Rudy, Novak, etc, (cont.)

Continuing the Q&A started here, although these questions become less about Giuliani as they go on…

Q: But Giuliani is an abortion supporter! There is no doubt about the state of his soul!

A: There’s always doubt about the state of someone’s soul, but let’s look at that for the moment. Rudy is a politician and he is “pro-choice”, but he does not currently hold office and – since he has never been either a legislator or a judge – his political stance has not in any way involved him in the procuring/legislating/legalizing of abortion availability. At the most, in his career, all Rudy has done is followed the law and done nothing to change it. That is not, perhaps, in the same league as a pol who legislates against the free-speech of pro-lifers or votes in favor of RICO laws being applied to them, or in any way makes abortions easier to come by. In that sense, the ‘big scandal’ then, is about his being divorced-and-remarried which – while rightly precluding communion – is hardly an earthshaking event within the Catholic community. He is nowhere near on par with Pelosi, Kerry and Kennedy who have actively legislated on abortion. We’re just focusing on him because Cardinal Egan – after some prompting – releasd his statement. As Deacon Greg rightly wonders:

If Robert Novak had never written on the subject, would Egan have said anything?

I’m betting he wouldn’t have. Cardinal Egan may be “correct” on this issue, but he’s basically been in hiding for most of his tenure in NY and I imagine he’d have hidden on this, too. What a disappointing successor to the Mighty John O’ Connor.

I must add, there was no sense of the pope – during his visit here – telling the Cardinal or the Archbishop – “hey, get your capos to withhold communion from those heretics.” That was not Benedict’s vibe at all. I got the sense that Benedict – who is a teacher of the first water – intends to teach us and he’d rather not have to battle headlines and hyperpartisan hysteria as he goes about it.

Q: Anchoress, you’re a hypocrite; you don’t mind Catholics in sin receiving communion, but you had a fit when Bill Clinton did it!

A: Well, I didn’t say I didn’t “mind” Catholics taking communion no matter what – I simply said there was another way to think about it that keeps me from getting upset. As to President Clinton taking communion, why shouldn’t I have minded that? He’s not a Catholic! What Clinton did was the equivalent of me going into a Hindu ceremony, partaking in everything I didn’t believe and then, when asked to respect their customs, saying “nah, come on, that’s not how I understand it.”

Q: My father left my mother and got the marriage annulled; the church said it wasn’t a Christian marriage but it didn’t mind taking their money and their volunteer help! The church has no business telling people about marriage when it’s run by a bunch of celibates.

A: If the marriage was annulled, that means the judicial body of the church, having examined it through testimony and evidence, found that the marriage was not “sacramental,” which is entirely different than saying it is “not a Christian marriage.” The church has the authority of Christ in teaching about marriage, and he – not the pope or some priest you hate – is the one who gave the demanding teaching in Matthew 19:

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate…I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

Annulments are the response to Jesus’ admonishment – during the process what is determined is if the marriage was indeed “sacramental” (and thus “lawful”) within the church. Celibacy has nothing to do with it. You can read more about them here.

Q: Isn’t Confession just a “get out of jail free” card for Catholics?

A: Oh. How funny. Confession is a sacrament of the church, instituted by Christ and meant to instill abundant graces within us to both strengthen us against those sins for which we have a proclivity, and allow us the release and freedom whereby we are unshackled by naming the sin and accusing ourselves. In Matthew, Jesus told the apostles “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Even the pope has a confessor. In Romans, St. Paul said, “confession on the lips leads to salvation.” Some may argue that he was speaking only of “confessing Jesus on the lips” – well…perhaps…but perhaps he meant both. If you’re really interested, I have a whole category devoted to confession right here.

Q: What business does Egan have telling anyone else about sins when he shuffled pedophile priests around in Connecticut?

A: Well, I’m no defender of Egan, that should be clear, but I will say only this: he and many other bishops were quite frankly, “men of their times” in one respect – the pederasty that has so roiled us in the 21st century was not recognized as the high-rate recidivist crime that we understand it to be today. Recall that as recently as 20 years ago, the conventional wisdom was that these deviations in behavior could be “fixed” with therapy and a change of surroundings. Thankfully, our understanding is much more finely tuned, I think, these days, but it came very very late in the 20th century. It does not excuse what is abhorrent, but it does explain why – not knowing what else to do with these priests – some bishops thought therapy and moves would be the answer; some bishops dismissed the therapy and simply made the moves – all were excruciatingly bad decisions. That said, Egan is still the bishop, and he has – as near as anyone can tell, given his tendency to hole-up – been faithful and very careful in his handlings of these matters since coming to NY.

Last one, because it is irresistible – fresh and hot off the email:

Q: You’re writing about humility while exhibiting the sin of pride in daring to set yourself up as an authority. Who died and made you pope?

A: Heh. No one, thank God, and they never will. But I am appalled that anyone would think I’ve presented myself as any sort of authority. I’ve always been very clear that I don’t like apologetics or do them well, and that my thoughts are simply that: my thoughts. Anyone can buy a catechism and a bible and find out what the church teaches. An emailer once wrote that I “meander and imagine and reason and always end up squarely on Catholic Orthodoxy.” Maybe. I’ve only ever offered Catholicism as I know it and live it and understand it by my lights, and I hope I’ve done it without pride – although I’ll admit to sometimes being a little fractious while I’m at it. But if I am sinning in pride, I wonder if you’re not sinning in presuming to know that. Beams and splinters – ain’t they a bitch!

