9.20.2005

When Discriminating & Rejecting - Do It with a Smile!



Solve Religious-Political Differences without Hate, Catholic Speakers Say

from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Partisans on all sides in society and the Catholic Church "need to lower the level of our anger," said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., in a symposium on politics and faith held yesterday at Duquesne University.

McCarrick is a champion of the poor who has been vilified by some activists on the Catholic right for refusing to deny communion to Catholic legislators who support abortion rights.

The other keynoter was the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and writer who is one of the leading intellectuals on the religious right. Neuhaus was recently attacked in the New York Review of Books by liberal cultural commentator Garry Wills, who accused him of undue influence at the White House and the Vatican.

Though McCarrick and Neuhaus are often depicted on opposing sides of the Catholic culture wars, they were in agreement about the need for civil discourse and for religious voices to share in shaping public policy.

The symposium drew more than 300 people of divergent political and theological views.

Neuhaus, a former Lutheran who was active in the civil rights movement, cited Martin Luther King. "Dr. King used to say, 'Whom you would change, you must first love, and they must know that you love them.' In these great contentions in the public square...that is how we ought to be perceived, we Christians and Catholic Christians," Neuhaus said.

"Today you get Michael Moorer on one side and Ann Coulter on the other. You see an unleashing of partisan rage and ridicule, and dehumanizing of the opposition."

In interviews, McCarrick and Neuhaus gave differing assessments of a proposal by Bishop Donald Wuerl of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh regarding the public differences some bishops had in 2004 over whether to deny communion to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Wuerl called for all U.S. bishops to consult with each other before taking public stands on the Catholic status of national political figures who support abortion rights.

Wuerl's proposal "is right on target," said McCarrick, who shares Wuerl's view that Catholic legislators who support abortion rights should not ask to receive communion, but that the priest should not refuse it if they do come forward, on the chance that they might have had a conversion. McCarrick expected Wuerl's proposal to receive significant discussion among the bishops.

Neuhaus praised the dozen or so bishops who would not allow Kerry to receive communion, but said that is not the only way to handle the problem.

Catholic groups, on both the left and the right, that claim to speak for the church but distort its teaching are not helpful, McCarrick said. He urged Catholics to study official church documents, rather than only interpretations in the media and by advocacy groups.

In reply to a question from the audience about priests who made it sound as if it were a sin to vote for Kerry in 2004, he said that the Vatican clearly stated that it was acceptable to vote for a candidate who happened to support abortion, as long as that wasn't the reason for casting the vote.

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