Couple More Podcast Episodes + The Big “Pro-Life” News

JP II The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) Chapter 1, Part 3
JP II The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) Chapter 2, Part 1

[Click HERE for the podcast website.]

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

The big Catholic and pro-life news is:

The Speaker of the House’s Archbishop has notified her that she may not receive Holy Communion in San Francisco. That is, until she 1. publicly repudiates her political position on abortion and 2. goes to Confession.

Two questions about this. 1. Is Archbishop Cordileone credibly pro-life? 2. Will this do any good?

Survivors of clerical sexual abuse do not think Archbishop Cordileone is genuinely pro-life.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has never publichsed a list of credibly accused clergy. Cordileone admitted that the Archdiocese has paid more than $87 million in secret settlements. Only a small fraction of the sex-abuse cases in the archdiocese have been dealt with.

Last May, the Survivors’ Network published a statement. Here are some passages:

The Dallas Charter promised openness and transparency. We are concerned that abusers remain in ministry in San Francisco.

We would like to see Archbishop Cordileone publish a list of abusers in his Archdiocese, including their histories, their pictures, and what the Archdiocese knew about them, when it knew about them, and what it did in response.

These lists alert the public to hidden predators and start survivors on the road to healing by letting them know that they are not the only one. This simple step, completely with the Archbishop’s control, may well save lives.

There are hundreds of priests associated with the Archdiocese of San Francisco who have destroyed the lives of innoncents and their families. It is beyond ironic and hypocritical of Archbishop Cordileone to assume any moral authority, as long as this clear and present danger remains.

In our eyes, Archbishop Cordileone has no moral standing, as long as he continues to endanger young lives. We know that not all these boys and girls will survive the attacks. Death may not necessarily be immediate, but it is one of the clear consequences of placing the reputation of the Church, and money, over the safety of children.


Archbishop Cordileone gave an interview yesterday and lamented that “he had to” exclude Pelosi from Holy Communion.

As he outlined in a letter to the priests of San Francisco, the Archbishop sought to meet personally with Speaker Pelosi, after she had spoken publicly last fall in favor of a federal law declaring a constitutional right to abortion. But Pelosi’s office responded that she didn’t have time to speak with him.

Cordileone does not have an answer to the question, Why now? What has really changed over the course of the past decade, during which he has been Pelosi’s Archbishop, and her position about legal abortion has not significantly changed?

Last year the Archbishop wrote a pastoral letter to his people about co-operating in abortion and receiving Holy Communion. It seems clear now that he did so in order to lay the groundwork, so to speak, for his Notification to Pelosi.

The pastoral letter outlines the reality of abortion and explains the difference between formal and material co-operation in evil. What the letter does not do is: Engage the political realities of the issue, in California, and in the U.S. as a whole.

There is no “right” to abortion. To the contrary, the law should prohibit the killing of innocent human beings. Nearly fifty years ago, however, the Supreme Court of our land found otherwise.

Now, apparently, that situation will change. (That is, if the leaked Alito opinion truly represents the finding of the Court on the matter.) The individual states will then make laws about abortion, like they did before Roe v. Wade.

Will all states prohibit abortion? No. Will abortions occur in states that do prohibit it? Yes, because of the availability of abortion pills and the work of underground abortionists, who have already mobilized. Will the state of California prohibit abortion? Certainly not.

One of the basic rules of democratic politics is: You win by convincing people. You might find yourself able to force people to conform to your ideas for some period of time. But then you will likely lose your power to force anyone to do anything, and you won’t get your way anymore.

It seems to me that being pro-life means, fundamentally, finding a way to convince people not to have abortions. Using force against women is exactly what we are against.

Cordileone’s Notification does not seem genuinely lawful to me. If it were, Speaker Pelosi would have a clear path to a resolution of the crisis.

The Archbishop does not lay out clearly what Pelosi is supposed to say, what precise position she is supposed to repudiate, in order to satisfy his demands. Instead, Cordileone has created a situation that looks like a father trying to discipline a teenage daughter. “You know what you’ve done wrong. So go to your room until you’re ready to apologize.”

Pelosi could reasonably ask, “What exactly do you want me to say, Your Excellency?” He would likely reply, “Just say anything that harmonizes with the teaching of the Church about abortion.” She would reply, “I think I have already done that. What exactly do you want me to say? What exact political position do you want me to take?”

And he would not have an answer. Because the business is complicated. Complicated as H. E. double hockey sticks. Democratic politics is an ugly mess.

Archbishop Cordileone says that abortion is a clear case of good and evil. Indeed, it is. Aborting a child is never the right thing to do. Seems like our job as pro-lifers is to convince people of that.

