Sunday, July 23, 2006

Not Yet Ordained and, Already, A Press War

You'll remember yesterday's post on Coadjutor Bishop-elect Frank Dewane of Venice's interpreted statement, in a run-up interview before his Tuesday ordination in Florida, that Catholic politicians whose public positions conflicted with church teaching shouldn't be denied the Eucharist. In the interview, Dewane said that he thought " it's uncomfortable for us all if sacraments become something used in the public arena."

Well, just when you thought it was safe, the backstepping has begun and a brouhaha has been occasioned. Interesting when you consider that not a one of this readership -- scrupulously close readers that you all are -- called the original reporting into question.

The one bright light of it is that a fuller portion of Dewane's answer has seen the light of print.... (Note to editors: Posting the full audio of the 45-minute session would be better still.)
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Venice said his comments during an interview were misinterpreted.

But the spokeswoman wouldn't say what Dewane's stance was on the controversial issue. Asked if Dewane hadn't made up his mind, diocese spokeswoman Mary Campo said that wouldn't be correct. Asked if he supported withholding Communion, she said that wouldn't be correct, either.

"He would prefer not to comment," Campo said....

During Thursday's 45-minute interview, a Herald-Tribune reporter asked Dewane his opinion on withholding Communion on the basis of abortion-rights policies.

Dewane responded: "I'm going to address that by saying a bishop, I believe, should know the politicians in the region, whether it's senators, whether it's congresspeople, and address them specifically."

He continued: "I think it's uncomfortable for us all if sacraments in that sense -- and that's specifically what you are referring -- become something used in the public arena -- 'used' -- and that can be a broad sense of the word."

The church teaches that with rights come responsibilities, he went on to explain.

When it was suggested that sounded like the bishop didn't want to politicize the sacrament, Dewane responded, "That is absolutely true. The sacrament is not a political thing. It's spiritual, and we need to -- all parties need to respect that."

Campo, the diocese spokeswoman, said it would be incorrect to conclude that meant Dewane would not deny Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.
Just when a "yes" or "no" answer seemed less like rocket-science.

The ink parade continues with a piece in this morning's papers on the bishop-elect's boyhood:
Old friends say they are not as surprised by his rapid rise within the church as they were by his decision to enter the priesthood.

"We all felt that he was going somewhere, even during high school," said Jack Olsen, a close boyhood friend. "But to expect that he would end up as a bishop -- that might have been a little far-fetched."

As a teenager at Denmark High School, Dewane stood out among his peers. A popular student and a lineman on the football team, Dewane was known for his smarts and maturity. The caption of accomplishments that accompanies his picture in the 1968 Denmark High School yearbook (which Dewane edited) takes up more space than any other alongside the pictures of his 108 fellow graduates. Friends say Dewane could take over a classroom discussion, engaging teachers in lively debates. His peers praise his humility and say he moved among the cliques of jocks, geeks, farm boys and city kids.

"It was like he never had a bad day," said Wayne Krueger, who shared classes with Dewane. "If he did, he didn't show it."

Dewane's talents helped him and his friends navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of teenage years.

"If we needed someone to go in and make peace with the parents, we usually sent Frank in," said his friend, Olsen.

After a softball game in Green Bay during junior year (Dewane kept stats for the team), Dewane, Olsen and friends stayed out partying into the wee hours of the morning, Olsen said. Olsen couldn't face his parents' fury. Dewane went in first to talk them down.

"And Frank told them that I really wanted to be home a lot earlier, but Frank had made a decision that, because things were going so well and because there wasn't any risk involved, we decided to stay out a little longer. And he's asking Mom how her peas are growing and, you know, how the corn is growing," Olsen said. "So from that time on mother decided, 'Well, if you're out with Frank Dewane, you're in good hands.'"
Even if there's a bit of hemming and hawing on tough questions, it seems.

Andrew West/The News-Press