    41. and Bishop John Smith of Trenton, NJ
    42. Bishop Jerome Listecki of La Crosse, WI (PDF)
    43. Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, FL
    44. Bishop James Johnson of Springfield - Cape Girardeau

    Please send me tips at "thomas [at]". Thank you!

    You may also consider respectfully asking your bishop to preach or write about health care if he has not already done so. This is an important issue and we ought to hear what our pastors have to say about it!

    [photo credit -]

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    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Important: As Acorn gets Axed, it's time to toss CCHD in the fire too

    ACORN, the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now, is in the news a lot these days (and much more now that the mainstream media outside of Fox News has decided they can't ignore the story anymore).

    Most recently, the Senate chose to de-fund 169 million dollars earmarked for ACORN by a vote of 83-7 (I'd like to see the seven names that still supported this corrupt organization).

    ACORN has long been in the inside track of democrat community activism, and until recently was even going to play a role in the 2010 census - a process which is often used for political expediency by activist organizations like ACORN, whose employees have already been convicted multiple times for registering dead people and cartoon characters to vote in elections. Seriously.

    Back in October and November (twice) of last year I did a series of posts pointing out that our own Catholic Campaign for Human Development (which operates out of the US Bishops' office) funnelled Catholic contributions to ACORN.

    That's right, money given by Catholics in the pew has been going to an organization that was caught on film telling pimps in New York City how to hide money from loan sharks by burying it in the backyard before they go apply for a government mortgage for their home under an assumed name. Seriously.

    From everything I've heard and read so far, CCHD is just bad news. The fact that it funded ACORN for so many years (and continues to fund highly-questionable organizations) simply proves the leadership of CCHD is completely at-odds with responsible Catholic social activity.

    Mary Ann Kreitzer has an extended article on CCHD's misdeeds published at Spero News. She also writes about "thirteen news stories designed to tear back the curtain on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), or as I call it, Catholic Cash Helping Democrats."

    Papists, money is tight these days. With our government (finally) de-funding the state-sponsored corruption at ACORN, we Catholics need to de-fund the Catholic-sponsored corruption at the CCHD.

    What can we do?

    Every year around Thanksgiving time there is a second collection taken for CCHD at Masses in the United States. Here's what I'd like to do:
    1. In the next weeks I will search for the dioceses that have chosen to opt out of this second collection for CCHD (you can help me by emailing me if you know this has happened).
    2. I'd will publish these dioceses here on AmP, and keep the list updated.
    3. Then, I'd encourage you to (respectfully) write your bishop (if his diocese is not on the list) and ask that he also instruct his parishes to opt out of this second collection.
    4. Put that extra money you would have given to CCHD in the collection basket of your own parish, where it will do some actual good.

    If an organization has proven to be a bad steward, the Lord will find new stewards. We can help.

    update - not to get distracted, but an AmP reader writes in:

    Of the 7 senators who voted against pulling funding from ACORN:
    - 1 is Baptist
    - 1 is Episcopalian
    - 1 is Jewish
    - 4 are Roman Catholic

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    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Breaking: Bp. Joseph Martino to resign from diocese for health reasons

    From the Scranton Times:

    "Bishop Joseph F. Martino is expected to resign as head of the Diocese of Scranton next week, sources within the diocese confirmed to The Times-Tribune today.

    Speculation about the bishop's future began earlier this week when The Times-Tribune reported that his belongings were being moved from the rectory adjacent to the diocese's mother church, St. Peter's Cathedral, to a retreat in Dalton."

    More from local WNEP 16:

    "When the bishop does step aside, Newswatch 16 has learned, that Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, will be in charge of the Scranton diocese on an interim basis until a new bishop is named."

    The Times Leader has more background. The communications office at the Scranton diocese doesn't appear to be doing its job very well. Bishop Martino is only 63 years old, so typically he would have 12 more years of episcopal service before being allowed to retire.

    I'm very saddened by this news and urge readers to pray for his health. Bishop Martino is a real firebrand who has been passionately defending the principles of our Catholic faith in his diocese, as previous AmP posts detail.

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    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Bishop D'Arcy breaks his silence on Notre Dame

    Bishop John M. D'Arcy, who was very involved in the Notre Dame scandal of earlier this year (which AmP covered extensively), breaks his long silence about what the Notre Dame situation was about, and what it wasn't about, in a reflection written for America magazine (odd that he chose to publish for this publication, considering their editorial position on the affair - maybe he considers it mission territory).

    For skimmers, I'll excerpt Bishop D'Arcy's concluding questions to Catholic universities:

    Do you consider it a responsibility in your public statements, in your life as a university and in your actions, including your public awards, to give witness to the Catholic faith in all its fullness?

    What is your relationship to the church and, specifically, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority as defined by the Second Vatican Council?

    Finally, a more fundamental question: Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead? Will it be the Land O’Lakes Statement or Ex Corde Ecclesiae?

    .... On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the future of Catholic higher education in this country and so much else.

    I will be eager to see which Catholic universities joyfully respond to the bishop's questions, and with some apprehension, I await the stony silence of many more. I cringe at the possibility that some may even try to wiggle their way out of his challenge.

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    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Important: Bishop Nickless critically evaluates Obamacare, lays out Catholic principles

    Stop the presses....

    If you are a Catholic engaged in our nation's debate about health care, you need to read Bishop R. Walker Nickless' in his latest column.

    I don't often post what I consider to be "required reading" for AmPsters, but this is one of those times. It's one of the very best articles on Catholic principles of health care I've read since I started following the debate.

    Some excerpts:

    .... My brother bishops have described some clear “goal-posts” to mark out what is acceptable reform, and what must be rejected.

    First and most important, the Church will not accept any legislation that mandates coverage, public or private, for abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem-cell research. {contined}

    Second, the Catholic Church does not teach that “health care” as such, without distinction, is a natural right. {continued}

    Third, in that category of prudential judgment, the Catholic Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care. {continued}

    Fourth, preventative care is a moral obligation of the individual to God and to his or her family and loved ones, not a right to be demanded from society. {continued}

    Now Bishop Nickless takes a look at the particular parts of the legislation we are examining in Congress:
    Within these limits, the Church has been advocating for decades that health care be made more accessible to all, especially to the poor. Will the current health care reform proposals achieve these goals?

    The current House reform bill, HR 3200, does not meet the first or the fourth standard. As Cardinal Justin Rigali has written for the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-life Activities, this bill circumvents the Hyde amendment (which prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions) by drawing funding from new sources not covered by the Hyde amendment, and by creatively manipulating how federal funds covered by the Hyde amendment are accounted. It also provides a “public insurance option” without adequate limits, so that smaller employers especially will have a financial incentive to push all their employees into this public insurance. This will effectively prevent those employees from choosing any private insurance plans. This will saddle the working classes with additional taxes for inefficient and immoral entitlements. The Senate bill, HELP, is better than the House bill, as I understand it. It subsidizes care for the poor, rather than tending to monopolize care. But, it designates the limit of four times federal poverty level for the public insurance option, which still includes more than half of all workers. This would impinge on the vitality of the private sector. It also does not meet the first standard of explicitly excluding mandatory abortion coverage.
    Here you have Bishop Nickless' very compelling prudential conclusion about the current forms of the health care proposals. The idea that Catholics have an automatic obligation to support them is false. Instead, Catholics ought to be vocally involved in opposing the problematic features of this legislation, while also calling for authentic reform along different lines than the ones proposed now.

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    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Pray for Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville {updated}

    The new Bishop of Knoxville, Richard Stika, experienced a heart attack while in Florida over the weekend. According to a statement from the acting diocesan spokeswoman, he is "responsive and doing well." But of course, we should still keep him in our prayers.

    update - 11AM:
    Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, offers the following update regarding Bishop Richard F. Stika:

    As we now understand it, Bishop Stika traveled to Florida to visit a sick friend and became ill with severe flu-like symptoms, which precipitated a diabetic crisis. Although the Bishop suffered a mild heart attack related to the diabetic crisis, his heart was thoroughly examined and found to be in great shape.

    He had a very good night and is stable and responding well to his treatment. He is looking forward to returning home to Knoxville.
    I am in contact with Bishop Stika’s doctors hourly and will continue to update you all as I get new information. Let us give thanks for this encouraging information and pray for his continued recovery.

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    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Photo: Five new American Archbishops

    Sometimes it's simply impossible to keep up on all the news. One of the stories that slipped through my fingers this week was the donation by Pope Benedict of palliums to *five* new American archbishops yesterday. CNS has a report.

    From Left: Archbishops Timothy Dolan of New York, Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, Robert Carlson of St Louis, George Lucas of Omaha, and Allen Vigneron of Detroit.

    I wonder if five is a record for a single year?

    Ph/t: Whispers, which also has extensive coverage

    Photo credit: Joanna Molloy of the New York Daily News

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    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Info: So how does a bishop get chosen in the United States?

    The USCCB has released a fascinating PDF document as a media backgrounder, explaining the step-by-step process that goes on behind the scenes before a new bishop is appointed to a US diocese:

    The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the Pope, and he is free to select anyone he chooses. But how does he know whom to select?

    The process for selecting candidates for the episcopacy normally begins at the diocesan level andworks its way through a series of consultations until it reaches Rome. It is a process bound by strict confidentiality and involves a number of important players – the most influential being the apostolic nuncio, the Congregation for Bishops, and the pope. It can be a time consuming process, often taking eight months or more to complete. While there are distinctions between the first appointment of a priest as a bishop and a bishop's later transfer to another diocese or his promotion to archbishop, the basic outlines of the process remain the same.

    Stage 1: Bishops' Recommendations
    Stage 2: The Apostolic Nuncio
    Stage 3: Congregation for Bishops
    Stage 4: The Pope Decides
    Each of the stages is explained with a short paragraph in the PDF document.
    There you go, papists - your lunchtime reading! Don't say I never divulge trade secrets. ;-)

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    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Missed: Evansville bishop to boycott GOP leader's visit

    Democrats aren't the only ones who get boycotted by American bishops:
    A Roman Catholic bishop will boycott an anti-abortion group’s annual dinner next month because of abortion comments by keynote speaker and Republican National Chairman Michael Steele in a magazine interview.

    Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger decided not to attend Vanderburgh County Right to Life’s annual dinner, which will also feature Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on April 16 because of Steele’s comments published online by GQ two weeks ago, diocese spokesman Paul Leingang said Tuesday.

    Gettelfinger, the spiritual leader of about 90,000 Catholics in southwestern Indiana, has attended the Right to Life dinner each year for at least a decade, Leingang said. (Indy Star)
    So what do you think of that?

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    Cardinal Egan in hospital with stomach pains

    He was supposed to have a pacemaker put in his heart:
    Cardinal Edward M. Egan remained hospitalized on Sunday with stomach pains as doctors first scheduled and then postponed an operation to install a pacemaker at St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York said on Sunday.

    Cardinal Egan, who turned 77 on Thursday, experienced stomach pain and was driven in his private car to St. Vincent’s late Saturday night, and the doctors ordered him held overnight for further testing, said Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the archdiocese.

    On Sunday, doctors scheduled the pacemaker operation for Monday morning, but then postponed the operation, telling Cardinal Egan that it was not an emergency and that he should get his strength back and eliminate his stomach pain first, Mr. Zwilling said. It was unclear on Sunday whether there was a connection between his stomach pains and the recommendation for a pacemaker. (New York Times)

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    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Reviewed: DC to remain "green zone" for reception of the Eucharist by pro-aborts?

    An update on the Archbishop Burke saga from last week (here and here):
    [Correction: Bishop of Arlington] Loverde said on Friday that individual Catholics must determine their fitness to receive Communion.

    "If you are Catholic, you have the responsibility to think carefully about what it means to present yourself for Communion," he said. "You should present yourself for Communion when you are in harmony with the church's teaching, free of mortal sin and living your life accordingly, and not receive when you are not."

    Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said Friday that the U.S. bishops overwhelmingly decided in 2004 to allow individual bishops to determine a Communion policy for their diocese.

    Wuerl's policy is "to respect the pastoral directives and guidance given to a public official by his or her own bishop while the official is working in Washington, D.C.," Gibbs said. "That individual's bishop presumably would know the person and the situation best and, therefore, be in a position to make a judgment about or a request concerning the person's worthiness to receive Holy Communion." (Religion News Service)

    A friend of mine has said that this solution in effect sets up a "Green Zone" for pro-abortion politicians to receive communion while in Washington DC despite what their hometown bishops may have decided.

    Sebellius is coming....

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    Columbus Bishop having amputation surgery today - prayers requested

    Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell will have his left leg amputated below the knee Monday because of skin cancer, according to a letter released by the Catholic Diocese yesterday.

    Doctors have diagnosed squamous cell carcinoma in Campbell, 65. He also has osteomyelitis, an infection, in multiple bones in his foot, and an open wound that will not heal.

    Campbell told clergy of his upcoming surgery in a letter mailed Thursday. (Columbus Dispatch)
    He is 100% expected to make a recovery and will be able to walk with a prosthetic leg in time.

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    Friday, March 27, 2009

    US Bishops release statement ruling-out Reiki

    Catholic Culture gives us the brief:

    In a document released March 25, the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops blasted Reiki, a practice developed in Japan in the late nineteenth century that has gained acceptance in some Catholic retreat centers and other institutions.

    ... The bishops add, “Some forms of Reiki teach of a need to appeal for the assistance of angelic beings or ‘Reiki spirit guides.’ This introduces the further danger of exposure to malevolent forces or powers.” [more from Catholic Culture or the MSM.]

    Well, I guess it's a good sign when I first hear about something bad ... when the bishops publish a document telling me it's bad. But has anyone come across this stuff? I mean, what made it such a priority for the bishops?

    update: from comments, it's evident to me that this was becoming a widespread abuse. thanks for the context, papists! please continue to keep me posted in the comment thread. this is a dangerous practice.

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    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Video: Cardinal George on Keeping Conscience Protections

    From the US Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat:
    Cardinal Francis George is urging Catholics in the United States to tell the Obama Administration to retain Health and Human Services regulations governing conscience protections for health care workers.

    This is vital to keep the government from "moving our country from democracy to despotism," said Cardinal George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He delivered the message via video available on the Web here (contains lots of information) and on YouTube:

    update: here's an easy way to send-in your official comment.

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    Monday, January 12, 2009

    Breaking: St. Louis Monsignor named new Bishop of Knoxville

    update: whoops! Msgr. Stika is to become a bishop, not an archbishop. Thanks, AmP reader Jean.

    Monsignor Richard Stika is to become the third bishop of Knoxville:

    From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
    Monsignor Richard Stika of the Church of the Annunziata in Ladue has been tapped by the pope to be bishop-elect of the diocese in Knoxville, Tenn.

    He will ordained as bishop there and begin his duties March 19.

    ... Stika, 51, is a native of St. Louis. He graduated from Bishop DuBourg High School in 1975. Four years later, he graduated with a business degree from St. Louis University.

    ...Stika takes over for Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz as bishop of the Knoxville diocese. Kurtz was named archbishop of Louisville in August 2007. The Knoxville diocese is home to about 50,000 Catholics and covers about 14,000 square miles.
    Rocco adds:
    With the move, the number of vacant Stateside dioceses falls to nine, the group now led by South Carolina's statewide church of Charleston, which has been awaiting a new head since August 2007.
    So much for "new bishop Tuesdays." Seems like Papa Benny is using the whole week!

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    Monday, January 05, 2009

    Native Son Allen Vigneron appointed Archbishop of Detroit

    A fitting story to mark the resumption of AmP Catholic news coverage, and an event long-awaited on these pages: Bishop Allen Vigneron (of Oakland) has been nominated as the new Metropolitan Archbishop of Detroit, MI. He will take position quickly, on the 28th of this month.
    My email inbox has been humming with local updates, for six years I lived in Michigan, and for two years I attended school at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, so suffice it to say, we've been waiting for this news for a long time, because Cardinal Maida's retirement date was almost two years ago.
    Bp. Vigneron is coming home to the archdiocese where he previously served as an auxiliary. He is also the first Michigan-native to hold the office. He is all but guaranteed to be made a Cardinal in the next consistory.
    Bp. Vigneron's nomination is an especial boon to Sacred Heart because he served as its rector from 1998-91 and again from 1994-2003. Monday is not a typical day of the week for the Vatican to announce a US appointment, but today was the first day of classes at Sacred Heart, so it is appropriate for at least that reason.
    Detroit has 1.5 million Catholics, the sixth largest US diocese. The Vatican made many, many other appointments today (one of which I'll get to in good time), part of a post-Christmas avalanche of international episcopal housekeeping, I imagine.
    For the outgoing Cardinal Maida, the Michigan Catholic Conference has published a web page to pay tribute to his service to the Church in Detroit these many years. Bishop-designate Vigneron will take over Cardinal Maida's Chairmanship of the Michigan Conference of Catholic Bishops. Rocco has excellent coverage and you can follow this page for an updating feed of related stories. Fr. Z's comment box is a good place to look for more informed reactions and interesting tidbits. Bp. Vigneron has a particularly solid and vocal record on life issues, which will come in handy as Michigan attempts to continue building up a medical/pharmaceutical industry.
    I think Bp. Vigneron is very good news for Detroit. He knows it well, in several capacities, and has proven himself an excellent pastor of souls in each. He seems very pleased about the appointment, even in the face of the significant challenged facing anyone who takes up the office.
    More as I hear it....

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    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    On the end of Catholic Hospitals

    Ed Morissey at Hot Air tells us how serious the bishops are about not allowing Catholic Hospitals to be forced into performing abortions under FOCA:
    [The bishops will] shut them down and take the losses in order to prevent their use as abortion clinics. To do otherwise, the bishops stated, would be to cooperate in the evil of abortions.

    What kind of impact would that have? The Catholic Church is one of the nation’s biggest health-care providers. In 2007, they ran 557 hospitals that serviced over 83 million patients. The church also had 417 clinics that saw over seven million patients. If they shut down almost a thousand hospitals and clinics nationwide, the US would not just lose a significant portion of available health care, but the poor and working-class families that received the health care would have fewer options.

    Also, the Catholic Church runs this on a non-profit basis, spending vast sums of its money to ensure access for those unable to pay. That’s the kind of model that many on the Left believe should exclusively provide health care — and FOCA would spell the end of the major provider already in that model.
    Notice that point about Catholic hospitals being non-profits? And to think that a common criticism of the Catholic pro-life movement during this election was that, somehow, we aren't serious about providing concrete medical care and assistance to the poor. Simply unbelievable.

