Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"This Is Madness, People": In Surprise Cameo, Scranton Bishop Repudiates USCCB, Dems, Et al.

Showing up unannounced at a parish forum on the elections in his Northeast Pennsylvania diocese, the author of one of this campaign-season's strongest letters from a US hierarch didn't come without something to say... plural:
A presidential election forum at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church on Sunday centered mainly on abortion.

The argument and audience, however, erupted when Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph F. Martino unexpectedly arrived and vehemently expressed his distaste for what was said about the church’s stance on voting for pro-choice candidates and the exclusion of his anti-abortion letter at the forum, which recommends voting against pro-choice candidates for moral reasons....

According to the USCCB’s “Faithful Citizenship” statement, approved by the full body of U.S. bishops in 2007, “a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”

Martino, who arrived while the panelists were stating their viewpoints, took issue with the USCCB statement, which was handed out to everyone at the meeting, and also that his letter was not mentioned once at the forum.

“No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese,” said Martino. “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me.”

“The only relevant document ... is my letter,” he said. “There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”

His letter, published Sept. 30 and circulated throughout the diocese, states that a candidate’s abortion stance is a major voting issue that supersedes all other considerations due to its grave moral consequences.

“Health care, education, economic security, immigration, and taxes are very important concerns. Neglect of any one of them has dire consequences as the recent financial crisis demonstrates. However, the solutions to problems in these areas do not usually involve a rejection of the sanctity of human life in the way that abortion does,” the letter says. “Another argument goes like this: ‘As wrong as abortion is, I don't think it is the only relevant ‘life’ issue that should be considered when deciding for whom to vote.’ This reasoning is sound only if other issues carry the same moral weight as abortion does, such as in the case of euthanasia and destruction of embryos for research purposes. ... National Right to Life reports that 48.5 million abortions have been performed since 1973. One would be too many. No war, no natural disaster, no illness or disability has claimed so great a price.”

The letter also states that Catholic public officials who “persist in public support for abortion” should “not partake in or be admitted to the sacrament of Holy Communion.”...

“No social issue has caused the death of 50 million people,” he said, nothing that he no longer supports the Democratic Party. “This is madness people.”

Martino also said that he wanted to persuade Father Martin Boylan, of St. John’s, to cancel the forum.

After his comments, most of the audience stood and clapped loudly while some were angry that the bishop usurped the forum.

About a quarter of the audience left after the bishop’s comments, which preceded the last half of the forum, a question and answer session with the panelists.

Martino exited shortly after his comments.

“Bishop Martino was aware that the forum at St. John ... was being held. He attended with the intention of listening to the presenters, and how they might discuss Catholic teaching,” wrote Bill Genello, a diocese spokesperson, in an e-mail exchange on Monday. “Certain groups and individuals have used their own erroneous interpretations of Church documents, particularly the U.S. Bishops’ statement on Faithful Citizenship, to justify their political positions and to contradict the Church’s actual teaching on the centrality of abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research.”

“ ... He reminded those in attendance, and by extension all the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton, that groups such as Catholic United ... and other like-minded groups and individuals who make statements about Catholic teaching do not speak with the same authority or authenticity as their bishop.”
The Scranton prelate was absent from last November's USCCB meeting in Baltimore which -- in a rare show of (near-)unanimity -- passed the Faithful Citizenship statement with 98% approval from the nation's hierarchy.

SVILUPPO: Further developments here and here.

PHOTO: Steve McConnell/Wayne Independent