But what Archbishop Cordileone has done only serves to convince people of things that actually are not true. He has reinforced the idea that being pro-life has to do with obedience to celibate men in miters. He has fed the general conception that pro-lifers are Christians trying to force our religion on others who don’t share it.

Archbishop Cordileone did not have to do this. He, like most bishops, lives in a cucoon. He has publicly embarrassed a member of his flock, with no real prospect of any good coming from it, because he says he can no longer tolerate the “scandal” she has caused.

But how can he not see that most of the people of San Francisco will see what he has done as the scandal? Does he not realize that he comes off as an arrogant autocrat who thinks he owns Jesus Christ’s sacraments? And that he looks to most Americans like an amateur meddling in the dirty business of politics?

I’m not saying that Speaker Pelosi will not have a lot to answer for, when she goes to meet The Judge. Her political position on abortion is dishonest in the extreme. I would gladly say that to her face, if I had the chance.

And I would do the best I could to convince her to change her mind. I might ask her to let me read Evangelium Vitae to her. But I hope I would never be fool enough to make her the heroine of a mean-Church, poor-Italian-American-grandma story.


Shoes for Both Feet in San Francisco


Click HERE for a Wall Street Journal op-ed that summarizes nicely the state of affairs in the city of the poverello of Assisi.

If I might, the key questions, as I see them…

1. Does the Archdiocese go too far in stipulating that teachers at Catholic schools may not publicly advocate for grave evils identified in the Catechism?

I do not count myself as Member #1 of the Archbishop-Cordileone Fan Club. But it would seem that the answer to this question is No.

Everyone is entitled to his or her private opinion and private life. Employees of Catholic institutions who privately act immorally face the judgment of their consciences, not the boss. (And, as the boss of a couple venerable, albeit small, Catholic institutions, I tend to consider Facebook private, because the last thing in the world I want to do is fuss about people’s facebooks. That said: Anyone who facebooks in order to serve the mission of the Church, please don’t contradict the Catechism!)

unhappy labronSo private is private. But: Employees of the various levels of government, and of private companies, face stricter restrictions on public expression of their personal opinions than the Archd. of SF imposes.

Labron cannot openly root for the Lakers. State-Department employees don’t get to take sides publicly in the Obama-Netanyahu debate. If you want to make public statements about the Iran negotiations, don’t work for the State Department. If you think the Catechism is wrong, why sign up to participate in the educational mission of the Church?

And, as for identifying objectionable public positions, what standard is Abp. Cordileone supposed to use, other than the Catechism? Who could question that the Catechism serves as the fundamental reference point for what the Church, in all Her institutions, stands for?

Which brings us to the second–and, I think, decisive–question:

2. Is the morality or immorality of homosexual acts a settled matter?

According to a lot of well-bred people, the matter has been settled. To suggest that homosexual acts are inherently immoral–this suggestion is itself immoral, according to the assumptions of the solons of San Francisco. As I have proclaimed dramatically a few times, I am ready to go to jail, if these people want to throw me in. They do not make sense.

All of this said, though, let’s put the shoe on the other foot, too.

Individual archbishops have no authority to determine whether questions of morality remain open or stand closed. Abp. Cordileone, it seems to me, does right to insist that the Catechism must be the guide. Primary and secondary Catholic education is not really the place for the discussion of disputed questions of morality. (Although I know a few juniors and seniors who could definitely write a good and thoughtful paper on this subject.)

On the other hand, though, the Church must always have a forum in which people get to ask questions like: Is it conceivably possible that homosexual acts might, under some circumstances, actually be perfectly moral? In such a forum, the questioner has every right to follow up the question with arguments in favor of an affirmative response.

Now, I do not hold myself out as particularly knowledgeable regarding this debate in morals. I think some Episcopalians consider themselves to have had this debate, and solved the problem. I’m not so sure they have. Speaking for myself: Homosexual acts seem immoral to me on the grounds that they amount to nothing more than mutual masturbation. Pouring time and energy into such things is, at best, a terrible waste.

The argument has been proposed that some people are ‘gay’ by the will of God, since they experience homosexual inclinations without having made any choices that would stimulate such feelings.

That argument fails. Not with respect to the claims of experience, which can hardly be denied. But because it does not take the Fall, and the corrupted state of human nature, into account. The experience of homosexual desires does not indicate the will of God any more than other disordered appetites do. A diabetic can’t claim that God wills him or her to want to drink 24 Cokes a day.

Also: the way babies get made would seem to leave homosexual acts out, in an outer orbit of weirdness.

All that said, the Church has a forum for arguments to the contrary. People who want to make such arguments can and should make them. And any reasonable Catholic should listen and consider.