    So how serious are democrats and Obama about FOCA? Serious enough to push the Catholic Church in the US out of the health care industry?

    Let's hope drawing these clear lines in the sand will give them pause. We're not blinking first.

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    Update: Biden receives Communion, Pelosi stands-up Niederauer

    Catholic Vice-President Elect Joe Biden and Catholic Speaker Nancy Pelosi have the shared dishonor of being pro-abortion politicians who have earned the rebuke of dozens of American bishops for their misrepresentation of their faith in a textbook case of scandalizing the faithful.

    So what are they up to now?

    Joe Biden is still receiving Communion, most recently (that we know of) in Tallahassee FL the Sunday before election day. Local bishop John Ricard took swift action and warned Biden to examine his conscience carefully before approaching the altar again. But hey, when do we next expect Joe Biden to be in Florida? It's served his purpose

    Biden's home bishop Francis Malooly, meanwhile, the person most responsible for the formation and discipline of his parishioners, won't tell him to stop, saying "I won't politicize the Eucharist ... I don't want to alienate people. I want to change their hearts and minds."

    Now while that's surely a noble aim, I don't see any results. The penalties of the Church, however, can also serve to change hearts and minds. Let's not forget that. If laws are never enforced, people will feel free to ignore them.

    Speaker Pelosi, meanwhile - also still presumably presenting herself for Communion - promised her local Archbishop George Niederauer to sit down with him about her situation after he invited her. That public promise was made 68 days, 21 hours and 27 minutes ago. How do I know that? I've had a timer running since the day she made her promise. It's still ticking.

    That's right, for over two months, this "ardent, faithful" Catholic - who regularly uses her faith as credentials in the exercise of her public office - couldn't even find time to fit in a sit-down with her bishop on a matter which has received national attention, both within and outside the Catholic Church.

    Again, I'm looking for signs that progress is being made, that the pre-chosen methods are working.

    But I'm not seeing it.

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    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Text/Commentary: Cardinal George's letter to President-elect Obama

    You can read the text here.
    My pull quotes:

    [On Roe v. Wade:] Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law. The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.

    [On FOCA:] "It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil."

    [On the election, etc.:] "The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve.

    Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected.

    Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion."

    What's especially significant about this? Cardinal George is speaking not just personally, nor as the Archbishop of Chicago, but as the President of the gathered American bishops:

    "On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will ... The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted."

    "This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops...."

    Okay, moment of truth time: when dozens of individual bishops were making these same points during the election, they were dismissed as a "minority" or "mavericks" by their liberal critics. Now will those same critics who disagreed with these brave bishops admit that their alternative position is NOW a minority one?

    In other words, here is the contradiction. When bishops said something they didn't like they would dismiss them as "fringe" or "extreme", now that the combined bishops are, as a body, saying the same things as were said before by a few, will they continue to refer to the position taken by all the bishops in similar terms?

    Tick, tock, tock.

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    Breaking: Bishops to present concerns on abortion, other issues to politicians

    CNS - which has lots of coverage, follows the knotted thread:

    With a new administration and a Democratic-dominated Congress about to take office, the U.S. bishops will spell out their concerns about policies and laws that might make abortion more readily available.

    After a total of nearly three hours of discussion in public and private sessions Nov. 11 during their annual fall meeting, the bishops gave their president, Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, a set of concerns about abortion and other matters to raise in a public statement he will issue on their behalf. The statement was to be completed for final approval Nov. 12.

    Martino tries to get some movement:

    Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton, Pa., said though he realized the statement would not address that topic, "we are going to have to speak as firmly as possible to Catholic politicians who are not merely reluctant to vote pro-life, but are stridently anti-life." He noted that in ages past, U.S. bishops took canonical measures against Catholic politicians who supported institutional racism.

    "We have to have something like that," he said. "I cannot have the vice president-elect (Joseph Biden) coming to Scranton (his childhood home) saying he learned his values there, when his values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church."

    The Church already does have "something like that." The laws are on the books, they're just not being used.

    Tobin (!):

    Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., said toward the end of the discussion that if the statement were to include everything heard in that session, "you might as well just reprint 'Faithful Citizenship,'" the bishops' 2007 document on political responsibility.

    He said instead the final version should be concise, taking a lesson from Obama's own successful campaign strategy, which focused narrowly on change and hope.

    "That carried him to the presidency," Bishop Tobin said. The bishops need to find a similar succinct approach, he said, "less political, less politically correct and more prophetic. We need somehow to reclaim the prophetic voice on this issue."

    Though I agree with Tobin about "less political, less politically correct, and more prophetic" .... did I just catch a hint that he is admitting Obama reaches people better these days than the bishops themselves? What does it say that Obama can come across as more "prophetic" than bishops who are consecrated into the prophetic priesthood of Christ Himself?
    Talk about a wake-up call.

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    Results: New Bishop chairs announced + analysis

    Conference Secretary:
    Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton: 69
    Bishop George Murry SJ of Youngstown: 150

    National Collections:
    Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston: 84
    Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas: 139

    Cultural Diversity:
    Coadjutor Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento: 134
    Bishop Terry Steib SVD of Memphis: 92

    Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph: 97
    Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles: 129

    Pro-Life Activities:
    Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston: 165
    Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City-St Joseph: 59

    Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington: 140
    Bishop Jerome Listecki of LaCrosse: 85

    I don't know how to evaluate the claim made by some that these elections to bishops chairs are "politically influenced" - i.e., popular bishops get elected and unpopular ones don't. While that certainly seems like a very human temptation, I tend to disbelieve it actually obtains here in any serious way.
    At any rate, some gut reactions:

    And just to shut down one line of disagreement at the outset: I'm not trying to evaluate the "goodness" of these bishops based only on how vocally they preach the Church's teaching about unborn life.

    However, the other side will be going over these chair elections with a fine-tooth comb trying to do the opposite - saying that whenever an outspoken bishop isn't chosen, somehow the American bishops are shunning them. I don't think that is the case. And either way, it's best to know a little bit about their records.

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    Bishops approve official blessing of infants in the womb

    As mentioned.

    CNA has the straight scoop:

    Children in the womb will now be able to receive a special blessing from their parish priests following an overwhelming vote by the U.S. bishops in favor of the new blessing.

    "The Blessing of a Child in the Womb" has been in the works for two years, but Bishop Michael Saltarelli noted at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that, “happily it’s come to fruition at this time when I think it’s important to reaffirm and focus our attention on the life of the unborn.” The bishop’s remarks were apparently in reference to the recent election results and Cardinal George’s remarks on not giving any ground to those who insist that Catholics set their beliefs aside in public dialogue.

    Also in the works:
    Bishop Michael Pfeifer suggested that the conference eventually designated a nationwide Day of Prayer for the unborn.
    John Allen comments:
    In part, these gestures suggest a "full-court press" from the bishops in terms of fostering a strong pro-life sensibility in the church.
    These both strike me as laudatory, smart decisions. By what sort of margin did the resolution pass?
    "The English-language version was approved 223-1 and the Spanish-language version 224-0." (source)
    Who didn't approve it?!

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    Bishops in Baltimore Day 2 Recap

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Tuesday Update: American Bishops Meet in Baltimore

    AmP's picks for the best stories being published about the American Bishops' meeting today:

    That should keep you (and me) busy this afternoon.

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    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Bishops *will discuss* politicians and abortion tomorrow

    Of course, all the interesting things would happen when I'm on the road. Some important updates:
    This week the US Bishops are meeting in Baltimore. There had been some recent rumors that the US Bishops had decided to not take on the scandal caused by Catholics who support abortion and also present themselves for Communion (like the future Vice-President of America).
    CNA and Rocco clarify that, to the contrary, the item is still on the agenda but will probably take place, behind closed doors, tomorrow morning. Check in with Amy for a dose of sanity, and read Diogenes for the sed contra.
    That's about it until I get back home tonight. In the meantime, CNS has been doing some live-blogging of the public sessions and they published this little story which caught my eye: "Bishops to vote on blessing service for children in the womb"
    Finally, Cardinal George's opening address as President of the USCCB has been getting plenty of attention.

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    Saturday, November 01, 2008

    Leon Suprenant on the November meeting

    Good words:
    At their semi-annual meeting November 10-13th in Baltimore, the United States bishops will discuss the “practical and pastoral implications of political support for abortion.” Some might question the timing of this discussion, coming days after a national election featuring a candidate whom Princeton professor Robert George described as being the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the presidency. At the same time, better (barely) late than never, and perhaps the timing will allow for a candid discussion relatively free of USCCB-speak (read “Faithful Citizenship”) or charges of partisanship.

    In my own discussions with bishops regarding this issue in the weeks leading up to the November meeting, I have urged them to consider these three concerns.
    Read them here.

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    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Listed: Bishops who have spoken out for life

    Inside Catholic is attempting to compile a list of bishops who have "spoken out on the primacy of life issues in the coming election." Rocco Palmo recently counted "over 50," but IC has found over 60, and is asking folks to help them search diocesan websites/newspapers for more.

    It wouldn't surprise me if, before November 4th, we discover the majority have spoken out about life.

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    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Breaking: US Bishops set the record straight in today's statement

    This is a breaking story - check back for updates.

    Thank God for our bishops. They have just released a press release on the USCCB website:

    Legal Protection for Unborn, Support for Mothers Both Needed, Say Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy

    WASHINGTON—"Our faith requires us to oppose abortion on demand and to provide help to mothers facing challenging pregnancies," Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., said in an October 21 statement. The bishops urged Catholics to study the teaching of the Church, rather than rely on statements and materials from outside groups and individuals.

    [Read it here in PDF] [Summary here.]

    I had just finished writing this essay in which I sounded the call for an organized response to the recent arguments put forward by pro-Obama Catholics when I discovered the above press release from the US bishops waiting in my inbox, doing exactly what I was hoping for. Now it's up to us to spread their message.
    Okay, what are they saying?
    • Catholics are not to blindly follow the advice of "outside groups and individuals."

    Okay, what are these outside groups and individuals saying?

    • The argument that "the Church should accept the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on abortion as a 'permanent fixture of constitutional law' and should concede that the only way to reduce abortions is to provide more government support for pregnant women is wrong.

    Also wrong:

    • "The Church's efforts against abortion should focus solely on restoring recognition for unborn children's human rights and that proposals to provide social and economic support for pregnant women distract from that effort."

    The first argument is one used by Democrats, the second argument is a straw man constructed by Democrats about those who refuse to vote for Barack Obama and other pro-choice politicians.

    I fully agree with the bishops that the second error is to be rejected - will Democrat Catholics now fully agree that the first argument is in error? Are you listening, Nicholas Cafardi? Doug Kmiec? Catholics United? Lisa Sowle Cahill? Because these are the Catholics who have been pushing this argument. By stark contrast, I have not seen anyone seriously claim that the legislative solution is the only one to be pursued. (Okay folks, I'm waiting.)

    The Catholic argument for voting Democrat (or, specifically, for a pro-choice politician) has boiled down to "get over Roe" and "pursue alternatives like funding health care". The bishops respond:

    The bishops added that legalizing abortion had greatly increased annual abortions in the United States. "The law is a teacher, and Roe taught many women, physicians and others that abortion is an acceptable answer to a wide range of problems."

    Clarification 2: FOCA is on the horizon.

    The American bishops are coming to terms with the reality of an Obama presidency, and a Democrat-controlled Senate and House that could pass the Freedom of Choice Act, which will in one fell swoop erase all the progress that has taken place against Roe since it was passed. Here is what they say:

    By the same token, even the limited pro-life laws allowed by the Court since Roe have been shown to reduce abortions substantially, leading to a steady decline in the abortion rate since 1980. Bans on public funding, laws requiring informed consent for women and parental involvement for minors, and other modest and widely supported laws have saved millions of lives. Laws made possible by reversing Roe would save many more. On the other hand, this progress could be lost through a key pro-abortion proposal, the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which supporters say would knock down hundreds of current pro-life laws and forbid any public program to “discriminate” against abortion in providing services to women.

    This statement challenges the canard which holds that legislative actions have been ineffectual in driving down the incidence of abortion. Of course restrictions act to restrict abortions.

    Who is getting slapped on the wrist more?

    While this statement is a critique of some elements of the republican and democrat solution to the problem of abortion, I submit that it is more a critique of the democrat solution for these reasons:

    • It talks about abortion as a non-negotiable front-and-center moral issue. Part of the argument for voting for democrat/pro-choice politicians seeks to marginalize the importance of this issue. Sorry, you can't ignore abortion and claim to be practicing the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
    • It is issued not only by the chairman of Pro-Life activities, but also the chairman on "Domestic Justice and Human development." One cannot have either true justice or achieve authentic human development without an especial care for the unborn.
    • It spends a lengthy amount of time talking about FOCA, a democrat-sponsored bill that will, following this statement, increase the number of abortions in America and also strike a serious blow to the cause of addressing the social justice issue of our time.

    Finally, and most importantly:

    • Republicans do commit themselves to caring for women experiencing crisis pregnancies. By the same token, the idea that reversing Roe is the only goal of pro-life activity is not a republican position (read their platform). However, democrats do say that Roe is a non-negotiable and do actively attempt to repeal the restrictions that have slowly been put on it through conservative efforts (again, read their platform).

    This statement is a therefore, I submit, confirmation of my thesis that Catholics in the republican party must strive to see that their principles are better translated into practice, but Catholics in the democratic party must seriously address the errors in principle which the democrats have claimed on the issue of unborn human life, while simultaneously addressing the mistaken practices of the party which do not adequately defend unborn human life.

    To put it simply: for Republicans, being Catholic on the issue of abortion involves following through on their rhetoric. For Democrats, being Catholic on the issue of abortion involves reversing their rhetoric and changing course on a whole range of legislative proposals they have planned.

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    Sullivan, predictably, predicts Catholics for Obama in November

    I took issue with Amy Sullivan's last piece for Time Magazine on this topic ("Time Mag. asks: "Does Biden Have a Catholic Problem?"). In this current edition, she looks at the race from the perspective of the recent Al Smith dinner (previously blogged here - pictures & here - video).

    Head-scratching line:

    The slight [of not being invited to the Al Smith dinner in '92 and '96] was particularly painful for Bill Clinton, who developed an affinity for the Catholic Church as an undergraduate at Georgetown University.
    I'm sure he was real, real hurt. The disregard of the social teaching of the Church (where it differed from his own) throughout his presidency notwithstanding.

    Into her argument:

    Why then was Obama welcomed to the Al Smith Dinner, his hand on Cardinal Egan's shoulder as they chuckled together, while Kerry had to stay away? It helps that Obama is not Catholic. Some Catholics have criticized his support for abortion rights, but as he is not a member of their tradition, they don't feel the same need to sanction him. But more importantly, the political landscape for Catholics has changed since 2004.

    In a hierarchical tradition like Catholicism, debates don't happen very often. Right now, however, American Catholics are going through a revival of the arguments that took place in the 1980s between bishops who believed abortion ought to be the top political and moral focus of the church and the camp led by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin that argued for a more "consistent ethic of life."

    Truncated initial conclusion:

    As a result, many Catholics can now argue that neither party fits precisely with Catholic social teaching — the Democratic position on abortion is still unacceptable but so are GOP positions on education and health care and the war in Iraq. This realization is reflected in changing party identification — as of this past February, 41% of Catholic voters called themselves Independents, an 11-point increase since 2004. And in opinion polls, Catholics are evenly divided between Obama and McCain.
    41%?! An 11% increase? Can that be correct?

    Amy claims a resurgence of the "progressive Catholic left":

    This [liberal Catholic] void, and Kerry's defeat, prompted a group of progressive Catholics to create their own infrastructure after 2004. When two young graduate students first launched Catholics United, they had $1,000 in seed money and were operating out of a dorm room. Four years later, the nonpartisan organization has more than 30,000 members and a $200,000 budget. This month they are sending a direct mail piece titled "What Does Being Pro-Life Really Mean?" to 50,000 Catholic households in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The same message is plastered across billboards in heavily Catholic swing states.
    This is a funny story considering today's revelation that two of the prominent liberal Catholic groups (including Catholics United), we now have reason to believe are funded by mega-billionaire progressive George Soros. What an awkward explanation for how these kids went from working out of their dorm room into their current opulence. Grassroots - or big money?

    Sullivan, in her clever way, spends a bit more time mentioning the various arguments put forward by pro-Obama Catholics (without mentioning the obvious factual replies), and then throws her hands up and says it's all about the economy. Sullivan seems to have a habit of sowing doubts about a long-presumed position, and then switching topics completely instead of providing the other side of the story, for she did this in her last article as well.

    Anyway, Amy:

    In a year like 2008, when the economy trumps social issues, Catholics are most likely to return to their roots in the Democratic Party. And that's particularly true when they hear fellow Catholics arguing that Democrats reflect their religious values.

    Indeed, for pro-Obama democrats have discovered the solution to Kerry's "Catholic problem" - simply ignore it. Simply claim there is no problem with Obama's position on abortion (and embryonic stem cell research), and suddenly he becomes a compelling candidate.

    Make no mistake, the final push to rope Catholics into the Obama camp is in full swing. It feels like a full-time job simply documenting the examples. Because of this volume, I'm just going to focus on one narrative myth advocated by Sullivan in my next post.

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    With Biden as VP, Deleware comments significant after November

    IF Senator Biden becomes the Vice-President of the United States then his recent comments about his views on abortion as a Catholic will have a bearing on the discussions at the upcoming meeting of the American bishops.

    Just a little observation. The fact that the interview is old does not matter because Biden has never retracted his comments or clarified that they do not coincide with Church teaching. He's on record, out of communion.

    A corroborating view.

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    Friday, October 17, 2008

    "Save our Children!" says Bishop Robert Hermann

    The Archdiocesan Administrator who is running St. Louis until a replacement can be found for its previous shepherd Abp. Raymond Burke ... has issued an extraordinary exhortation to the Catholics under his care:

    "Save our children! More than anything else, this election is about saving our children or killing our children. This life issue is the overriding issue facing each of us in this coming election. All other issues, including the economy, have to take second place to the issue of life."