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • karen

    “Recall that as recently as 20 years ago, the conventional wisdom was that these deviations in behavior could be “fixed” with therapy and a change of surroundings.”

    I live in VT. This is still the wisdom up here. Marred lives of victims, be damned. :(.

  • NewEnglandDevil


    Just a note to thank you for showing how a non-catholic can commune in spirit in the Catholic Church (your picture of President Bush). I converted to Catholicism, but before I chose to convert and became confirmed I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the pew singing with the choir while my wife participated in the sacrament.

    I will remember to offer that to my family should they join my wife and I for mass in the future.


  • cathyf

    There is also a purely practical question: the contents of a Confession is sealed. By choice of the penitent, it may be anonymous. So even the most notorious of “notorious public sinner” may, in fact, be freshly shriven, and there may be no way for any of us to know. He/she does not owe any of us any explanations, justifications, and does not have to prove to any of us that he/she has been to Confession and made a sincere resolve to reform.

    You want to talk about public scandal — if it happened even once that some columnist, or bishop, or other member of the peanut gallery, with no reason to know any better, were to condemn some “public sinner” who was actually in a state of grace — there, that would be a scandal.

  • TheAnchoress

    That’s a good point, Cathy, but it’s also true that Giuliani and I believe Kerry and Kennedy are divorced/remarried without annulment. That’s the sort of thing you don’t get rid of in confession, so…to some extent, we do know THAT about them, which is why some Catholics are so upset.

    I once sat right behind Newt Gingrich at mass in Washington DC. He participated fully in the mass, but did not receive communion. For all that I’ve never thought much of him politically, I really respected that. Moreso, upon re-telling it than I think I had realized. His refraining was – in its way – powerful witness.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    Q: Do you really think that people who ask accusatory and/or blatently anti-Catholic questions are sincerely interested in the answers?

  • TheAnchoress

    Bender, perhaps they don’t. But I operate on the idea that one should take someone at their word until they’ve demonstrated that you should not bother.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    It is true that a notorious public sinner can always resort to the confidential privacy of the confessional and be thusly restored to grace. But it seems appropriate that the avoidance of the appearance of scandal requires that, if the sin was not secret, but notorious and public, that the reconciliation to grace also not be secret. Once upon a time there was such a concept as public penance.

    I don’t know that folks should be required to kneel for several days in the snow before the papal palace, but it should be made clear in some public fashion, by the formerly notorious public sinner, that they have repented of such notorious and public sins. Or at the very least, if they have not repented and received sacramental absolution, then they should at least give public assent to the Church’s teachings on the matter, and not continue to suggest or otherwise imply that morality is merely a matter of opinion and relative.

  • Gayle J. Miller

    I have been torn on the topic of Cardinal Egan’s public “whupping” of Mr. Giuliani for receiving communion.

    I only have to hearken back to Jacqueline Kennedy marrying Aristotle Onassis – a divorced man. Yet, she continued to receive the sacraments throughout the marriage. Was this proper? Probably not. Was this in keeping with the Catholic Church’s teachings? Probably not.

    I do know that my late mother was so outraged by the resounding silence of the Church on the subject of Mrs. Onassis that she literally bristle with rage when the subject happened to fly into her air space.

    “Causing scandal” in the faithful is also considered a sin. Not speaking out about it when you are a Bishop or Cardinal? Bad, bad idea. Bottom line, is the state of someone else’s soul really anyone else’s business? Yes and no.

    Yes it is our business in the sense that those of us who are Catholics are part of a larger community of Catholics that should be supporting each other in our practice of the faith. As an example, you have performed that service for me on many occasions through your writing. Without you, I might not have traveled as far in my return to my church. On the other hand, the state of one’s own soul is kind of one’s own business.

    Finally, considering Cardinal Egan’s thunderous silence on the subject of priestly abuse, I find it quite politically motivated for him to open his mouth at this time in this way.

  • kuvasz

    Dear Miss A,

    While I hope Time was right when they said most priestly molestation was of slightly post pubertal boys, the most egregious local priest here in Kentucky and the worst local priest in Louisiana both preyed on pre-pubertial children of both sexes. They WERE pedophiles. And, frankly, while there is some difference between the pedastry and pedophilia, I don’t see it mattering much less to a 13 year old than a 12 year old.

    They all should have been jailed as soon as it came to light, not hidden and shuffled around to different churches where they could enjoy new victims.

    I do have some standing in this matter as I was molested by a protestant minister at age 10.

    I think you are putting much too fine a point on this.


  • TheAnchoress

    Sarah, you know you’re one of my all-time favorite commenters. :-) Please don’t misunderstand me to mean that I am in any way excusing any of that – I think I’ve more than made it clear that there is no excusing. You were molested by a Protestant minister, I by a parent; the illness certainly runs the gamut and has little to do with faith, celibacy, secularism (the public schools have a serious problem no one addresses) or gender; it has to do with a problem within the human heart.

    I excuse nothing. But while we’re being as up-front about all of this we can be, it is only fair (and I think, important to be accurate) to remember what the conventional wisdom (and Amer. Psych. community wisdom) was at the time. Some of the bishops, undoubtedly, were simply negligent, prideful, or too proud, but some actually did get professional recommendations into how the issues should be handled – that’s been documented – and those recommendations fell far short. Common sense should have said, “you arrest these creeps” but I think there was too much fear and too little trust in either the Lord or the people. THAT was yet another grave error (and sin) from which we will hopefully – over time – recover.

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