Archbishop Retracts Videotaped Criticism of Fellow Bishops

OK, these days I’m asking myself why are we religious progressives spending so much time picking on Jim Wallis and his cohorts when there’s so much low lying fruit that really needs to be picked.

While there are plenty of evangelicals and fundamentalists and a few Jews in that category, my favorites are Catholics. Take Randall Terry – and Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke. Burke, currently head of the Vatican equivalent of the Supreme Court (Prefect of the Apostolica Prefectura) was one of the first bishops to use canon law against Catholics who dissent from anything he considers non-dissentable. As Archbishop of St. Louis Mo. He was one of the first bishops to use communion as political battering ram against then candidate John Kerry. He announced that if Kerry came to St. Louis, he would not permit him to receive communion. Shortly after that he said that Catholics who voted for pro-choice candidates were committing grave sin and needed to go to confession before they could receive communion. He lauded Sarah Palin as a shot in the arm for pro-lifers.

Now, in a videotaped interview with anti-abortion militant Randall Terry, the Archbishop can be seen calmly speculating that Barack Obama “could be an agent of death” if his support for abortion rights in the US is heeded in the developing world. Views like this barely raise an eyebrow in Rome or among American bishops. While few agree with the Archbishop, picking on politicians in support of anti-abortion politics is an acceptable political tactic.

But, the bishop made a bigger error. He criticized other bishops. In an earlier article, I noted that bishops, “princes” of the church, are a bit like feudal lords. They get to do what they want and other bishops don’t criticize them. The old boys club has rules and when you break them hell breaks lose.

The videotape was made on March 2 during a visit to the Vatican by Randall Terry. Terry delivered a petition to Burke asking that Bishops who have not been draconian enough in penalizing pro-choice politicians be transferred to some backwater diocese. Particular targets were Bishop Donald Wuerl of DC and Loverde of Arlington Va. Neither has denied communion or attacked prochoice Catholics in the nation’s capitol. Burke suggested that Catholics who are scandalized by priests and bishops who do not speak out against such legislators should visit them and insist they act. “It is weakening the faith of everyone.”

The bishop is right of course. A Catholic majority voted for Obama. And pro-choice Catholic elected officials, who are numerous, simply ignore the bishops on these issues, even when they are threatened and denied communion. No Catholic has changed their view because of a bishop’s action. Everyone ignores them. The Democratic Party nominates prochoice candidates and prochoice Catholics. Notre Dame invites the prochoice President to make the commencement address. Catholic doctors perform abortions and Catholic women have them. If abortion is the litmus test, the hierarchy of the Catholic church has been resoundingly defeated.

And for Burke, the fact that his brother bishops just let it all happen is too much. And so he broke the rules. And Randall Terry released the tape to the public at a press conference in the National Press Club. The whole world heard one bishop criticize another and urge the serfs to revolt!

Just too much. The next day the bishop cried foul. He claimed Terry deceived him. He thought the tape was a private little exhortation that would be shown to the really faithful storm troopers. Just a little pep talk. If he had known it would be released to the world he never would have recorded it. And that brat Randall Terry got him in trouble. Burke did not recant his views. But he did break another cardinal rule of the bishopric. He said he was sorry. He didn’t mean to hurt his brother bishops. For Obama, Kerry, Catholic women who have abortions, he had no apology.

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