    ... Save our children! How can a so-called good Catholic vote for a candidate that supports laws that take the life of innocent children, when there is an alternative? If there were two candidates who supported abortion, but not equally, we would have the obligation to mitigate the evil by voting for the less-permissive candidate.

    ... Save our children! How can a so-called good Catholic vote for a candidate that supports laws that justify the killing of a child that survived a botched abortion? How can such a so-called good Catholic receive the Holy Eucharist?

    ... Save our children! I have no doubt that there may be some so-called good Catholics who are reading this column and who may be really angry about now. I ask the question "Why would such a person be angry?" If we do good deeds, then our conscience is at peace. If we do evil deeds, then our conscience bothers us. It is my hope that this column will lead some of our so-called good Catholics to study the Catholic Catechism.

    ... Save our children! Some of our so-called good Catholics may have hardened their hearts against the real understanding of induced abortions, that they can no longer see that this involves the destruction of our children. "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts!"

    ... Save our children! Supporting induced abortions is not the greatest sin in the world. A greater sin is the refusal to repent of such a serious crime or the denial that this involves the killing of innocent children.

    ... Save our children! I have used this terminology again and again penetrate the defenses of anyone who in the past may have put personal, economic or political interests above the issue of saving our children. The right to life is our most fundamental right, and to defend this right on behalf of the most vulnerable is a great privilege and is worth giving one’s life for. Policemen and firemen always risk their lives to save human life. Why should we not risk our own reputation to save our children?"

    [Read his entire column.]

    His spiritual exhortation? Pray. the. rosary.

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    Slideshow: Cardinal Egan, Obama & McCain together

    Al Smith was the first Catholic Presidential candidate. My father has one of his campaign buttons. Yesterday Cardinal Egan hosted both John McCain and Barack Obama at Al Smith's fundraising dinner:

    Coverage at WSJ.

    So what do you think of this?

    1. A perfect image of the Church transcending politics and bringing people together?
    2. A pitiful depiction of the worst sort of pandering for political expedience?
    3. An unconsciounable ignoring of the differences that truly divide us?
    4. A benefit dinner - what else?

    Obama's mind might have been elsewhere during the evening:

    Cardinal Edward Egan, Senator McCain, and Senator Obama were staged for their grand entrance in seating order. However, all did not go as planned.

    McCain's name was called, and the Republican nominee took the stage. Obama's name was called in the midst of the applause and he appeared to not hear and did not take the stage, producing an awkward moment where the Democratic presidential nominee was chatting unknowingly as people waited for him to take the stage.

    The announcer then went on to introduce Cardinal Egan instead.

    Obama was then introduced - for a second time - and he finally took the stage to sustained applause. (ABC)
    (Unendorsed) commentary at Commonweal. And interesting observations from the National Post.

    update: Diogenes is not pleased.

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    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    American Bishops' VP discusses the status of pro-abort politicians

    Expert canonical commentary over at

    Bp. Kicanas on Catholic pro-abortion politicians Bp. Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, now vice-president of the USCCB, gave an interview to the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen on, among other things, the situation of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. While I hesitate to read too much into Kicanas' answers (they seemed off-the-cuff, understandably so), and while I recognize that some of Allen's questions were oddly phrased, what the future USCCB president says about this issue is important, and I think a few remarks are in order. {Read about it here.}

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    Friday, October 10, 2008

    European and American bishops talk about the financial crisis

    Members of the Social Affairs Commission of COMECE met in Paris on 8-9 October for their annual meeting. Their exchange of views on the topic of "The future of social protection and social policy in Europe" was marked by the crisis in the financial markets and its consequences for social policy in Europe.

    At the end of the meeting, Bishop Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and President of the Commission, said: "At the present time it is the case that the governments of the EU should undertake all possible efforts to end this crisis of confidence which is undermining the financial markets. The social teaching of the Church has for a long time recognised the idea of global governance in order to bring justice, transparency and responsibility into the world's financial markets. Now the time has come to implement this social teaching. It is also important for our governments, as well as for the EU-Institutions, to start caring for the situation of those citizens who - without being responsible - will nevertheless have to carry the social consequences of the financial crisis. We have arrived at the precise moment where the European social model should prove itself in order to avoid turning the financial crisis into a political and social crisis."

    Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore, the first diocese of the United States, talks about the books:

    These are uncertain times. Banks are failing, Wall Street is reeling, and the cost of just about everything seems to be through the roof. Talk of bailouts and mergers, record declines and a looming recession – not to mention the fast-approaching presidential election – has much of the nation in a frenzy of uncertainty and worry. Understandably, many people, when not peeking through their hands at their investment account statements, find themselves taking inventory these days. This local Church is, too.

    The Gospel and our own Church teaching reminds us that we must be good stewards of those gifts that have been so generously bestowed on us. It is a priority of this local Church – at every level – to ensure that our limited resources are used to the best possible effect.

    Sober words as we go into our weekend. Let's take stock, pray and keep moving.
    Ph/t: Rocco.
    These days are a helpful reminder to America that the ideal of "radical individualism" is a mirage: we are all deeply connected to one another, and must (prudently) help shoulder each others' burdens.

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    Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    "Pro-Life, Pro-Obama" website launched

    As proof that "the best lie is a bold lie," I give you the quote of the day:

    "Can you be pro-life and support Senator Obama? The answer - upon even a moment's reflection - is 'unequivocally yes.'" (Doug Kmiec, ProLife-ProObama)

    Kmiec has jumped the shark. He had once crafted perhaps the single best justification argument for a pro-Obama vote, but now this ... this is all-out vote pandering.

    The idea that Catholics can honestly determine that Obama is pro-life "upon even a moment's reflection" is simply absurd beyond argument, looking at the facts. And deciding after a moment's reflection? I'm positive that claim does not even apply to Kmiec himself!

    Kmiec surely took more than a moment's reflection to support Obama. In fact, he took years.

    Kmiec is throwing all of his eggs into the Obama basket to win over the "Catholic vote," including his previous record: "As Ronald Reagan's legal counsel and as a dean and professor at Catholic University and Notre Dame, I have worked to put the law on the side of life where it belongs."

    The point? "Catholic University and Notre Dame hired me! See? I'm Catholic. You can trust me."

    Kmiec is the face of Obama's Catholic support. And I'm exasperated by him using his faith to deceive fellow Catholics and make his (arguable) conclusions obligatory upon the rest of us. He is systematically challenging and making a mockery out of every Catholic voter's guide issued by the American bishops, he also makes a shambles of the process by which Catholics are called to inform their conscience, and frankly ... he demonstrates either a deep ignorance or a pathological inability to admit the shortcomings of his candidate.

    Kmiec is essentially saying that Catholics must vote for a candidate who can only be called "pro-life" despite his own intention to unequivocally support universal access to abortion. If Obama doesn't want to be pro-life in the proper sense, how are we being pro-life in the proper sense by voting for him?

    Let me be very clear: what I take issue with here, specifically, is Kmiec's claim that Obama is somehow a natural or obvious choice for Catholic voters. To say that, one must simply dissent from the Church's teaching that abortion, and the legal support of abortion is gravely wrong.

    If Kmiec claims to be a Catholic in good standing, a Catholic to whom other Catholics can look with confidence, I'd like to see one example where he has read the recent writings of Catholic bishops on this and related topics.

    Endlessly complaining about the persecution one has received from lay Catholics is an empty self-martyrdom if one continues to obstinately avoid dialogue with the shepherds of the Church.

    Catholics know this, and Kmiec should know better. If his position is so obviously the Catholic one, why is he scared to approach the shepherds of the Church - the guardians of what truly is Catholic - with his argument?

    I predict we can expect a well-organized media onslaught of Kmiec-clone arguments in the remaining weeks leading up to the election. Sadly PACs and grassroots political organizations frequently have better access to the Catholic faithful than do our own priests and bishops.

    But don't be fooled, don't just trust the "experts" - listen to what the bishops are saying. I would challenge anyone to find what Doug Kmiec is saying, printed-up in a voting guide issued by the U.S. Bishops this year.

    You won't.

    Right on schedule: Nicholas Cafardi of the Religion News Service in National Catholic Reporter.

    Let's see....

    • Selective reading of Faithful Citizenship while ignoring key passages? Check.
    • Despair at ever overturning Roe and exhortation to get over it? Check.
    • Lying in the claim that McCain and Obama are identical on ESCR? Check.
    • Gross overstatements about the new DNC platform's language re: abortion? Check.
    • Claim that reducing poverty outweighs the DNC plan to liberalize abortion legally? Check.
    • Claim that republicans have more total moral baggage than Democrats? Check.

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    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Not giving an inch to reporters who err about church teaching

    When I read this NYT article last week ("Abortion Issue Again Dividing Catholic Votes"), I remember this paragraph being particularly lacking:
    "After the 2004 election, progressive Catholics started to organize and appeared to win some victories. In 2006, the bishops’ conference all but banned outside voter guides from parishes. And last fall, the bishops revised their official statement on voting priorities to explicitly allow Catholics to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights if they do so for other reasons. And it also allowed for differences of opinion about how to apply church principles. The statement appeared to leave room for Democrats to argue that social programs were an effective way to reduce abortion rates, an idea the party recently incorporated into its platform." (underlining mine)
    That Catholics may vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights simply "for other reasons" is simply untrue. In fact, they may only do so under certain circumstances, for truly grave moral reasons. In fact, the clear move in recent voting guides has been towards placing a greater emphasis on the gravity with which one must decide to vote for a pro-abort politician, not the reverse (as the article claims).

    Today the NYT published a letter to the editor penned by Bishops William Murphy and Nicholas DiMarzio:

    Actually, the bishops said candidates who promote fundamental moral evils such as abortion are cooperating in a grave evil, and Catholics may never vote for them to advance those evils.

    A Catholic voter’s decision to support a candidate despite that gravely immoral position “would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”

    This standard of “grave moral reasons” is a very high standard to meet. The bishops added that “a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”

    Keep it up. Keep. It. Up!

    Ph/t: Whispers.

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    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Updated: 12 (14) bishops have responded to Sen. Joe Biden

    Here is the updated list of bishops who have responded to Sen. Joe Biden (in somewhat chronological order):

    1. (Bishop Joseph Martino) of Scranton (Biden's hometown) in a local newspaper interview, before Biden made his Meet the Press comments, re-stating his earlier-held position
    2. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, CO
    3. Bishop James Conley, his auxiliary, joined him
    4. Bishop Robeert Morlino of Madison devoted his Sunday homily to it (mp3 here)
    5. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC
    6. Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, OK
    7. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, PA
    8. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, CT
    9. Bishop Fran Malooly of Wilmington, DL (Biden's diocese)
    10. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, ND
    11. (Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin, TX linked to the USCCB in his Friday E-pistle)
    12. Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, IA
    13. Bishop Paul Coakley of Salina, KS in his newsletter
    14. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, MA on his blog

    {Last updated - September 14th. Please send me tips & corrections! Try checking your diocesan website.}

    The number of bishops who have responded to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments is currently at 26.

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    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Kansas City bishops find their voice, teach the truth unambiguously

    On Wednesday, I made the case that the American bishops are at a cross-roads, where they have begun "waging an offensive (as opposed to defensive) war on behalf of unborn children in this country." Tonight, two American bishops have begun an all-out assault on the culture of death.

    The Catholic Key (the offical blog of the diocesan newspaper) provides us with the joint pastoral statement "Our Moral Responsibility as Catholic Citizens" of Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph on the question ""Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy?"

    The bishops cover their doctrinal bases, citing the normative documents in the social teaching traditional of the Church. I urge my readers to read the entire text, as I'm only excerpting the "radioactive" passages. After speaking of a wide range of moral matters that the Church intersts herself in for the best good of the human person in society, they come to the solid food of their statement.
    First, they rule out voting for candidates that support intrinsically evil actions because one agrees with their anti-life stance (underlining mine):

    There are, however, some issues that always involve doing evil, such as legalized abortion, the promotion of same-sex unions and ‘marriages,’ repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. A properly formed conscience must give such issues priority even over other matters with important moral dimensions. To vote for a candidate who supports these intrinsic evils because he or she supports these evils is to participate in a grave moral evil. It can never be justified.

    Clearly such a decision-making process is gravely disordered.
    But what about the situation where one is considering voting for a candidate who supports intrinsically evil acts not because one agrees with them:

    In another circumstance, we may be confronted with a voting choice between two candidates who support abortion, though one may favor some limitations on it, or he or she may oppose public funding for abortion. In such cases, the appropriate judgment would be to select the candidate whose policies regarding this grave evil will do less harm. We have a responsibility to limit evil if it is not possible at the moment to eradicate it completely.

    The same principle would be compelling to a conscientious voter who was confronted with two candidates who both supported same-sex unions, but one opposed abortion and destructive embryonic research while the other was permissive in these regards. The voter, who himself or herself opposed these policies, would have insufficient moral justification voting for the more permissive candidate. However, he or she might justify resorting to a write-in vote or abstaining from voting at all in this case, because of a conscientious objection.

    They then mention the all-important communique from Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became pope):

    In 2004 a group of United States Bishops, acting on behalf of the USCCB and requesting counsel about the responsibilities of Catholic politicians and voters, received a memo from the office of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, which stated: “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

    And here they go, applying the cardinal's principles to the concrete situation confronting American catholic voters today (underlining mine):

    Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy? Could a voter’s preference for the candidate’s positions on the pursuit of peace, economic policies benefiting the poor, support for universal health care, a more just immigration policy, etc. overcome a candidate’s support for legalized abortion? In such a case, the Catholic voter must ask and answer the question: What could possibly be a proportionate reason for the more than 45 million children killed by abortion in the past 35 years? Personally, we cannot conceive of such a proportionate reason.

    They conclude with some excellent observations regarding the state of the Church in America at this juncture, and the incredible opportunity afforded to Catholics to shape public policy informed by the teachings of Christ, which ultimately have the best good of the human person at their source and heart.
    Where does this leave us Catholics? It does not bind us, necessarily, on penalty of sin, to agree with the conclusion of these bishops. But it binds us, in our conscience, to be confident that our evaluation of the situation is more correct than theirs.
    The bishops are not imposing a course of action upon us, they are proposing an approach that is illumined by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, directed by the tradition of the Church, and supported by their own hard-earned wisdom from being pastors of souls and guardians of ours.
    Some readers might respond that I am "stacking the deck" too heavily in favor of agreeing with their position, and that I have not used such language in similar circumstances where bishops have spoken on other moral matters (and I have disagreed with their particular judgement).
    This observation, while true to some degree, misses the fact that in this case the bishops argue that their description of the moral gravity concerned here trumps that of other moral issues. When other bishops, say, argue about immigration, health care, or a working wage, they never claim that such-and-such a specific issue holds a special place (this does not mean it can't still occupy an important one), but it seems nearly universal that when bishops speak out about abortion and other equal life issues that involve the life and death of human persons, they boldly and unequivocally state their case.
    I believe we are called to as boldly, and as unequivocally, join them in taking a stand for the dignity and right to life of every human being from conception to natural death. This does not mean we can cease fighting other injustices in this world, it means that we must address the totality of issues, and like a house built on a rock, firm up the foundational life issues even as we seek to build up a culture of life, a house and world worthy of the children of God.
    I end with the words of the above-mentioned bishops:
    The number of Catholics and the percentage of Catholics in the United States have never been greater. There has never been a moment in our nation’s history when more Catholics served in elective office, presided in our courts or held other positions of power and authority. It would be wrong for us to use our numbers and influence to try to compel others to accept our religious and theological beliefs. However, it would be equally wrong for us to fail to be engaged in the greatest human rights struggle of our time, namely the need to protect the right to life of the weakest and most vulnerable.
    We need committed Catholics in both major political parties to insist upon respect for the values they share with so many other people of faith and good will regarding the protection of the sanctity of human life, the upholding of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of family life, as well as the protection of religious liberty and conscience rights. It is particularly disturbing to witness the spectacle of Catholics in public life vocally upset with the Church for teaching what it has always taught on these moral issues for 2,000 years, but silent in objecting to the embrace, by either political party, of the cultural trends of the past few decades that are totally inconsistent with our nation’s history of defending the weakest and most vulnerable.

    Okay, let's talk about it.

    update: I've re-posted one of my above comments over at the Catholic Vote blog, which I'll be contributing to from time to time. My thanks to its organizers for the kind invitation.

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    "Catholic bishops call for end to ‘inhumane’ worksite ICE raids"

    Speaking at a press conference in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, several Catholic bishops questioned the effectiveness and humaneness of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and called for them to be abandoned.

    John Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, said the present is “a dark period in our country on the issue of immigration.” After the failure of the immigration reform bill in Congress last year, he argued, there has been an “unprecedented emphasis on enforcement-only initiatives.” The bishop charged that these initiatives are “designed to create an atmosphere of fear in immigrant communities,” and constitute a policy of “deportation by attrition.”

    He emphasized that the bishops did not question the right of the government to enforce immigration laws, but questioned whether worksite raids are effective and “most importantly, humane.”

    Bishop Wester explained that he had witnessed the consequences of such raids first-hand, which he said include the disruption of communities, the separation children who are U.S. citizens from their parents, and the removal of minor children’s primary caregivers.

    More from the AFP:

    Tamayo expressed support for immigration officials who undertake a difficult but essential task, but insisted that workplace raids violated human dignity.

    "The Catholic church has always supported the right of a nation to protect its sovereignty and to secure its borders," he said.

    "Such enforcement must be tempered, however, in a way that balances the national interest with the basic God-given right and dignity of human beings. These raids fail to meet this test," he said.

    Am I correct in concluding that what the Bishops are condemning, specifically, is not the legality of these raids or the right of the government to conduct them, but rather the current manner of their execution?

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    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Flash: USCCB to "discuss the practical and pastoral implications of political support for abortion"

    That's the good news.

    The bad news is that the discussion has been scheduled for November 10th-13th, one week after election day.

    The announcement text, via Whispers (underlining mine):
    "In light of recent comments by Catholic politicians misrepresenting Catholic teaching, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops affirms the statements that have been issued by Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine. We confirm the Catholic Church's constant teaching about the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception and the intrinsic evil of abortion. As the teachers of the faith, we also point out the connectedness between the evil of abortion and political support for abortion. We plan to discuss the practical and pastoral implications of these serious matters at the U.S. bishops' November 10-13, 2008 general meeting in Baltimore."
    "Political support for abortion is evil."

