Scandal goes global? Bishops tell politicos they can go to hell?

empty_altarFriend of GetReligion Rod Dreher at the Dallas Morning News has flown a red alert flag on the blog operated by the newspaper’s editorial page staff.

It’s the rare case of a newspaper using the blogosphere to point its readers toward a national radio report that previews a major series that (are you following this?) is about to be published in the same newspaper. Dreher writes:

The DMN’s Brooks Egerton appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning to preview a massive series the paper is going to roll out this weekend. Here’s an audio link to the interview. Brooks spoke of the results of an 18-month global investigation he and other reporters have been doing, in which they’ve documented the systematic shuffling of clerical sex abusers from country to country, in many cases just ahead of the law. Brooks said that the DMN found priests who admitted to, or even had been convicted of, child sex abuse working in ministry overseas, in some cases with access to children.

This is a bombshell series. It’ll be in your Sunday paper, but I’m told that it will likely go up on the Dallasnews.com website on Saturday, when the early Sunday editions hit the street.

posted by Rod Dreher @ Jun 18, 11:42 AM

To hear the report, click here. This is your basic question-and-answer session that outlines the report, which stresses how hard it is to trace any kind of illegal activity over borders and around the world, especially in a church that is also the world’s largest voluntary organization — period.

Meanwhile, out in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, the Denver Post has hit the web with the first report on the U.S. Catholic bishops’ decision to, basically, leave the status of pro-abortion-rights Catholics up to prevailing legal authorities — the local bishops. In other words, they voted to keep the status quo (which is Latin for “punt”). This will please the vast majority of American Catholics and tick off an already furious minority of intense, dedicated Roman Catholics who live in America. Eric Gorski reports:

The statement strongly reiterates the church’s core teaching against abortion while making clear that individual bishops ultimately decide how to deal with Catholics’ standing to receive the sacrament at the center of Catholic life, said Bishop Richard Hanifen, who retired as bishop of the Colorado Springs diocese last year.

`There’s a balance,` Hanifen said shortly after the vote on Friday, which was said to be strongly in favor of the statement. `There’s an obvious renewal of the clear commitment we have to life from the beginning of life to the end.” …

The statement approved by bishops on Friday … does make clear that consequences are potentially grave for Catholic candidates who take a stand in favor of laws affirming abortion rights.

In other words, the bishops are divided and cannot agree on a common strategy. However, they know what the church teaches and they need to affirm that in light of the rather strong opinions of Rome (those shadowy documents that loom in the background on the Vatican website).

The final result is an equation that, bluntly stated, goes like this: Supporting abortion on demand is a very serious sin, but if Catholic politicians want to risk their souls they can continue to take Holy Communion and it really isn’t anything that bishops need to do, unless they choose to do so. In the New York Post, that would make a great “Bishops to Kerry: Go To Hell!” headline. This presumes the existence of hell. Sin, too.

Meanwhile, a very vigilant reader recently dropped me a note to say that Time wins the prize for mentioning — even briefly quoting — the Vatican documents on politics and abortion. The recent “Faith Factor” cover included a sidebar (subscription required) on the Kerry Communion story that noted:

As it happened, Kerry’s candidacy came on the heels of a “doctrinal note” from the Vatican warning Catholic lawmakers that they have a “grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life.” Some influential Catholic leaders say the bishops are merely doing their job. “These bishops are not interested in helping George W. Bush, at least most of them certainly are not,” says Father Richard Neuhaus, founder and publisher of the neoconservative interfaith monthly First Things. “You have very prominent people — John Kerry being the first Catholic presidential candidate in 44 years — who seem to be fundamentally misrepresenting the teaching of the church. The bishops have a responsibility to say, ‘Hey, just a minute — that’s not right.’”

Congratulations to the winner. Now, how about a whole paragraph from the document?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.


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