Kerry to O'Malley: Don't bother

omalley_miterIt’s not quite the same thing as the Democratic Party’s snub of the prolife Pennsylvania Gov. William Casey in 1992, but John Kerry’s campaign has broken with tradition by not inviting the host city’s Catholic archbishop to deliver an invocation during this week’s Democratic convention.

As Michael Paulson and Patrick Healy report in The Boston Globe,

The Kerry campaign said it has not invited Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston. O’Malley’s spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, said recently that O’Malley planned to be out of town this week.

“We never reached out to Archbishop O’Malley to deliver the invocation,” said a Kerry spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter. “We are seeking to arrange having [the priest] from the Paulist Center to deliver the invocation, since that is John Kerry’s home church.”

As the Globe also makes clear, O’Malley has not been the toughest critic among Catholic bishops of Kerry’s consistent support of abortion rights:

A few bishops, including Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis, have said they would deny Communion to Kerry based on his support for abortion rights. But other bishops, including O’Malley, have said that while Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not seek Communion, the church would not deny it to those who do.

In a related story, Jonathan V. Last of The Weekly Standard paid a visit to the Paulist Center:

The church itself is spare, consisting of a medium-sized auditorium built in the Federalist tradition. The ceiling is high and there are pews both on the ground floor and in the balcony. The altar in the front is tiny. Hanging in the space above it is the only artwork of note: a large, abstract sculpture of Christ, behind which hangs a tree trunk, in roughly the space of a cross.

There are no kneelers in the church and the atmosphere is decidedly casual. (Of the hundred or so people at Mass on Sunday morning, only two men wore coat and tie.) At times the Mass departs from the Catholic text. During the Nicene Creed, for example, the sections on believing in only “one Lord” (“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God . . . “) and only “one holy Catholic and apostolic Church” are excised from the prayer.

. . . The ideology which brings people to the Paulist Center is best explained by the Center’s Mission Statement which declares, “Attentive to the Holy Spirit, we are a Catholic community that welcomes all, liberates the voice of each and goes forth to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Before Mass, this Mission Statement is projected, in large type, onto the wall above the altar, on either side of the statue of Christ.) In their Vision Statement, the Center goes on to explain that they aspire to serve “those persons searching for a spiritual home and those who have been alienated from the Catholic Church.”

The subtext here — with talk of liberating voices and welcoming people alienated from those other mean Catholic churches — is that the Paulist Center is Catholic, but not really: more Episcopal lite; or orthodox Unitarian.

The practical consequence of this attitude is that if John Kerry isn’t the least bit conflicted about stumping for abortion and taking communion, the people at the Paulist Center are even less conflicted about giving him the Host.

Amid all the fuss about whether John Kerry would be denied Communion because of his stance on abortion, it’s worth noting which side has followed through on thoughts of exclusion.

Print Friendly

  • Marinda R

    Before conceding that this is exclusion, I’m curious to know whether it’s also traditional for clergy from a candidate’s home church to deliver an invocation in addition to the traditional bishop’s convocation at the convention, especially if the convention is in the candidate’s home town. If so, I’d say that’s a lovely tradition (although the home town aspect doesn’t happen much, does it?). It would also make sense not to have 2 members of the clergy from the same denomination, wouldn’t it? (Again, there haven’t been enough conventions in the hometown of the professing Catholic candidate to really set precedent in these circumstances).

  • John

    My recollection is that politicians, especially those in Congress, who claim to be Catholic worship at the Cathedrals within their various states. I believe Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals are the primary clergy members who minister from Cathedrals. Correct? I remember the affinity the Kennedys had for Richard Cardinal Cushing at appropriate moments when the solemnity and validation of a Roman Catholic prelate was needed. Cardinal Cushing was not just a parish priest. And, he didn’t minister at a local Massachusetts parish. He was the Cardinal in the Cathedral (I believe it’s the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, but I might be mistaken).

  • Greg Griffith

    Pray tell, if one skips the part of the Nicene Creed that begins “We believe in one lord, Jesus Christ…” then you where do you pick back up? And what else do you have to remove? I mean, you can’t exactly talk about being seated at the right hand of the Father, coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, if you don’t first set up the character earlier in the narrative.

    [Monty Python voice]Well oo are they talkin’ aboot?[/Monty Python voice]

    And what do you finally have left? The best I can figure is:

    We believe in one God,

    the Father, the Almighty,

    maker of heaven and earth,

    of all that is, seen and unseen.

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.

    With the Father he is worshiped and glorified.

    He has spoken through the Prophets.

    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

    We look for the resurrection of the dead,

    and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    That’s a creed?

  • Elizabeth Josephine Weston

    Never having been to the Paulist Center for Mass (I live in Boston) I was surprised to hear about the change in the creed. Nonetheless, it is not surprising; one of the major themes of Isaac Hecker’s biography is how he dealt with the relationship with American culture/Catholicism; Hecker remained a seeker all his life, and I suspect his stance continues to influence the Paulists.

    When I was in graduate school I took a seminar in practical theology and one day we had two guests: an Orthodox priest and a laywoman who was on the staff of the Paulist Center. It was an interesting contrast, needless to say! She brought along some written information, including copies of the most recent bulletin. Although much of the information inside the bulletin talked about social justice issues, almost all of the advertisements on the back page dealt with psychological or spiritual counseling. I commented on this and she was genuinely surprised by the observation.

    Thinking about this I am struck by what seems both indulgence and liberalism at the Paulist Center. In contrast, I recently read Heidi Neumark’s “Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx” (she is a Lutheran pastor.) Obviously not everyone is called to worship in a community like that and I know the Paulist Center and similar places are important to people, but it seems unfortunately self-referential.