    That gives us something to think about as we go into the voting booths on November 4th.

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    Media ignoring US Bishops' statement on Biden?

    Here's a hypothetical:

    The leadership of the single largest religious denomination in America publishes a statement saying the democractic vice-presidential nominee was in serious error when he claimed a major policy position of his party could be reconciled with his religious beliefs... and only the AP mentioned the situation.

    Oh wait, that's not a hypothetical so far.

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    Open thread: Kerry v. Biden

    In recent decades, the American bishops have fought a defensive war against pro-abortion Catholic politicians, giving up one strategic position after another.
    John Kerry battled them to a near-total defeat in 2004. But victory breeds indolence: pro-abort politicians could afford to push the boundaries because they had no reason to expect resistance, and they didn't have to be particularly smart or careful about how they waged their war of dissemination.
    All that changed when Nancy Pelosi made her outrageous claims on Meet the Press - she pushed the American bishops so close to the brink that they finally took a stand and fought back. She had pushed too far, and had left her flank open for a counter-attack. Seeing their opening, a few brave bishops led the charge, and as these leaders emerged, others were quick to join them.
    Like any rally, it gained strength and inertia, so that when Joe Biden attempted to re-draw the line and re-establish the boundaries (boundaries that had been secure and familiar to John Kerry), the American bishops didn't stop.
    Want to see what I mean? Look at what John Kerry was saying unchallenged several years ago, and compare it to what Joe Biden said on Sunday. They're not so different. The difference is that the US Bishops, because of Pelosi, were already engaged actively in the debate when a pro-abort Catholic politician made the "I can't impose my personal belief" argument.
    With the publication of yesterday's statement by the USCCB, the American Bishops, for the first time in years, are waging an offensive (as opposed to defensive) war on behalf of unborn children in this country.
    May they be commended, and the Holy Spirit thanked.

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    Text: USCCB responds to Joe Biden

    As I predicted last night, the US Bishops have published a response to Senator Joe Biden.
    {update: the text is now available on the homepage of the USCCB website.}
    Here it is (underlining mine):


    WASHINGTON - Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, issued the following statement:

    Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press” (see: here). On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.

    Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.

    However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect Catholic teaching. The Church teaches that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.

    The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception (see The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.

    The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. Even this is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into the moral “haves” and “have-nots,” and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.

    While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.

    Masterful. My comments wouldn't really add anything.

    Total number of bishops who have spoken (counting Abp. Wuerl's comments to his priests and Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa's statement - in both cases scroll down the page): 7:

    • Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver
    • Bishop James Conley of Denver
    • Bishop Fran Malooly of Wilmington, DL (Biden's diocese)
    • Cardinal Justin Rigali
    • Bishop William Lori
    • Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC
    • Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa

    update: The AP picked up the story, and Drudge linked to it.

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    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    Episcopal collegiality in defense of the unborn

    A perfect example of that in Bishop R. Walker Nickless' comments:

    As saddened as I was to hear Ms. Pelosi make such indefensible, inaccurate statements about the Church’s teachings, I was greatly encouraged by the immediate response of my brother bishops.

    I agree completely with the rebuke and rebuttal of Cardinal Egan and Archbishop Chaput. As your Bishop, I am responsible to our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of all the souls of North-West Iowa. I can’t force anyone to believe the truth, nor would I use such force if I could, but my duty as Bishop requires that I, as my brother bishops have done, teach that truth by word and example as firmly and as clearly as humanly possible. These true and universal doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church are the teachings of Christ.

    Well said, your excellency.

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    Friday, September 05, 2008

    Archbishop Niederauer invites Pelosi to "a conversation" {updated}

    As previously reported and commented upon, Archbishop George Niederauer has released his statement:

    Following is a statement by San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer in response to recent comments on abortion, Catholic teaching on the beginning of life, and other life issues made by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This statement by Archbishop Niederauer was published in the Sept. 5, 2008 issue of Catholic San Francisco, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

    Click here for the full text.

    The conclusion of his column (underlining mine with my commentary interspersed):

    I conclude that it is my responsibility as Archbishop to discern and decide, prayerfully, how best to approach this question as it may arise in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

    Respectfully, the archbishop has had since the time of his installation to discern and decide how best to approach this question. He's even had twelve solid days since Pelosi made her most recent comments. What conclusion has he arrived at? Or has he already arrived at it, and is telling us, essentially, that he plans to do nothing?

    I regret the necessity of addressing these issues in so public a forum, but the widespread consternation among Catholics made it unavoidable.

    I regret that the Archbishop apparently made no effort to address this matter privately for such a lengthy period of time so that now the only way to address it is publicly. Who's failing is that? The consternation of Catholics, or the archbishop's neglect of his duties?

    Speaker Pelosi has often said how highly she values her Catholic faith, and how much it is a source of joy for her.

    Ah, but *why* does she value it and find in it a source of joy? For expedient reasons? Might those reasons just as reasonably evaporate when the going gets tough?

    Accordingly, as her pastor, I am writing to invite her into a conversation with me about these matters.

    This is his great solution? It provides no timetable, no demands, no expectations. It gives her the opportunity of delaying this conversation for, oh, at least 60 days. But the simple fact of the matter is that she has been invited into conversation with the American bishops and has refused to change her position. One cannot invite someone into a conversation who has made it clear they see no reason to have one.

    It is my obligation to teach forthrightly and to shepherd caringly, and that is my intent. Let us pray together that the Holy Spirit will guide us all toward a more profound understanding and appreciation for human life, and toward a resolution of these differences in truth and charity and peace.

    It's hard for me to hear these lines and believe the Archbishop feels any sense of urgency from the ongoing slaughter of millions of unborn children. The goal of arriving at "a profound understanding and appreciating for human life", let alone a mutual "resolution of differences", might be reasonable if this were a theological/doctrinal dispute. In actuality, this debate is about remedying (or condoning) mass murder.

    This seems like far too comfortable a plan of action for a situation of such grave injustice.
    AmP readers have made some pointed observations in the comment box:
    "It is my obligation to teach forthrightly..." - He's telling us that or trying to convince himself? - Nan
    "We waited a week for this! She punches him in the nose and he invites her to coffee?" - Kelly Asan
    As Diogenes pointed out last week, Archbishop Niederauer demurred in February 2007 that Pelosi's stance on abortion was something he hadn't "had a chance to talk to her about" yet. Eighteen months later, it took a direct misrepresentation of Catholic tradition on global TV, a spokesman's flip-off to the USCCB and half the American bishops coming down on Pelosi to jump-start that long-delayed conversation, or at least to spark an invitation. - SDG
    "Denying someone communion can often be the best "pastoral" move possible. It is a medicinal action, intended to sear the conscience of the person involved. Inviting them to coffee does not have that effect - it makes the person in grave error think she is just wrong about something as trivial as the weather forecast." - Francis
    AmP reader Desiderius asks:
    "Note the Abp's message was printed simultaneously in The Tidings (Los Angeles), obviously [well, reasonably - AmP] a coordinated effort. Might one conclude this suffices as Cardinal Mahony's response to Nancy Pelosi?"
    The Tidings is a weekly newspaper serving Southern California Catholics.

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    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Updated: American Bishops who have spoken against Pelosi

    Here is the complete list of American bishops who have responded to Nancy Pelosi's comments so far:
    1. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver was the first American bishop to respond
    2. ... Bishop James Conley, his auxiliary, joined him
    3. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington DC responded twice, first in a press release and second in a statement to The Hill. He has also appeared on Fox News, I am told.
    4. Cardinal Justin Regali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued this statement through the USCCB website...
    5. ... Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine, joined him
    6. Cardinal Edward Egan of New York publised a strongly worded statement of his own
    7. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo issued a letter correcting Pelosi's claims
    8. Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh and...
    9. ... Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs have chimed-in
    10. Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, CNA reports has added his voice ...
    11. ... Bishop Oscar Cantu, his auxiliary bishop, has joined him
    12. Bishop William Murphy of Rockville has published an extensive letter
    13. Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa has a detailed response
    14. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas has joined the USCCB's efforts
    15. Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin is on-board
    16. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston mentions the USCCB on his blog
    17. Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando has written at length
    18. Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul/Minneapolis challenges Pelosi's statement
    19. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, President of the US Bishops, has weighed-in
    20. Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, OR publishes in the Catholic Sentinel
    21. Bishop Jerome Listecki of La Crosse, WI responds in a word document
    22. Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland, OH will comment in his September 5th column (PDF)
    23. Bishop Ralph Nickless of Sioux City, IA has one of the very best responses I've read
    24. Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco has invited Pelosi to a "conversation"
    25. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn: "Judging the Candidates"

    {Last updated on September 10th.}


    • Previous #23 has been removed. Bishop Joseph Gossman of Raleigh, NC is actually the bishop emeritus, and the new bishop, Michael Burbidge has not, to my knowledge, made a personal statement.
    • Previous #16 has also been removed, it was an erroneous duplication of current #13.
    • #26 was added September 10th, although he published his column September 6th

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    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    Thank Archbishop Chaput for His Courage!

    Fidelis has created an easy-to-sign public thank you letter:

    From the press release:
    Fidelis is urging Catholics and all people of good will to publicly thank Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput for his unwavering defense of Catholic teaching on the dignity of all human life, likening him to former Archbishop Joseph Rummel, who led the Archdiocese of New Orleans from 1935 to 1964 during a period of deep division over the civil rights of African Americans.

    Fidelis President Brian Burch commented: “Like Archbishop Rummel, who stood up against the prevailing culture of his time to defend the intrinsic dignity of every human person, Archbishop Chaput has been a true prophetic witness in reminding public officials of their responsibility to defend all human life. Denver’s Archbishop has been a model of courage for which every citizen in America should be grateful.”
    Archbishop Chaput's recently-published title, Render Unto Caesar, is the AmP book of the month.

    Read previous AmP posts mentioning Archbishop Chaput right here.

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    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Breaking: USCCB releases 2-page responding to Pelosi

    The USCCB Press Release:


    WASHINGTON— To help end confusion caused by recent misrepresentations of Catholic Church teaching on abortion, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued a two-page fact sheet called “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching.” [Here as PDF]

    Public debate on the topic was prompted by misleading remarks by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, August 24 in an interview on Meet the Press. On August 26, Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, chairman of their Committee on Doctrine, issued a statement to correct her remarks. Other Catholic bishops released similar statements.

    “This well documented fact sheet will help Catholics and others form their consciences in accordance with the Church’s unchanging teaching in defense of unborn human life,” said Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

    Among other points, the fact sheet states that “modern science has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.”

    The full text of “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching” is available online at

    update: my analysis...

    It's good that Pelosi is directly named as the proximate cause for this response.

    I like that the 2-page is described as a "fact sheet." This is not a matter of opinion.

    At its beginning, the document responds to "those who say this teaching [on the moral evil of every procured abortion] has changed or is of recent origin." Therefore it follows that one cannot hold as a Catholic that this teaching has changed or is of recent origin. Clear enough, I hope.

    Points 1-9 provide an accurate, succinct summary of the historical account.

    Point 10 is a conclusion about relatively-recent scientific findings:
    Thus modern science has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.
    Point 11 makes clear the moral ramifications of Point 10 (underlining original to the document):

    Given the scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person.

    This is the foundation for the Church’s social doctrine, including its teachings on war, the use of capital punishment, euthanasia, health care, poverty and immigration.

    Conversely, to claim that some live human beings do not deserve respect or should not be treated as “persons” (based on changeable factors such as age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities) is to deny the very idea of inherent human rights.

    Such a claim undermines respect for the lives of many vulnerable people before and after birth.

    Exactly: the USCCB teaches that the scientific evidence can reveal to public officials when they ought to treat a new human life with the respect due to a human person, namely, when it is "the earliest embryo."

    More clear, timely teaching from the USCCB, and it is welcome.

    What are your thoughts?

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    “I just don't have the energy" says Sacramento Bishop {updated}

    {updated, 11:40pm - see below.}

    Someone wants to retire - bad:

    Sacramento Bishop William K. Weigand, in failing health for many years, has asked Pope Benedict XVI for permission to retire, effective Nov. 30.

    Bishop Weigand, 71, is seeking retirement four years earlier than the normal mandatory retirement age of 75. During the entire time he has served as a bishop, Weigand “has endured ill health, having been diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis,” says the diocesan web site’s episcopal biography. “In April 2005, he underwent a living donor liver transplant, returning to work full time by November of 2005.”

    “I'm just kind of worn out," Bishop Weigand told the Sacramento Bee. "I haven't run out of ideas. I just don't have the energy." (California Catholic Daily)
    Let's pray for a replacement to be appointed soon.

    update: AmP reader Marc lets us know that Rome already has this one covered:

    I just wanted to let you and your readers know that Jaime Soto, our coadjutor Bishop will be Bishop Weigand's successor. Bishop Weigand has been a great Sheperd to us all.

    Rocco notes that a November 30th transition is planned.

    Ed Peters reminds us of the big picture:
    Now, what to do about seven open sees and eleven others past retirement age....
    .. and Rocco hints where we might look next:
    "...focus of late has turned to Cincinnati, where a coadjutor to 74 year-old Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk has been expected for some time."
    Any other new bishop rumors floating around out there?


    In Philadelphia, McCain meets with Cardinal Regali

    I received this tip the day it happened, but for some reason forgot to post it. Now the media knows:

    Republican presidential candidate John McCain is in Philadelphia, but his campaign staff is saying little about what he is doing.

    McCain met with Cardinal Justin Rigali at the Catholic leader's home on Monday afternoon. (source)

    The meeting was about 25-30 minutes. Cardinal Rigali recently made the AmP radar for his involvement in Pelosi-Gate where, as the chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, he helped issue the initial response to Pelosi on behalf of the American bishops.

    So what did he and McCain talk about? It's anyone's guess.

    McCain also took time to privately meet with Archbishop Charles Chaput about a month ago.

    (How many bishops has Obama met with privately so far...? None, to my knowledge.)

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    Monday, September 01, 2008

    Update: Tom Brokaw revives Pelosi-Gate

    As noted by Fr. Z, in yesterday's Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw keeps the story in the spotlight:

    GOV. PAWLENTY: I would also say on that, Tom, if I could, you never hear Barack Obama getting asked whether he would pick a pro-life candidate for his ticket ...or whether it was important to have a pro-choice candidate on the Democratic side. You notice that question never gets asked of the Democrats.

    MR. BROKAW: In the governors race—as a matter of fact, Nancy Pelosi and I talked about this just last week, and she got in a lot of trouble with the Catholic Church because [s]he refused to say when life begins, and when I asked her about it, she then had her own explanation based on what she thought was church doctrine, and the church came after her. So we have put that on the table, I just want to get that on the record if I can.

    Poor Mrs. Pelosi.

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    Friday, August 29, 2008

    Follow-up: Two good editorials on Pelosi-Gate

    Not to be forgotton amidst today's big story, here aretwo good follow-up's to Pelosi-Gate. First, the Family Research Council blog asks a very valid question, regarding her use of Augustine to defend herself:

    I'm now curious to know if Pelosi ascribes to all of Augustine's positions, or merely those that appear to be convenient to her. Is it wrong to cry over sad love stories? Must sex always have a reproductive intent? What's the moral status of concubinage? Is slavery always wrong?

    Apparently Pelosi would rather base her political opinions on the natural philosophy of ancient Romans than on modern science. What's next, a Medicare Prescription Leach Bill? A Congressional task force ensuring that the American people have their humors in proper balance?

    We can thank Pelosi for placing us in such anachronistic conundrums.

    Also, Stephen Barr wants to see the correction take the next step:

    To all appearances, Pelosi has publicly and pointedly denied a “truth of Catholic doctrine” that is “definitively to be held” (“definitive tenenda”) by “all believers”, and the denial of which renders them “no longer . . . in full communion with the Catholic Church.” Moreover, Pelosi simultaneously proclaims her right to do so because “many Catholics” agree with her. Clearly, this is a scandal in the original sense of the term.

    What can the bishops do? There is something very simple they can do that would have an enormously salutary effect.

    They can, in a public statement, explain the doctrinal situation and require Pelosi to respond to the following question: “Do you assent to the teaching of the Church that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being at any stage after conception is gravely immoral?”

    Her previous public statement makes it presumable that her answer is no. This presumption can only be removed by a clear affirmative answer. In light of the public nature and scandal caused by her earlier statement, she should be required to make a public assent to this Catholic teaching.

    This is no longer a question of a politician claiming some kind of rights or leeway as a politician. It is a well-known Catholic very publicly explicitly rejecting a “truth of Catholic doctrine.”

    Plenty to discuss here.

    update: I really need to stop limiting myself to specific numbers ... Father Thomas Williams:

    The most disturbing element of Speaker Pelosi’s comments, however, was not her historical fudging, her disingenuous misrepresentation of Catholic moral teaching or her implicit adoption of cafeteria Catholicism. It was her insouciant dismissal of the moral significance of abortion. She said that in the end, it didn’t matter when life begins anyway. Her exact words were: “The point is, is that it [when life begins] shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose.” No matter when human life begins, a mother’s right trumps a baby’s, and that right includes the choice to destroy the child. This is irreconcilable not only with Catholic morality, but with the most basic natural ethics.

    Pundits and liberal commentators have predictably accused the bishops of playing politics and using Speaker Pelosi’s comments to further the agenda of the Republican party. Any objective observer knows this is not the case. If Speaker Pelosi didn’t want a response, she should not have forced the bishops’ hands. And if the Democrats’ star running back steps out of bounds, it’s not the referees’ fault for calling it.

    Speaker Pelosi can campaign for abortion all she likes, but to do so as an “ardent, practicing Catholic” is to invite a stiff correction. Americans still value truth in advertising, and know that words have meanings. “Catholic” means pro-life.

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Bishops of Colorado Springs & Pittsburgh respond to Pelosi

    First, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh:
    "On Sunday, August 24, on “Meet the Press,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion. She said that Church teaching condemning procured abortion is somehow new and therefore unsettled. She could not have been more wrong." [More.]
    Second, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs:
    In light of recent confusing statements by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggesting that Catholic teaching allows for procured abortion in certain circumstances, it is important for all Catholics to understand the teaching of the Church regarding abortion. [More as PDF file.]
    Add them to the honor roll... (update, by which I mean this complete list of bishops who have spoken out).

    update 2: Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo has also released a statement.

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    Background: Abp. Wuerl responds to Pelosi's non-apology

    After a bit of background clarification, it appears that Washington DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl, when asked by Bob Cusack of The Hill, has responded to Pelosi's non-apology which she issued yesterday through her spokesman.
    The initial version of the report from The Hill left it unclear whether Abp. Wuerl was responding to Pelosi's first comments aired on Meet the Press (8/24), or her follow-up statement issued through the spokesman (8/26). The current version of the story claims Abp. Wuerl has in fact responded to both Pelosi's 8/24 and 8/26 statements.

    The quoted second response from Abp. Wuerl, in its immediate context:

    The public feud over abortion between the Speaker of the House and the archbishop of Washington intensified Tuesday as Rep. Nancy Pelosi responded to his recent criticism and the archbishop fired another salvo at the California Democrat.

    The latest development came Tuesday evening, when Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl issued a statement to The Hill that brushed aside Pelosi’s explanation of her comments about conception on Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press.”

    ... Wuerl swiftly denounced Pelosi’s statement, saying, “As the Catechism and early Church documents make clear, abortion is always an evil. That is an unchanging teaching. The question on when the soul enters the body was a philosophical question that grew out of a lack of scientific data at the time of St. Augustine. We have the data today which shows the embryo is human. There no longer is any discussion of whether the unborn is human and so the philosophical discussion of St. Augustine’s time is not relevant today.” (The Hill)

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    Neideraurer in 2007: I haven't had a chance to talk to Pelosi yet

    Diogenes notes a February 2007 interview where Abp. Niederauer explains why, a year into his new assignment, he still had not spoken with Pelosi about her ardent pro-abortion advocacy:

    Archbishop Niederauer: "Well, I have met on one occasion, with Speaker Pelosi, before she was Speaker Pelosi. It was last year. And I -- we've -- exchanged viewpoints on a number of things. At that time, it was last spring, and it was principally about immigration, because that was very much the hot-button topic of the time. We haven't had an opportunity to talk about the life issues. I would very much welcome that opportunity, but I don't believe that I am in a position to say what I understand her stand to be, if I haven't had a chance to talk to her about it."

    I sure hope Pelosi's recent comments were made without the help of the Archbishop.

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    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Response: Pelosi decides to fight it

    The text hasn't been published online, but has been leaked numerous places, and I present it here. This email was sent out this afternoon from Pelosi's spokesman, Brenda Daly:

    “The Speaker is the mother of five children and seven grandchildren and fully appreciates the sanctity of family. She was raised in a devout Catholic family who often disagreed with her pro-choice views.
    Nice but irrelevant. Having children doesn't mean you understand why the Church believes it is wrong to kill them, necessarily.

    “After she was elected to Congress, and the choice issue became more public as she would have to vote on it, she studied the matter more closely. Her views on when life begins were informed by the views of Saint Augustine, who said: ‘…the law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation…’ (Saint Augustine, On Exodus 21.22)
    She didn't face the issue of choice until Congress? This cannot be true. She served in CA well after Roe v. Wade was issued. And her sole source of argument is this obscure passage in Augustine? I have actually studied this passage of Augustine. So let's clear it up quick:

    1. Augustine did not know from the evidence had available to him at the time whether or not all abortions killed a human being, but if they did, he held that clearly such an act would be murder.

    2. Modern science has demonstrated that yes, an embryo is a human being, from the moment of conception, and therefore killing it at any stage of development is an act of murder.

    Augustine subsequently discusses accidental abortions in which the old law (as in old testament!) still required the transgressor to undergo a severe punishment. Does Pelosi believe people who procure and conduct abortions should be treated similarly? If not, she isn't following Augustine.
    “While Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception, many Catholics do not ascribe to that view. The Speaker agrees with the Church that we should reduce the number of abortions. She believes that can be done by making family planning more available, as well as by increasing the number of comprehensive age-appropriate sex education and caring adoption programs.
    Her argument is not actually an argument at all. It's a statement of fact, and again, it is irrelevant to what she actually said in Meet the Press. She doesn't even admit she was wrong in everything she claimed. Oh - and her solution? Contraception, which is also not permitted by the Church. How much more dense can you get?

    “The Speaker has a long, proud record of working with the Catholic Church on many issues, including alleviating poverty and promoting social justice and peace.”
    Also irrelevant. She might have worked for decreased summer working hours among young people. Who cares? That's not what is under debate here.

    A couple global observations:

    • Pelosi does not even respond to the criticisms herself. She farmed it out to a surrogate. One would thing that an ardent, practicing Catholic would care enough about the public condemnation of her combined bishops enough to personally address the situation.
    • This is not an apology. There is a phrase for this: obstinate, public dissent. And that should be treated a certain way.
    • Pelosi had her chance to apologize. I believe she is testing the waters by having her spokesman respond first, reserving to herself the later option of disowning the spokesman's words and actually apologizing - but only if the issue is pressed.

    Okay, have at it. This isn't over.

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    Breaking: Pelosi's home archdiocese republishes USCCB statement

    Over at the news section of the San Francisco Archdiocese (Pelosi's home diocese), instead of a personal statement by Archbishop Niederauer, they've chosen to republish the USCCB press release from yesterday:
    "The Catholic Church is a Pro-Life Church."
    It's something.

    update: Rocco reports:
    "San Francisco church spokesman Maurice Healy told Whispers earlier today that Archbishop George Niederauer would publish his response to Pelosi in a Friday column for the archdiocesan weekly, Catholic San Francisco."

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    When will Abp. Niederauer add his voice to the Pelosi counters?

    It has been fascinating to watch how statements from bishops have followed step-by-step the questions (and outcries) raised by concerned Catholics in the wake of Pelosi's comments.

    Basically, the Bishops know, as do the faithful, who should be saying something, and when.

    Let me illustrate:

    But one more shoe needs to drop...

    That remains to be seen... but with each statement being issued, the San Francisco silence grows louder.

    update: Pelosi herself has noted her "regional" immunity when asked about receiving communion:

    Pelosi, a Roman Catholic whose district includes most of San Francisco, said she has not encountered such difficulties in her church.

    “I think some of it is regional,” she said, “It depends on the bishop of a certain region, and, fortunately for me, communion has not been withheld and I’m a regular communicant, so that would be a severe blow to me if that were the case.”

    "Severe blow" for you politically or ... spiri-, you know what, - nevermind.

    update 2: The Archdiocese of San Francisco has opted to re-print the USCCB statement. More here.

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    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Bishop urges immigration officers to decline to participate in raids

    A local tells me this story is "getting alot of play" in Rhode Island.

    Here is the diocesan news release:

    “We the undersigned…urge you to declare a moratorium on immigration raids in the State of Rhode Island, until our nation can implement a comprehensive and just reform of our immigration laws,” wrote Bishop Tobin and Catholic priests. “It is our hope that such reform will make immigration raids obsolete. Until then, we believe that raids on the immigrant community are unjust, unnecessary, and counter-productive.”

    “As religious leaders we understand and support the need to apprehend and arrest individuals who are responsible for felonies and other serious crimes. The enforcement of just laws is necessary for public safety and the common good. But the arrest of serious criminals is not what we have observed in the arrest and detention of immigrants that has taken place recently in our State, particularly in Newport and in Providence.”

    More coverage from the AP and CNA.

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    US Bishops promote Novena before Nov. election, include prayers for protecting unborn

    A promising novena which forms part of the US Bishop's Faithful Citizenship innitiative:
    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is encouraging Catholics across America to pray a novena for life, justice, and peace called ‘Novena for Faithful Citizenship’ before the elections in November.

    In a press release from the USCCB, Joan Rosenhauer, Associate Director for the USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, explained that this timely novena is a component of "the bishops' campaign to help Catholics develop well-formed consciences for addressing political and social questions." (CNA)

    The novena will be available for download until the election at

    For other Faithful Citizenship resources, visit
    The reflection from Day Four of the novena (PDF link):
    "How do I defend the right to life especially of the unborn
    and those near death? How am I tempted to turn away
    from the commandments and not support the right to life
    of all people? How can I overcome that temptation?"
    And the prayer which is said each day includes the line (PDF link):
    "From sins against human life from its very beginning, deliver us."

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    Friday, July 25, 2008

    First to press: Vatican Approves New English Translation for the Order of the Mass

    I have just received a copy of today's press release from the USCCB making official what was recently rumored. I believe I'm the first blog to have access to and publish this news.

    ... and here it is!

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received approval (recognitio) from the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the new English-language translation of the Order of Mass (Ordo Missae).

    This is the first section of the translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. It includes most of the texts used in every celebration of the Mass, including the responses that will be said by the people.

    In its letter, the Congregation pointed out that while the texts are binding, the approval “does not intend that these texts are to be put into use immediately.”

    Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation, explained the reasons for providing the text at this time. The purpose is to provide “time for the pastoral preparation of priests, deacons and for appropriate catechesis of the lay faithful. It will likewise facilitate the devising of musical settings for parts of the Mass.”

    (Now the notable details....)

    The more significant changes of the people’s parts are:

    1. et cum spiritu tuo is rendered as “And with your spirit”
    2. In the Confiteor, the text “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” has been added
    3. The Gloria has been translated differently and the structure is different from the present text
    4. In the Preface dialogue the translation of “Dignum et justum est” is “It is right and just”
    5. The first line of the Sanctus now reads “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts”
    6. The response of the people at the Ecce Agnus Dei is “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

    At this point, it has not been determined when this new translation of the Roman Missal will be made available (and it's interesting to me, to say the least, that the text is copyrighted by ICEL).

    And as for the six points noted above, all of them represent accurate, faithful translations of the Latin text of the Mass, remedying the previous mistranslations (and outright deletions) executed by ICEL.
    This is welcome news, to be sure. Hopefully it quickly reaches the faithful who desire and deserve it.

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Vatican allows injured bishop of Gallup Pelotte to resign


    "The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Gallup, U.S.A. presented by Bishop Donald E. Pelotte S.S.S., in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law." (VIS)
    The wierd backstory:

    Last July, Bishop Pelotte, the first American Indian bishop ever appointed, suffered from a fall at his home in Gallup, New Mexico. The fall caused head injury and heavy bruising across his face, chest, both arms, knuckles, legs, and feet.

    While doctors and news agencies speculated that the injuries were more consistent with an assault than a fall down a staircase, the bishop insisted that he was not attacked by anyone.

    A few months later, the bishop made the news again when he called the police to report four "gentle little people, about 3 to 4 feet tall, and wearing Halloween masks" who refused to leave his home. (CNA)
    Local coverage:

    Pelotte returned to Gallup Sept. 21 after receiving treatment in Arizona, Texas and Florida. He left Gallup again on Dec. 13 for further medical treatment, diocese officials have said. They have declined to say where Pelotte is recovering.

    The Vatican granted Pelotte a one-year medical leave and the pope appointed Diocese of Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Gallup.

    Olmsted will run the Diocese of Gallup until Pelotte's successor is appointed and installed.

    The diocese encompasses all of San Juan and McKinley counties in New Mexico and most of northeastern Arizona. (AP)
    My previous posts on this story as it was developing here. It's a strange one, for sure.

    I'm glad to see the Vatican has officially allowed him to resign so the diocese can move on.
    update: Diogenes bemoans the lack of (elsewhere-touted) "transparency" in all this.

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    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Reactions to Pope Benedict's Speech to U.S. Bishops

    In a phrase: it's turning heads.

    I've posted the full text here for you to read yourself. John Allen summarizes here.

    Pope Benedict also held a Q&A session with the bishops, which CNA has posted here.

    As far as reactions go, Tim Drake starts us off with some comments from lay people and bishops.

    Russell Shaw at OSV, meanwhile, calls the speech "A bit of a bombshell" and says "If the bishops were looking for an agenda, they have one now." Alehandro Bermudez, the editor of CNA blogging for the New York Times, takes Pope Benedict to mean "Catholics Should Be…Catholics."

    Goodness, if that's what the pope had to say to the U.S. Bishops today - I wonder what he'll have to say to the U.S. Catholic Educators tomorrow when he addresses them. Stay tuned, I'll have the latest.

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    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Rumor: Bishop Thomas Wenski bound for Detroit?

    Adam Cardinal Maida of Detroit is the oldest serving Cardinal in the United States. His replacement has been past due for a couple years at this point.

    Earlier this month, I published a rumor that Cardinal Maida was in Orlando with Bishop Thomas Wenski discussing a "transition plan" with him.

    Today I've received the breaking news from a source on the ground that today Bishop Wenski has named six of his priests monsignors, an apparently unprecedented move in the diocese.

    A final note? Bishop Wenski is Polish. There are lots of Polish people in Detroit. I'm just sayin' ....

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    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    Rumor: Maida and Orlando bishop discussing Detroit transition plan?

    In follow-up to yesterday's post on the same topic, a source on the ground in Detroit tells me that Cardinal Maida might be in Orlando this week discussing a "transition plan" with Bishop Thomas Wenski.
    How much weight would I give this? Probably not all that much. But do note that in the final days before an announcement it becomes more difficult to keep a lid on things. So, for what little it's worth....

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    Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    Rumor: New Archbishop for Detroit to be announced by April 15th?

    Adam Cardinal Maida is the oldest active Archbishop in America at just over 78.

    Today, tucked into his coverage of a new bishop being named for Mobile AL, Rocco tells us:
    In what's been described as the "surest sign" that, after countless rounds of false alarms, a Detroit transition is finally close at hand, earlier this week Maida announced that his longtime right-hand in the administration of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese, Msgr John Zenz, would take a pastorate effective 1 June. In a letter to his central staff dated Monday, the cardinal said that Auxiliary Bishop Francis Reiss would assume the duties of vicar-general and moderator of the curia on a "pro-tem" basis "for the next few months," ostensibly pending the arrival of a new archbishop.
    Wouldn't you know it, I went to school in Detroit for two years and never once came across Bp. Reiss [pic].

    From a personal source, I can add to the above rumors the one that Cardinal Maida is no longer scheduling official appointments and appearances past April 15th.

    So, if you're looking for an announcement, it will probably happen by April 15th. Gee, that date rings a bell .... and Pope Benedict has been known to personally announce appointments when he is visiting countries.

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    Bishop Thomas John Rodi of Biloxi goes Mobile (Alabama, that is.)

    Bishop Thomas John Rodi of the diocese of Biloxi has been named the Archbishop of the archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama. From the Vatican's bollettino:

    "[Today the Holy Father] Appointed Bishop Thomas John Rodi of Biloxi, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of Mobile (area 59,467, population 1,680,384, Catholics 67,351, priests 127, permanent deacons 62, religious 179), U.S.A. The archbishop-elect was born in New Orleans, U.S.A. in 1949, he was ordained a priest in 1978 and consecrated a bishop in 2001. He succeeds Archbishop Oscar Hugh Lipscomb, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit."

    Archbishop designate Rodi is a graduate of Georgetown, and has a degree in law from Tulane. He received his licentiate in canon law at Catholic University of America and taught canon law at Notre Dame seminary. Once again an extensively-educated and canonically-trained prelate gets the nod.

    More coverage here from Whispers.

    The Mobile Archdiocesan website has a nice welcome graphic on their homepage as well as these links:

    A couple cool little details:

    Archbishop-Emeritus Lipscomb and Archbishop-Designate Rodi will celebrate today’s 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

    Archbishop [Designate] Rodi’s first name, Thomas, is now included in the prayer of the Eucharistic Canon at Masses celebrated within this diocese.

    Major props to the Archdiocese of Mobile for a prompt, informative web presentation of the announcement.
    Just as an aside, perhaps someone can help me out: why exactly is a diocese with less than 70k Catholics an archdiocese? No offense to the fine people of Mobile, but I just wonder how that works.
    Secondly, it's very interesting to note that Abp-d. Rodi will continue to administer his old diocese of Biloxi by "decision of the Holy Father". The priest shortage has caused many dioceses to have a single priest ministering to multiple parishes, but I wonder here if we are seeing the first instance of a bishop administering multiple dioceses. Or this could just be a temporary, one-time thing. Either way, I'd like to see this decision discussed a bit.

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    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    Breaking: Msgr. Michael Duca of Dallas appointed to Shreveport, LA

    Local Dallas outlet WFAA:

    Monsignor Michael Duca of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas has been appointed bishop of Shreveport by Pope Benedict XVI.

    [Fr.] Duca, a Dallas native, has served as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas since 1996.

    “I am humbled and honored by the Pope’s decision to appoint me as bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport," [Fr.] Duca said. "It is an incredible blessing that I look forward to, but not without some mixed emotions.

    The Vatican bulletino announcement:

    The Holy Father appointed Msgr. Michael Gerard Duca of the clergy of the diocese of Dallas, U.S.A., rector of the Holy Trinity Seminary at Irving, as bishop of Shreveport (area 28,837, population 824,000, Catholics 40,500, priests 51, permanent deacons 22, religious 70), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in Dallas in 1952 and ordained a priest in 1978.
    Rocco has more:

    A former diocesan vocations director, chaplain at Dallas' Southern Methodist University and Angelicum-trained canonist, the bishop-elect, 55, succeeds Bishop William Friend, who retired as head of the 40,000-member diocese in December 2006.
    Seminarians go on to be priests, Seminarian formators go on to be bishops.

    Here is the announcement from the diocesan website.

    Anyone have personal contact with the monsignor?

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    Monday, March 31, 2008

    Rocco: Shreveport, LA to get new bishop tomorrow morning, Mobile next?

    update: Michael Duca of Dallas appointed to Shreveport, LA

    The next best thing to the Vatican's bulletino:
    This week's first US vacancy to fall comes tomorrow with the appointment of a new bishop for Louisana's diocese of Shreveport. The traditional warning shots have been firing off for some days now, with the latest sending word of the standard 10am press conference in the border diocese. (Whispers in the Loggia)
    Shreveport has been without a bishop since December 2006, the second longest diocesan vacancy in the U.S. behind Little Rock, AR (May 2006). After this post has been filled, there will still be eight dioceses in the U.S. without a bishop, and eleven more dioceses whose bishop is serving past the mandatory retirement age of 75. (Source:

    Rocco says that more bishop apointments will come down the stretch in these next couple weeks:

    .... as soon as [this] week, the Pope is expected to appoint a new archbishop of Mobile to succeed the venerable native son Oscar Lipscomb, the nation's longest-serving metropolitan, who reached the retirement age of 75 in September 2006. Multiple sources report that the nod will fall to the senior suffragan of the province, Bishop Thomas Rodi of Biloxi.