  • Elizabeth Josephine Weston

    Never having been to the Paulist Center for Mass (I live in Boston) I was surprised to hear about the change in the creed. Nonetheless, it is not surprising; one of the major themes of Isaac Hecker’s biography is how he dealt with the relationship with American culture/Catholicism; Hecker remained a seeker all his life, and I suspect his stance continues to influence the Paulists.

    When I was in graduate school I took a seminar in practical theology and one day we had two guests: an Orthodox priest and a laywoman who was on the staff of the Paulist Center. It was an interesting contrast, needless to say! She brought along some written information, including copies of the most recent bulletin. Although much of the information inside the bulletin talked about social justice issues, almost all of the advertisements on the back page dealt with psychological or spiritual counseling. I commented on this and she was genuinely surprised by the observation.

    Thinking about this I am struck by what seems both indulgence and liberalism at the Paulist Center. In contrast, I recently read Heidi Neumark’s “Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx” (she is a Lutheran pastor.) Obviously not everyone is called to worship in a community like that and I know the Paulist Center and similar places are important to people, but it seems unfortunately self-referential.

  • PG

    “Episcopal lite”…

    Now that’s funny. One of the primary cries of the majority in the Episcopal Church over it’s current major rift in doctrine has been “The Creed is a sufficient common statement of faith!” So, it really does logically follow that to “lighten” a belief system regularly called “Catholic lite” you must “lighten” the Nicene Creed. How truly amusing, and frightening.

  • Sharon

    I think they are just reciting the Apostles’ Creed instead of the Nicene. To someone expecting the latter instead of the former, it would certainly sound like large sections about the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity had been excised.

  • http://knitandcontemplation.typepad.com Karen

    My understanding is that the creed was developed in response to conflicts within the early church, and was used to exclude many christians from communion. The early church was a very diverse group, but, as I quote from Wallace Stevens on my Poetry page,

    “In the end, these philosophic assassins pull

    Revolvers and shoot each other. One remains.

    The mass of meaning becomes composed again.

    He that remains plays on an instrument

    A good agreement between himself and night,

    A chord between the mass of men and himself,

    Far, far beyond the putative canzones

    Of love and summer. The assassin sings.”

    In other words, the ‘creed’ is a sort of sword.

    I would far rather put my faith in Jesus Christ than in any creed.

    All scriptures are interpreted by people at the level of their own spiritual maturity. The truth is their truth at that time and place. Hence the continuing proliferation of christian (& other) sects and cults. The ‘creed’ simply unifies people in a social community, it has little to do with spiritual experience.

    It sounds as if the Paulist Center is being true to its congregation’s beliefs at this time and place. It makes them, certainly, no less Christian.

    Christians, or for that matter any other kind of religionists, with swords, we do not need.

  • http://www.tmatt.net Tmatt

    Karen:

    What you are saying is that the Paulist Center is Baptist, or Unitarian, or Church of Christ, or independent evangelical — a no-creed free church.

    But the center says that it is CATHOLIC and that is a 2000-year-old faith tradition that has doctrinal and even dogmatic content.

    You have perfectly articulated the conflict between the AmCath Kerry congregation and the RomanCath critics of the Kerry position and parish.

  • Steve H.

    What’s with the comma splice in the opening paragraph?

  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc

    It was a mistake, and I thank you for pointing it out. I had left out the word “but.”

  • Marinda R

    “I remember the affinity the Kennedys had for Richard Cardinal Cushing…”

    OK, so did Cushing represent the Roman clergy in LA(?) in 1960, or the local Archbishop? In NYC is Bush’s pastor likely to make an appearance? I really don’t know what the usual protocol for inviting clergy is; based on the information given (it is traditional to invite the host city’s archbishop), it seems hasty to assume that Kerry’s priest delivering the invocation should be interpreted as a snub and nothing but a snub. (Since that is the topic of the article, not the orthodoxy/heterodoxy of Kerry’s Catholicism).

  • http://knitandcontemplation.typepad.com Karen M

    tmatt,

    i’m curious to see how the AmCath and RomanCath conflict pans out. I may have to be reincarnated, though, to find out how the story ends…

    I can only speak from the perspective of my own education and my own experience, and so I guess I see that people, even those most wedded to their traditions, do make changes in ‘the tradition’ over time. It seems to me like there are a LOT of changes happening in Roman Catholicism (used as an umbrella term) even though these changes may not be acknowledged very visibly. For example, changes in attitudes and realities around the ‘celibate priesthood’ (itself not as ancient a tradition as most catholics believe), not just in America, but in Africa, and other parts of the globe. Things that, generally, in recent times (centuries) are held as sacred, and now appear to be less than necessary, let alone ‘sacred.’

    I think it’s taking time for the perspectives of theological scholars to ‘trickle down’ (so to say), and I think it’s hard to argue against history and the historical critical take on the development of the churches. The future of belief looks interesting. And let me hasten to add that I believe there is still plenty of ‘scope’ for faith. Hope I’m not getting too far off the topic here.

  • http://davidmorrison.typepad.com/sed_contra/ David Morrison

    Back when I was still homosexually active and wanting to reconcile my sexual life with being a Christian, I gave the group Dignity a try. My doubts about the group crystalized when, on my fifth or sixth Mass with the group, a notice appeared in the bulletin apologizing for the creed.

    As a convert to Christianity generally and Catholicism in particular, I love the Creed and if I had been in a Mass that eliminated parts of it I would have walked out.

    I can understand that people might not want to choose Catholicism, but if they do they should choose Catholicism and not some kind of watered down imitation.