    [More from the Sun Herald, citing Rocco]

    New bishops as presents from the boss before he visits? Check.

    Speaking of check, check back here tomorrow morning once we get the official announcement.

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    Saturday, March 29, 2008

    Picture: Houston's New Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

    Houston's new Cathedral is first seeing the light of day:

    A slideshow of 49 more pictures here. Whispers has thorough coverage. The $65m cathedral will be dedicated this Wednesday, with 60 bishops attending. This is the first "mother-church" dedicated since the "Taj Mahony" opened in 2002. Oakland's Christ the Light will be dedicated in late September 2008.

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    Tuesday, January 29, 2008

    Of course it was him, I would expect nothing less

    "It is not every day you see a bishop leading the faithful in procession through the streets of a major city: Hundreds join pro-life procession through streets of San Diego". - California Catholic Daily

    How did I know the individual in question had to be Auxiliary Bishop Salvatore Cordileone? Because his reputation is that good.

    More: "On Sunday, Jan. 20, more than 700 faithful gathered at San Diego’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral for prayer and a procession to condemn 35 years of legalized abortion in the United States. The procession was led by Auxiliary Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, and was blessed with the presence of the famous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima."

    It's been about an even six months since I mentioned Bp. Cordileone (and that's too long).

    How Long, O Lord, How Long?!

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    Friday, December 21, 2007

    Vigneron to replace Maida in Detroit by mid-January?

    Rocco reported Wednesday that Adam Cardinal Maida's successor in Detroit could be announced as soon as early-January, and on Friday he said rumors are growing that Bp. Allen Vigneron of Oakland will succeed him.

    I think he would be a fine choice for Detroit.

    Earlier this month I did a survey of the Michigan episcopate's future, which you can read here.

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    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Debate topic: The future of the Michigan episcopate

    This is a busy week for me, so posting will be less frequent. On the upside, however, I'll be trying to focus on topics and questions that provoke debate and welcome contributions, like this one, concerning the future of the Michigan episcopate.

    Rocco reports today that, after a month of near-silence, several rumors broke out that Pope Benedict was about to nominate a new Archbishop for Detroit. Those rumors just as quickly went bust. But Rocco concludes, "That's not to say an appointment isn't closer than it had been... just don't expect anything immediately." Yeah, I've been hearing those kinds of things for years.

    Rocco lists these bishops as having been mentioned as possible successors to Maida at one point or another:
    • Archbishop John Myers of Newark
    • Bp. Robert Carlson of Saginaw
    • Bp. Terry Steib of Memphis
    • Bp. Thomas Wenski of Orlando
    • Bp. John Nienstedt of New Ulm
    • Msgr. Robert Sable of Detroit

    The current favorite in Rocco's opinion? Bp. Allen Vigneron of Oakland, "himself a former Detroit auxiliary and rector of its Sacred Heart Major Seminary." Vigneron is well-regarded by Cardinals Maida and Szoka.

    Here's the roundup for Michigan dioceses, and the bishops who are currently serving them:

    In other words, in the next five years, Michigan could see 5 out of its 7 dioceses change hands.

    Back in 1995, my father Ed Peters published an article in Homiletic & Pastoral Review entitled "The Coming Bishop Crunch", available online here. In it, he says:

    "The question I want to consider now is simple: during just the three years from 2005 to 2007, where will we find 45 men "outstanding for their solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and other virtues and talents, possessing advanced degrees or true expertise in scripture, theology, canon law..." (1983 CIC 378) to fill those episcopal slots? If only for mathematical reasons, we can't count on the present pool of bishops to cover the bases." [Read on.]

    Looking to the particular situation in Michigan, many folks expect (with some good reason) that one of the four currently-serving Detroit auxiliaries will be tapped to take over a Michigan diocese eventually:

    • Earl Alfred Boyea, Jr - 56, native of Pontiac, MI. He would be a good candidate, I think.
    • Daniel Ernest Flores - The youngest U.S. Bishop (I believe) at 46. Ordained a priest for Corpus Christi, TX. Gauranteed, in my humble opinion, his own diocese eventually, but I doubt it will be in Michigan.
    • John Michael Quinn - Almost 62, born in Detroit. I've heard him proposed for Lansing.
    • Francis Ronald Reiss - 67, also born in Detroit. I've never heard much about him.

    Of the above, I'd say Bp. Quinn taking over the Diocese of Lansing from Bp. Mengeling has the highest probability of happening. Second to that would be Boyea taking over either Lansing or *maybe* Kalamazoo. Flores is performing a critical service among the spanish-speaking communitees in Detroit, and I don't think there is anywhere (in Michigan) he could be more fruitfully employed. I'd be surprised to see Reiss go anywhere.

    Allright, that's my $0.02, the comments are open.... have at it.

    update: Publius brings up a line of speculation that slipped my mind:

    "Boyea has been rumored to take over Fort Wayne-South Bend when the over-75 Bishop D'Arcy retires...Of course thats just a rumor. It does make some sense though, FW-SB has a history of recieving auxiliary Bishop's from elsewhere and Boyea has an academic background which would help him deal with Notre Dame. Regardless, Fort Wayne-South Bend is a see not to be overlooked namely because of Notre Dame."

    To which I would add that Boyea served as the academic dean of Sacred Heart Major Seminary (where most Michigan seminarians receive formation ) and he still maintains a presence there.

    update 2: An on-the-ground source adds that Boyea also served as rector of the Josiphinum in Columbus (thanks to J.D. Aquila in the combox as well), and used to write the Q. & A. for the Michigan Catholic.

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    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    If at first you don't succeed - ignore.

    Andrew Greeley of the Chicago Sun-Times publishes an editorial today that follows a classic pattern:
    • If the bishops say something I agree with, we should listen, even if no one else does.
    • If the bishops say something I don't agree with, we shouldn't listen, because no one else does.

    Case in point:

    Let us assume that there are different candidates next November, maybe Michael Huckabee and Barack Obama. Does anyone think that the outcome of such an election could be affected in the slightest by a statement about abortion from Catholic bishops? No one who has studied Catholic attitudes and voting patterns over the past couple of decades could possibly believe that. Bishops have historically exercised political influence over the faithful that would not lead a pack of starving vampires to a blood bank.

    The false premise here is the phrase "the last couple of decades." Well, let's try to expand our historical conciousness just a bit farther. Historically for most of American history, up until the last couple of decades, the public opinion of Catholic bishops held a very great weight in public discourse. For one thing, they taught clearly on the issues. Now, they are again teaching - um - less hazily on the issues.

    Yes, it's terrifying that Catholics might listen. So terrifying that we should remind them they are not currently.

    After all, it doesn't take much effort to lead a bunch of starving vampires to a blood bank (I'm guessing).

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    Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    The AP prepares us for the USSCB document on voting

    The highlights:

    Throughout the 37-page document, opposition to abortion gets special attention.

    "The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many," the draft says.

    At the same time, the bishops say Catholics must not dismiss racism, the death penalty, unjust war, torture, hunger, health care problems or unjust immigration policy.

    "A consistent ethic of life," the document says, "neither treats all issues as morally equivalent nor reduces Catholic teaching to one or two issues."

    While the document seems to be trying to have it both ways, it at least underscores the fundamental point.

    Bp. Chaput isn't quite satisfied:

    Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, one of the country's most vocal bishops about Catholics' need to speak in the public square, criticized the previous version of "Faithful Citizenship" for not being strong enough in underlining abortion's pre-eminence.

    Chaput said in an e-mail Tuesday the revised document "is better and clearer than any version in the recent past" but isn't ideal. He said would be offering suggestions, but wouldn't be specific.

    Chaput wrote that "all bricks in a building are important, but the ones in the foundation support everything else. The latter aren't just important; they're indispensable."

    Needless, biased and obligatory final paragraph editorializing:

    In 2004, some bishops and American Catholics worried that the voices of a few bishops were getting undue attention.

    St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke drew the most notice for saying he would deny Communion to Democrat John Kerry, a Catholic who supports abortion rights. Burke has indicated he would so the same for 2008 Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani, a Catholic who also backs keeping abortion legal.

    That grandstanding Archbishop. Ya know, teaching what the Church teaches....

    Reader John V lets us know:
    Saw this news release entitled "Catholic Bishops To Discuss Faith And Politics Statement, Focus On Helping To Form Consciences" on the USCCB web site. At the end of the alert was this:

    "To obtain a copy of the draft, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, contact the Department of Media Relations 202-541-3200 or e-mail:"
    I sent a request in a few days ago, and haven't heard back yet.

    If anyone has better luck, I'd be much obliged for a draft copy. There's evidently no embargo on it.

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    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Don't pray to the Rain God - pray to the God of Rain says Archbishop!

    Via the CNS Hub, no less than Abp. Wilton Gregory dusts off his Sacramentary:

    The Sacramentary contains an official prayer asking God for rain, and I doubt that any priest in the Archdiocese of Atlanta has ever used this prayer before—I know that I have not used it in my 34 years of Priesthood. Now seems to be a good time to turn to the heritage of Faith that belongs to the Church and to offer the Mass prayers beseeching God Himself to send the rain that we all so desperately need.

    I therefore ask each priest to consider offering the Mass text that is found in the Sacramentary under “Masses for Various Needs and Occasions” #35 for Rain during the course of the next few weeks to beg the Lord of all creation to send us the rain that we need. This Mass may be offered on any day that does not have an assigned feast.

    I invite all Catholics to include in your personal prayers an intention for rain so that the earth that we are entrusted with will be spared even greater damage. Parishes may also include petitions in the prayer of the faithful asking for an end to the drought that has caused all of us not only inconvenience, but even more importantly a reason to turn humbly to the Lord who created the heavens and the earth for the help that His love and providence can provide for us all.

    Georgia and other parts of the south are undergoing a severe drought right now.

    An interesting related issue is that the Endangered Species Act is hurting the water supply for humans:

    [Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue] also sent a letter to President George Bush seeking a temporary exemption from the Endangered Species Act to reduce water flows from the state. The day before, the state asked a federal judge to immediately force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to curb releases of water from federal reservoirs.

    Georgia contends humans need the water more than the federally protected mussels and spawning sturgeon downstream that benefit from the water drawn from Lake Lanier. The corps estimates there's enough water to last about 110 days if the drought holds, before reaching the murky water at the bottom that's more expensive to treat.

    Sorry mussels and surgeon - first things first.

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    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    USCCB heads met with Pope Benedict today

    This morning's Vatican bulletin:

    VATICAN CITY, OCT 18, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received .... Bishop William Stephen Skylstad of Spokane, U.S.A., Cardinal Francis Eugene George O.M.I., archbishop of Chicago, U.S.A., and Msgr. David John Malloy, respectively president, vice-president and secretary general of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    The state of Plan B and the CT bishop’s decision

    This post will provide two services:

    • As promised, it will present recent medical findings which make a compelling argument that Plan B does not, in fact, act abortifaciently
    • Additionally, it will cite examples of a growing consensus among reasonable commentators that the recent decision of the Connecticut bishops was still not in the best interests of Catholic hospitals in the U.S.

    Before I continue I must make this very clear: I am not claiming definitive knowledge about what I discuss. I am in the process of coming to decisions about the moral issues involved here, and I present below my current position on the questions - albeit a position that I have been researching and thinking through at some length. The main purpose of this post is to keep this debate in the public eye and not rest until we are satisfied with the conclusions that have been reached. That said....

    First, the medical findings:

    I have been corresponding with a practicing family physician who has reviewed the medical literature and concluded that levo-norgestrel as dosed in Plan B is probably not abortifacient, granted that it is very hard in this case to prove a negative. However, what is required here is moral certainty, not absolute certainty. There is the possibility, as yet undiscovered, that Plan B could act against an already-conceived human being. I think one of the problems in this debate is that previous reports, now contradicted, did claim to detect an abortifacient side-effect to Plan B in some cases. If those reports were in fact false, and had never been issued, we would be in a very different frame of mind when viewing this situation now.

    First, some summarized background on the medical situation (and several facts you might not necessarily take into consideration immediately without prompting):

    • A pre-implantation embryo is invisible, which means absolute moral certainty regardings its presence and survival is difficult to obtain
    • While most oral contraceptives, when taken regularly, do in fact reduce the endometrial lining (typically from 5mm to even less than 2mm), Plan B apparently does not have enough time to begin reducing the lining of the endometrium. And since it is only administered once, nor does it have a chance to reduce the endometrial lining after implantation.
    • There is also increasing evidence that Plan B operates primarily by preventing ovulation
    • Furthermore, its secondary effect of thickening cervical mucus and altering uterine pH levels are also demonstrable
    • One of the frequently-cited sources for the claim that Plan B acts abortifaciently has since been shown to have relied on unscientific methods for determining its findings
    • Often people claim something to the effect that "clearly Plan B is an abortifacient because it says so on the label!" However, there is plausible reason to believe that this warning was placed on the label to avoid legal complications because the manufacturers did not know (and admittedly, probably did not care) whether the chemical effects the endomitrium.
    • Other research into the effects of Plan B [like this notable one] seem to ignore the fact that Plan B, while similar to the contraceptive pill, does not have the same duration of time than the contraceptive pill has to deplete the endometrium.

    Here is an extract of the physician's findings:

    Plan B, levo-norgestrel does not appear to cause abortion by damaging the endometrium. A 1974 article and extrapolation from daily oral contraceptives have contributed to this common misperception.

    Some “emergency contraception” such an IUD’s and mifepristone most likely do prevent implantation.

    There is now good evidence that Plan B does prevent ovulation in some women. Plan B, given after ovulation has occurred, may still prevent some conceptions by making the uterine environment unfriendly for spermatozoa.

    You can read the two-page summary of the medical findings (as well as a note regarding ovulation testing) in a Word Document here.

    I think this short summary reveals that a very serious study of Plan B's effects needs to be undertaken to provide the Catholic medical community with the scientific data it needs to evaluate the morality of proscribing it to rape victims.

    As a side-note, I'm also hearing reports than Plan B's effectiveness is drastically below the near-100% figures claimed by the manufacturer (as low as 60%). We can probably expect pharmaceutical companies to eventually develop a "99%" effective pill that may include endometrial thinning as one of the mechanisms for preventing sustained pregnancy. Such a pill, on principle, would have to be resisted once it is scientifically demonstrated that it in fact has the ability to act against an already-conceived human being.

    Now, a look at the the emerging consensus:

    Having analyzed the recent medical findings on Plan B, we must now take a look at the prudential nature of the CT Bishop's decision from the standpoint of legal precedent, and therefore, within a wider context. After all, this decision did not occur in a vacuum.

    As I said at the time, I believe the National Catholic Bioethics Center statement on this question is best. I will re-iterate here the conclusion that I came to in my commentary on the document:
    While the NCBC understands the judgement of the CT bishops regarding the claimed moral neutrality, as such, of allowing Plan B, the NCBC also brings up the point that because a) it is immoral to violate one's conscience and b) this law does not allow an exemption of conscience therefore .... c) this law immorally legislates that people violate their consciences.
    Simply put, a law which requires Catholic hospital employees to violate their conscience in the practice of their medical profession is unjust. Numerous commentators have agreed.

    Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International had this to say:
    "Acts of blatant coercion of Catholic consciences are already far advanced and will only continue unless the church is willing to stand up and rebuke the arrogance of these coercive measures and carve out strict realms of conscience which are unreachable by activist courts and corrupt politicians." {Source.}
    The Catholic Media Coalition has been especially vocal about reversing the situation of compliance.

    More recent related stories:

    From the proceeding I conclude:

    • Medically speaking, it appears that prior claims regarding the abortifacient properties of Plan B, when administered once, are unable to be substantiated. Indeed, the best review of current research would seem to suggest that Plan B, when administered once, does not render the uterus inhospitable to new human life.
    • That said, legally speaking, it is unjust for the Connecticut State Legislature to enact a law that a) contravenes the consciences of Catholic employees, b) legislates restrictions upon what testing may or may not be administered to rape victims and c) withholds pertinent information from these victims at a crucial time in their decision-making process.

    As such, and in times such as these, we need to support the CT Bishops in reversing this unjust law.

    Previous AmP coverage of this story - starting the day it happened - available here.

    Constructive comments are always welcome. Emails receive greater attention and priority.

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    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    NCBC publishes statement on Connecticut Bishop's Plan B decision (with commentary)

    The National Catholic Bioethics Center has published a statement on the Connecticut Bishops' decision to allow the use of Plan B without an ovulation test in cases of rape. The NCBC is, in my opinion and many others, the foremost institution on Catholic bioethics in the United States. Their quarterly journal is widely-read and highly regarded. I have read this journal extensively for various courses and have drawn on it heavily for bioethics papers and research.

    I have always agreed with their positions and reasoning. I further take this statement to be normative for my own opinion about this matter, with the comments I include below. To fast-forward and summarize my conclusion: I believe that this document both a) is willing to admit the validity of the Bishops' prudential decision while simultaneously b) claiming that the law is essentially immoral because it requires health care workers to violate their conscience.

    That said, I would encourage anyone who has been following this story closely to read the statement in its entirety.

    I'll now excerpt the most important passages [my comments in brackets]:

    ... This is a complex moral matter and does not lend itself to brief explanation. This difficulty was rendered all the worse by inaccurate reporting and inappropriate, indeed misleading, terminology.

    These are good initial observations, which I have previously voiced.

    ... The state does allow a pregnancy test. However, this test can have nothing to do with the sexual assault. This test only identifies a conception that had taken place before the assault. It takes an embryo 5 to 7 days to make its way down the oviduct and implant in the womb.
    Correct. The pregnancy test does not provide the information needed by the health care workers or victim to make a fully-informed ethical decision.

    ... In other words, [under this new law] the physician would have to administer a drug preventing ovulation even if ovulation had already occurred. Frankly, that makes no medical sense. The state was preventing a physician from exercising his or her best medical judgment about a procedure he or she was considering.

    Yes. The new law requires that health care workers not perform a scientifically-relevant and morally-necessary simple test.

    ... A second objection centered around the fact that the medication(s) might prevent an implantation if a conception had occurred. To intend and to do such a thing is immoral. However, there was considerable debate among medical and drug experts whether or not the drugs actually had that effect. And everyone agreed there was no test even to know whether a new life had been conceived.

    In a situation of doubt, it is not prudent to forgo testing which might aid an honest decision-making process.

    Finally, attention should be drawn to the fact that the Federal Drug Administration includes the intra-uterine device as “Emergency Contraception” which is a misnomer since it is known to have an abortifacient effect.

    I had not heard this before, but I have heard that the FDA protocols often fall well-below standards acceptable to Catholics.

    Unlike the state of Colorado, for example, the state of Connecticut would not allow physicians to exercise their best medical judgment and provided no conscience protection to physicians or hospitals to refuse to administer the drug when requested.

    The crux of the matter: this law inhibits Catholic hospitals and workers to exercise good medicine and their conscience. This is a very dangerous precedent to allow in general.

    The Connecticut Catholic bishops and hospitals, under strong protest, have allowed a new protocol to be used that was developed by Catholic health care institutions. Furthermore, they made it clear that if a test were ever developed that allowed one to detect a conception after an assault, and if it became clear (as is not yet the case) that the medication(s) would work as an abortifacient, they could no longer accept the protocol. Finally, the Connecticut bishops pointed out that the Doctrine Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had studied this matter for years and could not come to the conclusion that the protocol previously allowed by the Connecticut bishops (the ovulation test protocol) would have to be used by all Catholic institutions.

    I'm not sure here that it is necessary for the Connecticut protocol to be universally-applicable to other hospitals for it to constitute the moral course of action. The logic of the document in this paragraph is not quite clear to me. Just because the USCCB did not endorse the details of the previous CT protocol does not mean that the protocol was deficient. It simply meant that their prudential decision was well-founded enough, at the very least, to avoid challenge.

    In matters that have not yet been decided definitively by the Holy See, The National Catholic Bioethics Center has refrained from adopting one or another position on a disputed question. However, in the matter of protocols for sexual assault, there is virtual unanimity that an ovulation test should be administered before giving an anovulant medication. The protocol the NCBC has supported requires the ovulation test because it provides greater medical and moral certitude that the intervention will have its desired anovulatory effect.

    I think it is clear from this paragraph that the NCBC would have preferred the CT bishops to not abandon their previous requirement of an ovulation test (i.e., language such as "virtual unanimity"), but they do not state this explicitly here. Furthermore, their reasons for thinking the law is unjust are a bit more nuanced and the grounds for their reservations are more novel than the discussion have taken into account up to this point. But let's read on....

    The NCBC objects strongly to state mandates, such as those passed by Connecticut and Massachusetts, that do not allow health care professionals and facilities to exercise their best medical judgment and which do not protect the consciences of all parties. We also object to state mandates that do not allow the victim of sexual assault to have all the information necessary for a medical intervention so that she might make an informed judgment.

    This argument also seems to tend towards resisting the law. Indeed, what they are proposing here is that one might resist the law on principle alone, because it violated the consciences of Catholic hospital doctors and employees and furthermore acts against the interest of the victim.

    However, the NCBC understands the judgment of the Connecticut bishops that the administration of a contraceptive medication in the absence of an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act. However, it is immoral to violate one’s conscience, including the corporate consciences of health care agencies, and the unwillingness of the state to allow an exemption of conscience makes the law unjust and onerous.

    Back-to-back "However's" tend to set off warning bells in my mind that an author is trying to have it both ways. I think the first line here about the CT decision is acknowledging, for instance, that strictly-speaking the CT bishops have not acted against any specific moral norm. However, the second line formulates a premise upon which the law could be challenged because "it is immoral to violate one's conscience" ... and as such, the law is "unjust and onerous."

    Conclusion: While the NCBC understands the judgement of the CT bishops regarding the claimed moral neutrality, as such, of allowing Plan B the NCBC is also bringing up the point that because a) it is immoral to violate one's conscience and b) this law does not allow an exemption of conscience therefore .... c) this law immorally legislates that people violate their consciences.

    This conclusion prompts the next question, which this statement does not address: is it moral to accept a law that is immoral for the proportional good of allowing Catholic hospitals to continue treating rape victims? I think that's what the discussion must now explore.

    As I've promised before in previous posts, I still hope to publish a summary of the medical details regarding Plan B by the end of this week (waiting for more input). Previous coverage of this issue can be found here:

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    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    "Michigan Catholics to get DVD explaining stem-cell research issue" - CNS

    CNS reports:

    To clear up confusion about stem-cell research, the Michigan Catholic Conference has launched a statewide educational program to explain the Catholic Church's teaching on human life, the church's support for adult stem-cell research and its opposition to embryonic stem-cell research.

    As part of the program every registered Catholic home in Michigan will soon be receiving a DVD and other information in the mail.

    On Oct. 1, the conference began mailing digital video discs, along with a letter signed jointly by Michigan diocesan bishops and a brochure, to 504,000 Catholic homes in the state.

    This seems like an excellent, proactive way to keep the faithful informed. I just attended a Theology on Tap session last night on the topic of stem cell research and it's clear that many folks have still not heard the Church's "good news" regarding ethical forms of SCR.

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    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Bp. Lori issues clarification on CT Plan B decision

    And he chose to use his blog as the medium for his thoughts (underlining is mine, bolding is his):

    Plan B, an issue previously discussed in this blog (“Sad State of the Constitution State”, April 24th—see “Archive”) is back in the news. Many of you posted comments about those media reports, so I’d like to offer a number of clarifications and some additional perspective.

    Last spring, the Connecticut Bishops worked hard to defeat the so-called “Plan B” legislation. It’s not that the Church opposes administering Plan B to victims of rape; these women have suffered a gravely unjust assault. Last year, nearly 75 rape victims were treated in the four Connecticut Catholic hospitals; no one was denied Plan B as the result of the Catholic hospital protocols which required both a pregnancy test and an ovulation test prior to the administration of that drug.

    What’s really at issue here is how much testing is appropriate to ensure that Plan B does not induce the chemical abortion of a fertilized ovum. There is uncertainty about how Plan B works. Its effect is to prevent fertilization of the ovum. Some believe, however, that in rare instances Plan B can render the lining of the uterus inhospitable to the fertilized ovum which must implant in it in order to survive and grow; many other experts dispute this. For their part, the Bishops of Connecticut felt it was best not only to administer the standard FDA-approved pregnancy test, but also an ovulation test. However, this course of action was only a prudential judgment, not a matter of settled Church teaching and practice. Other bishops and moral theologians hold that a pregnancy test alone suffices. Indeed, the Church does not teach that it is intrinsically evil to administer Plan B without first giving an ovulation test or that those who do so are committing an abortion.

    Unfortunately, Connecticut Legislature decided last spring to settle the question of whether both tests are necessary, instead of letting the Church do so in her own way. The Governor signed into law a measure that forbids health care professionals from using the results of an ovulation test in treating a rape victim. We bishops, as well as health care professionals, continue to believe this law is seriously flawed and should be changed. You should also know that we carefully explored with very competent experts the possibility of challenging the law. Unfortunately, such a challenge would most likely not succeed. Failure of the hospitals to comply would put them and their staffs at risk.

    In the course of this discussion, every possible option was discussed at length with medical-moral experts faithful to the Church’s teaching, with legal experts especially in the area of constitutional law, and with hospital personnel. “Reluctant compliance” emerged as the only viable option. In permitting Catholic hospitals to comply with this law, neither our teaching nor our principles have changed. We have only altered the prudential judgment we previously made; this was done for the good of our Catholic hospitals and those they serve.

    At the same time, we remain open to new developments in medical science which hopefully will bring greater clarity to this matter. Above all, we continue to pray for the healing of those who are victims of sexual assault.

    I'm very happy he published this statement, although I would have preferred that it appeared in a more official context than his personal blog. Still, it's available, and hopefully more so now.

    Bp. Lori's statement does not add anything "new" to the debate, it merely endorses some of the speculation that has occurred here and elsewhere. In it, crucially, he reminds us that "neither Church teaching nor principles have changed" on this issue. But the prudence of allowing the CT legislature to further violate the autonomy of Catholic hospital practice remains up for debate, in my opinion. In essence the CT bishops decided that they did not want to draw a line in the sand on this issue. But with each concession it becomes more difficult to draw it when the time comes. And I think it will, soon.

    "Reluctant compliance", as Bp. Lori calls it, is hardly an ideal state of affairs....

    Update: Since this story is still receiving attention I'd like to copy what was said before here:

    I am working with a couple of knowledgeable contributors to produce a summary of the recent relevant medical findings on Plan B, ovulation testing, and related issues. I hope to have that posted by the end of this week. Contributions to that project are welcome, if you want to email me. Thanks for the helpful comments so far.
    Previous posts on this topic:

    Furthermore, LifeSiteNews is trying to get to the heart of the matter regarding whether Plan B falls under the condemnation issued by the Vatican in 2000 of "morning after pills." More here.

    The relevant passages from the Pontifical Academy for Life's "STATEMENT ON THE SO-CALLED "MORNING-AFTER PILL:

    3. It is clear, therefore, that the proven "anti-implantation" action of the morning-after pill is really nothing other than a chemically induced abortion. It is neither intellectually consistent nor scientifically justifiable to say that we are not dealing with the same thing.

    Moreover, it seems sufficiently clear that those who ask for or offer this pill are seeking the direct termination of a possible pregnancy already in progress, just as in the case of abortion. Pregnancy, in fact, begins with fertilization and not with the implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine wall, which is what is being implicitly suggested.

    4. Consequently, from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it.


    6. In the end, since these procedures are becoming more widespread, we strongly urge everyone who works in this sector to make a firm objection of moral conscience, which will bear courageous and practical witness to the inalienable value of human life, especially in view of the new hidden forms of aggression against the weakest and most defenceless individuals, as is the case with a human embryo.

    Stepping aside for a moment from the scientific questions (which are completely relevant), take a circumspect look at the moral principle the document asserts: in essence, everyone involved with the choosing, distribution and proscribing of medications that may harm a newly-conceived zygote are to treat their decision with the utmost carefulness and respect for human life.

    It's distressing that the CCC (or other competent bodies) do not seem willing to defend their claims that the proscribed medication is in fact proven to be non-abortifacient. And if they don't have solid science to back up their claim, they shouldn't be allowing the medication to be distributed without an ovulation test. That much, at least, can be deduced from an informed reading of the principles outlined in the Vatican document.

    Update 2: From what I've read and some consultation, it seems fairly certain that Plan B and the "morning after pills" are extremely similar, if not identical treatments. The emergency contraception website at Princeton, for instance, says there is "no difference." While it tries to claim later that emergency contraception pills are not "abortion pills", if you read further, the same website admits that these "abortion pills" in fact "may also prevent implantation of a fertilized egg" (= abortion).

    Of this much, at least, I am fairly confident: the CCC spokesperson doesn't have his facts straight regarding the difference between Plan B and morning after pills. If he is privy to scienctific research that is not generally available it would be best that he provide some medical citations.

    If anyone has a citation to the contrary of what I just cited feel free to email me (ideally) or for short-hand post a link in the comments box.

    Update 3: Diogenes at CWNews takes a more harsh view of Bp. Lor's statement. See why here.
    Update 4: Jeff Millerat CurtJester adds his thoughts on the latest, and Matt Bowman has a very good contribution over at Constitutionally Correct:

    The position of CHA is well known and seriously flawed. It basically presents “emergency contraception” as permissible even after a positive ovulation test. To get there it shamelessly adopts the definition of pregnancy at implantation, and broadly justifies acts that prevent “pregnancy.”


    The new policy for Catholic hospitals in Connecticut will be to dispense Plan B regardless of whether its pre-fertilization effects are negated and its post-fertilization death-dealing effect is the only remaining mechanism. Their spokesman and the sources they rely on seem to adopt the very pro-death word games that are designed to cheapen the lives of human embryos. This situation is becoming more troubling as it unfolds.

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    Transcript of Bp. Pelotte's 911 call

    Fairly clear evidence that Bp. Pelotte is in need of medical/psychological treatment:

    Below is a copy of portions of the conversation Pelotte had with a 911 dispatcher.

    Dispatcher: "Can you tell me what happened?"
    Pelotte: "They're just moving. They've been quiet. They've been going upstairs in the bedrooms and hiding behind the artifacts. But they don't talk."
    (Pelotte tells the dispatcher that the people in his home are wearing masks.)
    Dispatcher: "What kind of masks do they have?"
    Pelotte: "Ma'am, I don't have the time to tell you. You'll see it for yourself. Please send somebody over here."
    Dispatcher: "Do they still have their masks on?"
    Pelotte: "It's pretty hard to decide what the issue is. But I can't leave them here overnight."

    The most recent update update (Sep 21) from the Diocese of Gallup website indicates that Pelotte had not yet returned to the administration of his diocese after the injuries he sustained in July. The diocese has since remained in the care of the Vicar General.

    While people have been trying to make the best of Bp. Pelotte's actions throughout these events, postulating everything from demonic activity to malicious hoaxing upon his person, I think we should keep in mind that there's no shame whatsoever in a Bishop suffering a psychological disorder or trauma. We should continue to pray that he gets the help he needs.

    Furthermore, I would hope that the Church officials in Gallup quickly give an update on the bishop's condition to the members of the diocese. They deserve it.

    Ph/t: Diogenes.

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    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Bp. Pelotte of Gallup - mentally unbalanced?

    Pelotte, who's been swimming in a sea of media controversy, seems to be sunk:

    Gallup police reported a bizarre set of circumstances following a recent emergency call to the home of Roman Catholic Bishop Donald Pelotte.

    The most recent event happened Thursday when Gallup police reported receiving an emergency call from Pelotte, 62. An incident report from the McKinley Metropolitan Dispatch Authority reported that Pelotte told operators "...gentle little people, about 3 to 4 feet tall, and wearing Halloween masks" were in the hall. The dispatch log reported that Pelotte said he hid in a closet while the people were in his home.

    The report said Pelotte offered conflicting information about the people who he said were in his home.

    At one point, he said one person came to visit and the others also came inside. He also described them as strangers and said they had been there three hours and didn't want to leave.

    Police report they never found anyone inside Pelotte's home. [source.]

    This isn't a joke.

    From the article: "The diocese told reporters in Gallup that priests who consult Pelotte will make decisions concerning his involvement in the church."

    Of course, decisions pertaining to the removal of a bishop aren't ultimately made by the priests of the diocese. But certainly, when your Bishop starts having psychotic episodes, it's time to call Rome.

    Ph/t: Rocco.

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    Follow-up: Connecticut Plan B Bill goes into effect today

    Update: Bp. Lori has issued a clarification on his blog. That text available here.

    Over this weekend AmP served as a nexus for Catholic debate prompted by recent news that the Connecticut Bishops Conference had reversed a long-standing policy of opposing the distribution of Plan B to rape victims in some cases and had instead decided to accept the current legislation that goes into effect today. In their statement, they claimed essentially that a lack of definitive Church teaching on the question combined with an ignorance regarding the abortifacient potential of Plan B prompted their decision.

    You can find the full AmP coverage here.

    The American Life League has since issued a very strong condemnation of the decision here.

    News has also surfaced that there are plans in the works by a lay organization to challenge the law:

    Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said his organization hopes to challenge the new law. But the institute has not yet been able to find a plaintiff who has been harmed, such as a hospital worker who was forced to distribute the medication despite their religious convictions.

    "Someone ought to rise up and do something," he said. "This is just one of the biggest pro-abortion attacks on religious liberty that we've ever seen in the state of Connecticut." [source]

    LifeSiteNews suggests that Catholics should respectfully request a clarification from the Vatican:

    To express concerns to the Vatican:

    Pontifical Academy for Life:

    To email the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith:

    Cardinal William Levada E-mail:

    Given an average account of the situation in the media, clarification would be most welcome.

    I am also working with a couple of knowledgeable contributors to produce a summary of the recent relevant medical findings on Plan B, ovulation testing, and related issues. I hope to have that posted by the end of this week. Contributions to that project are welcome, if you want to email me. Thanks for the helpful comments so far.

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    Friday, September 28, 2007

    Statement: Connecticut Bishops On Plan B and Catholic Hospitals

    Update: Bp. Lori has issued a clarification on his blog. That text available here.

    Released on the CCC website this morning (and issued to the general press yesterday):

    The Catholic Bishops of Connecticut, joined by the leaders of the Catholic hospitals in the State, issue the following statement regarding the administration of Plan B in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape:

    The four Catholic hospitals in the State of Connecticut remain committed to providing competent and compassionate care to victims of rape. In accordance with Catholic moral teaching, these hospitals provide emergency contraception after appropriate testing. Under the existing hospital protocols, this includes a pregnancy test and an ovulation test. Catholic moral teaching is adamantly opposed to abortion, but not to emergency contraception for victims of rape.

    This past spring the Governor signed into a law “An Act Concerning Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault,” passed by the State Legislature. It does not allow medical professionals to take into account the results of the ovulation test. The Bishops and other Catholic health care leaders believe that this law is seriously flawed, but not sufficiently to bar compliance with it at the present time. We continue to believe this law should be changed.

    Nonetheless, to administer Plan B pills in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape a pregnancy test to determine that the woman has not conceived is sufficient. An ovulation test will not be required. The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present. To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.

    Since the teaching authority of the Church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work, the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have stated that Catholic hospitals in the State may follow protocols that do not require an ovulation test in the treatment of victims of rape. A pregnancy test approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration suffices. If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened. [source.]

    Complete coverage of this story is available here.

    To summarize, this statement is problematic for the following reasons:
    • The medical facts regarding the abortifacient effects of Plan B are not up for debate. If administered to a woman who is ovulating Plan B may cause an abortion. Plan B itself admits its abortifacient potential on its warning label and website.
    • The Catholic Church teaches (c.f. DV #13) that contraceptives with abortifacient potential fall under the same moral category as abortion because, when acting abortifaciently, they cause the death of a human being. The United States Bishops have similarly ruled-out the use of abortifacient pills like Plan B when the women is ovulating (c.f. Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, # 36).
    • The document claims "To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act", but for the reasons already mentioned, since Plan B can act as an abortifacient in cases where the women has ovulated, it is at least gravely irresponsible to administer chemicals that could very well bring about the death of a human being.

    Thus this statement of the CCC appears to contradict both Church teaching and USCCB directives. [update: in response to some reasonable criticism, I should clarify that I believe this statement certainly both a) takes a step back from the previous position of U.S. hospitals regarding the morality of dispensing Plan B to rape victims who have ovulated and b) charts a different course of action than the USCCB has previously suggested, in accordance with principles ennunciated by Church documents. To this extent, and no further, I believe the document is problematic and must therefore be either a) repealed or b) further explained.]

    Moreover, this decision contradicts a long-held, widespread and fiercely-defended claim by American Catholic bishops that state laws must not force Catholic hospital staffs to administer abortifacients in situations where the woman may have in fact conceived a new human life.

    The final line of this statement (which reads: "If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened.") seems to demand an immediate review of the Bishops' statement. The law in question will go into effect next Monday, October 1st.

    This post will be updated. CWNews has covered the story here. Full past coverage available here.

    Update: A commenter below has made what seems to be a reasonable claim that some recent scientific studies call into question the presumed abortifacient properties of Plan B, despite the literature produced by the company itself which describes an abortifacient mechanism as one method of preventing sustained pregnancy.

    However, the statement of the CCC clearly does not take this research to definitively disprove the prior medical consensus. Indeed, the statement of the CCC operates under the principal that Plan B is to be administered in a situation of legislated ignorance as to whether there is an ovum present at all (since an ovulation test - prophibited by the new law - would provide this information). It is puzzling that Catholic hospitals would allow legislation to prevent medically-relevant knowledge from being obtained. Especially because Plan B poses the greatest threat to new human life when a woman is ovulating. One must also call into question the good faith of legislation that prohibits an ovulation test. Why prohibit it unless the lawmakers want to see Plan B proscribed in all cases? Why is the CCC still complaining if Plan B has no abortifacient potential?

    Prudence would seem to dictate in a situation where human life is at stake that recent, disputed scientific research should not overrule the findings of prior investigations as well as the position of Plan B's manufacturer. Rushing a decision because of an impending legal compliance date (next Monday) compounds the likelihood of error.

    [Note: Some statements made by the CCC's spokesman are not helping matters. Saying that the bishops had an "evolution of thinking" is poor wording. The bishops had an evolution of data if Plan B turns out to not be abortifacient. The thinking concerning the immorality of proscribing abortifacients has not undergone any evolution. It is still wrong.

    Similarly, claiming that there are "many who are affiliated with the church that believe the ovulation test isn't necessary" is completely irrelevent if Plan B is not an abortifacient. This raises the question: if the new scientific findings are so definitive, why do we need so many other added reasons to accept the CCC's policy change?]

    Update 2: LifeSiteNews has posted coverage here.

    Since there is still much confusion on this topic, it might be helpful to restate some of my reservations:

    • This statement by the CCC is a reversal of precedent. Previously, Catholic hospitals in the US have overwhelmingly followed a protocol that prohibited dispensing Plan B to rape victims who have ovulated. The CCC itself followed such a protocol, until this week.
    • Up to this point, the scientific consensus which formed the basis of these protocols for Catholic hospitals said that Plan B could act as an abortifacient, in that it prevents the human embryo from implanting in the uterine wall as one of its mechanisms for avoiding sustained pregnancy and gestation.
    • Given points one and two, new scientific claims that call into question the previous consensus do not sufficiently justify a change of course. In cases where human life is at stake, prudence dictates that one not choose a course of action that may harm newly-conceived human life.
    • Clearly this statement is causing confusion among the faithful. The fact that this decision has taken so many Catholics by surprise in turn demands a response from Church leaders, if at the very least to avoid scandal among the faithful. Certainly the secular world is taking this decision as a retreat from Catholic principle and this too must be aggresively addressed.
    • Furthermore, it is a disservice to the cause of building a Catholic culture and a culture of life when decisions are made under constrained circumstances and bear the stamp of hastiness. More explanation and clarity is required in this situation, because more than the isolated issue of rape protocols is at issue. This debate also touches upon a) the right of Catholic hospitals (and employees) to operate free from legal intrusion in moral matters. b) the relationship between scientific fact finding and subsequent Church guidelines. c) the important comprehensive witness the Church provides to the world on life issues.
    • It is also probably useful to note that there seems to be an inherent contradiction in the CCC statement. Namely, if Plan B cannot act as an abortifacient, than it should not matter if the woman has ovulated. That said, why does the CCC continue to demand that the law be changed to allow an ovulation test? Either the statement is wrong to request the ovulation test be written into the law, or they are actually not confident that Plan B is non-abortifacient, and if they are not confident that Plan B is non-abortifacient, they should not be allowing it to be given to rape victims who may have ovulated.
    • If this statement by the CCC is correct, and Plan B cannot act abortifaciently, then any Catholic hospitals in the US could proscribe Plan B to all rape victims. So, either the rest of Catholic hospitals can change their policy, or the CCC must revise its statement. Similarly, if Plan B may or may not cause abortion, the correct protocol for both the CCC and the US Bishops is to disallow its use in cases where the woman has ovulated. I am here invoking the principle that when human life is at stake, the prudent choice is to err on the side of life and not choose a course of action that may result in killing an innocent life.

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    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Breaking: Catholic Bishops in CT to allow Plan B?!

    Update 2: Bp. Lori has issued a clarification on his blog. That text available here.

    Update: The Connecticut Bishops have released their statement. Coverage here.

    The Hartford Courant:

    In a major softening of their position, the state's Catholic bishops announced today that Catholic hospitals would comply with a new law that takes effect Monday that requires them to dispense emergency contraceptive pills to rape victims.

    The Catholic church had lobbied strongly against the proposal at the state Capitol for more than one year, and some insiders believed the Church might file a lawsuit to block the law. Church officials, though, had said only that they were considering their options and never said that they would file a suit."

    The Bishops and other Catholic health care leaders believe that this law is seriously flawed, but not sufficiently to bar compliance with it at the present time,'' the bishops said in a statement. "We continue to believe this law should be changed.''

    ... and the AP has picked-up the story here:

    Roman Catholic bishops have agreed to let hospital personnel give emergency contraception to all rape victims, reversing their decision days before a new state law requires it.

    The church had fought the state law by arguing it would force Catholic medical personnel to perform chemical abortions because they may be providing emergency contraception to women who are ovulating. The Catholic hospitals wanted to first perform ovulation tests, but lawmakers did not include such tests in the legislation.

    The bishops now say that administering the drug, sold as Plan B, cannot be judged as an abortion.

    This news is very disturbing if it is true. And sadly, I think it is.

    This quotation sheds a little bit more light as to the purported reasons for the decision:

    But Catholic Bishops of Connecticut and leaders of the Catholic hospitals said in a joint statement Thursday that "since the teaching authority of the church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work," the hospitals will be allowed to provide Plan B to rape victims without first requiring ovulation tests.
    I can't find this document and it is frustrating that the Connecticut Catholic Conference does not have it readily available (unless I am hugely missing something). A visit to the website does, however, reveal that earlier this year Bishop Lori strongly protested the passage of this legislation. In fact, the Connecticut bishops have been fighting a long battle to resist this legislation as an unlawful imposition upon the self-governance of Catholic hospitals.

    So what changed?

    Certainly not the medical facts related to Plan B, nor the teaching that one cannot administer a pill with abortifacient properties if no testing has been done to rule-out the possibility of a pregnancy. The Church already has outlined the principles by which it is impermissible to administer abortifacients when there is the possible presence of a newly-conceived human being.

    More as I read it....

    Update: A simple fact that needs to be ascertained is whether or not any testing is done prior to the administration of Plan B, and whether or not the results of the test (i.e., that the woman is in fact pregnant or has in fact ovulated and possibly pregnant) have normative value upon whether or not Plan B is administered. Currently, from the reporting I've read, the bill allows a pregnancy test to be administered but not an ovulation test. This isn't enough, from the previous literature I've read on the question. An ovulation test is not difficult or intrusive, and it yields important information (albeit information that some people might not like to receive).

    And for more context/history, read below what the CCBC said in its July 12th legislative wrap-up:

    The General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, legislation (S.B.1343) mandating that all hospitals, including Catholic hospitals allow the distribution of the morning after pill (commonly known as Plan “B”) to victims of sexual assault, even in situations where it may cause an abortion. Connecticut’s Catholic hospitals do provide Plan “B” to rape victims in almost all cases. The hospitals will not provide it when it may abort a conceived human life. S.B. 1343 would force the hospitals to provide this medication even in those cases. This legislation is a serious violation of the religious freedom of Catholic hospitals. This piece of legislation was proclaimed by the Connecticut chapter of the abortions right group NARAL to be one of their biggest victories in the last ten years. The bishops of Connecticut are reviewing options of how to respond to this breach of the separation of Church and State, and preserve religious freedom in our state.

    Again, what changed?

    For rape protocol guidelines that respect human life and Church teaching, see the Peoria Protocol as it is described in this article. Note, chemical contraceptives (with abortifacient properties) are not to be proscribed if the woman has already ovulated.

    Incidentally, though importantly, it is rare for a rape victim to ovulate because the trauma of the incident causes the body to naturally skip ovulation. Nonetheless, it should be determined that ovulation has in fact been suspended.

    Also, one should keep in mind that conception rarely occurs as a result of rape, (0-4% in most studies). Where new human life may exist however, one must take the necessary precautions to ensure that an already conceived child is not killed. The Church teaches that a rape victim has every right to impede/prevent conception but no right to kill a child already conceived. [revision: some careful readers have asked for a source document to support my claim about the Church's teaching. It originates from the US Bishop's Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fourth Edition:

    #36 Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials and offer the person psychological and spiritual support as well as accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. [this provides the clarification] It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum. [this is why Plan B can be immoral.]
    Thanks to t2irish for providing this source.]

    Update 2: Calls to various numbers at the CCBC result in voicemail. Admittedly it's past office hours. I've sent them an email because I'd like to read their actual statement and not press reports. It's unfortunate how often the mainstream media beats even the official Catholic channels to the punch for a story. When will they learn that this downtime between action and website publication is harmfully occupied and manipulated by the mainstream reporting? It's much harder to combat erroneous reporting when the secular presses have greater access to the source documents than those who want to defend (and explain) Church teaching and decision making!

    Update 3: Jeff Miller has also posted on this story and directly addresses the problem with proscribing Plan B - a known abortifacient - in cases where ovulation (and thus conception) may have occurred. In fact, Plan B itself admits that it acts to prevent a fertilized egg (= new human life) from implanting in the mother's uterus (= forced miscarriage) on its warning label. How can the science be ambiguous if the opposition admits the medical fact which prompts the objection?

    Update 4 (11:30PM): This story is generating a great deal of press because it represents a reversal of position, so to speak, coming after a long and hard-fought struggle nationwide between Catholic bishops and cival legislators. Predictably, secular sources are mischaracterizing and overemphasizing the content of the decision, all while the general public do not have access to the actual documentation.

    In this atmosphere of confusion it is hoped that an authoritative body (either the CCBC or USCCB, for instance) will soon issue a clarifying statement to the faithful. Numerous Catholic blogs and news sources have linked to my coverage and I will happily provide a forum for that clarification should it be issued. Let's pray that our bishops may provide clarity, conviction and a resolution to the controversy.

    Until such a statement is available, it might be useful to note the plentiful amount of material available on the CCBC website related tothis topic. All of which, prior to today's decision, support the position that Plan B should not be administered to patients who may have ovulated because it has a proven abortifacient effect in cases of fertilization:

    Update 5 (10:30AM): The Connecticut Bishops have released their statement. Coverage here.

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    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    What exactly did happen to Bp. Pelotte?

    One of the most strange (and troubling stories) happening right now involves the injuries sustained by Bp. Pelotte of Gallup, New Mexico. I briefly noted the story at the time a couple weeks ago.

    CNA has the story near when it went public July 27th. Notable for our purposes is the fact that Bp. Pelotte sustained "Severe injuries to his face."

    More strange still, however, is the story that Bp. Pelotte is circulating as the reason for his injuries: a fall down the stairs. This explanation is simply inconsistent with his injuries which appear "to have been the result of a severe beating," as CWNews relates on August 2nd.

    Local news sources aren't satisfied with the official account either, and Rocco mentions that the bishop had his life threatened back in 2005. Gerard has posted on this story as well, and the attention it has been increasingly receiving recently. Diogenes doesn't buy the official line. AMDG has some coverage of the local news reporting on the story.

    Sadly, the first explanation that normally comes to mind in this kind of situation - presuming the Bishop was actually assaulted and did not, as he claim, fall down the stairs - is that the Bishop has something to hide and is embarrassed about some aspect of his conduct relating to the event.

    Or, again, it could be that he is trying to somehow defend his attacker for that person's best interest. But really, it's extremely difficult to envision a set of circumstances where Bishop Pelotte would be justified in his manner of treating the media (let alone his diocese, which, I would argue, has a legitimate right to know what has befallen their shepherd).

    As a side note, Bishop Pelotte is the first American-Indian bishop.

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    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    USCCB buys tv/radio ads to strengthen U.S. marriages

    The Associates Press reports:

    U.S. Roman Catholic bishops began a campaign Wednesday to strengthen the institution of marriage by encouraging spouses to perform simple day-to-day gestures for one another.

    The campaign, a series of radio and television spots, is part of a broader effort to bring a greater Catholic voice to the debate over the meaning of marriage.

    The spots show ordinary people in parks and other public places answering the question "What have you done for your marriage today?" The answers _ waking up early with the baby, organizing a date night _ are meant to promote small acts of kindness as medicine for making marriages last a lifetime.

    Missing from the spots is any overt religious message, although they are identified as Catholic and end with an invitation to visit The Web site promises resources for Catholic and non-Catholic couples on everything from conflict resolution to finances.

    Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, a member of the bishops' committee on marriage and family life, said the spots deliberately avoid religion to reach a wide audience.

    "Both marriage and family are necessary for the common good of society," he said. "When either institution weakens, all of us suffer the consequences. When both marriage and family grow stronger, all of us benefit."

    You can view the TV spots here at the ForYourMarriage website (look on the left sidebar).

    I watched a few of the spots and they're pretty decent. I mean, resources could definitely have been spent in a worse way and - who knows? - if this campaign is successful, maybe the CCC might have its next series ask the question "What Have You Done For Your Voting Conscience Today?". Oh well, one can hope.... baby steps.

    Flippancy aside, these tv ads (or technically, "public service announcements"), are part of a wider, more serious campaign with some real content for Catholics:

    The bishops' larger marriage initiative, set in motion in 2004 and still in the research and development stages, aims to promote marriage as both "a human institution and a Christian sacrament." Plans call for improving parish marriage ministries, a pastoral letter and working in the legal and political arenas to "promote, strengthen and protect marriage."

    Perhaps anticipating one criticism, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops emphasizes that married couples have played a key role in the initiative, both through focus groups and continued consultation. [Associated Press]

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    Keep your eyes on Bp. Salvatore Cordileone

    Gerald: "Tomorrow, I'm interviewing Auxiliary Bishop Cordileone of San Diego for the blog. Apart from having one of the coolest names around - Salvatore Cordileone ("heart of the lion") - he's generally regarded as a very good man. And, he at times celebrates the Tridentine Mass. At 51, he's a "pup" and I'm guessing will become bishop of a lucky diocese sometime soon (he was ordained bishop in 2002). Bishop Cordileone also holds a doctorate in Canon Law."

    I'd echo the complimentary things Gerald has to say about Bp. Salvatore Cordileone. He's definitely going places and deserves to. He sometimes appears on Catholic Answers Live!, most recently on June 15th. You can find that show archived here.


    Friday, May 04, 2007

    Bp. Mengeling "cancer free" says spokesman

    From LSJ:

    Bishop Carl Mengeling progressing in his recovery from surgery to remove his cancerous bladder, Lansing Diocese officials said today.

    "He is cancer-free by virtue of the fact that they removed the organ that had the cancer in it," said Michael Dibole, the director of communications for the diocese.

    During the surgery, a biopsy of tissue samples from areas around the bladder showed no evidence of cancer, Dibole said.

    Thanks for all the prayers!

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    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    A little more on the Cardinals in Vegas

    In my post last Saturday, I noted my unease with choosing not only Las Vegas, but "fabulous Las Vegas" as the site of this year's American Cardinals Dinner.

    Honestly, I didn't mean to detract from a) the many good Catholic things that are going on in that city and b) the real need for ongoing pastoral care and evangelization within its boarders.

    Well, Diogenes has posted his thoughts on it, and gets far more serious in his criticism than I did. I think it's an interesting question either way you look at it (as a chance for the Church to show that she isn't removed from the world or, negatively, a case where the bishops should stop looking and acting like CEO's or just any other group of executives lobbying for funding).

    I think the mere fact that the choice of locale raises questions among many people would at least be some cause for, at any rate, dropping words like "fabulous" to describe the environs of the fundraising events.

    That's my $0.02.

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    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Update: Bp. Mengeling recovering from surgery


    Bishop Carl Mengeling’s bladder was removed late Tuesday and the leader of Greater Lansing’s Catholic community was said to be resting comfortably.

    “He was resting as comfortably as possible for a person who had pretty serious surgery,” said Michael Diebold, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

    Mengeling, 76, underwent surgery last Friday during which about half of a large tumor was removed from his bladder. He had been earlier diagnosed with bladder cancer. Tuesday, his entire bladder was removed.

    The surgery started sometime after 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Mengeling is expected to require at least six to eight weeks of recovery. His doctors have asked that he not receive visitors or phone calls.

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    Friday, April 27, 2007

    Notice: Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Walter Schoenherr passed away

    Thanks to reader Tim for providing a link to the notice at the Archdiocese of Detroit website:

    Retired Auxiliary Bishop Walter J. Schoenherr, 87, dies of natural causes. Ordained a priest for the Detroit archdiocese in 1945, he was named an auxiliary bishop in 1968. He served in a number of parish assignments, including as pastor of St. Aloysius and Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, both in Detroit. Commenting on the life and ministry of Bishop Schoenherr, Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit, notes that "he made the pastoral care of his brother priests his highest priority. Losing Bishop Schoenherr," the cardinal continues, "feels like losing a good friend, someone you could always count on for down-to-earth wisdom and spiritual encouragement." [more...]
    Related links:

    Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him!

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