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With enemies like Neumayr, Wuerl needs no friends

April 3, 2012

When an ecclesiastic like Washington’s Cdl. Wuerl is attacked so meanly and repeatedly by a writer like George Neumayr, the prelate needs no friends to rush to his defense. Instead, it suffices that folks simply read what Neumayr wrote, a la:

  • The word ‘pastoral’ dribbles from the lips of a bishop like Wuerl;
  • who regularly exposes his flock to wolves;
  • while wallowing in a worldly game of ring-kissing;
  • and leaves the Church’s gates open to her fiercest enemies;
  • and uses ‘clericalist tentacles’ (what a phrase!) to menace Neumayr, so on.

Most of this reads like something out of a 19th century Nativist tract! Seriously, does any of this language satisfy the laxest interpretation of Canon 212 § 3? Does Neumayr think that screeds like this are going to win him a hearing in Rome? I thought him more savvy than that.

Neumayr seems better at reacting than he does at reading. For example, he still taunts Wuerl for approving the admission of a “self-described practicing lesbian and Buddhist” to holy Communion, when anyone with eyes to read knows I have amply demonstrated that the first factor is totally irrelevant to the reception of Communion,* and that the second characterization flatly fails under canon law of this case.

Having difficulty with arguments, Neumayr resorts to labeling those who criticize his treatment of Wuerl as being Wuerl’s “surrogates” and chums. How funny. I’ve met Wuerl twice in 30 years (doubtless he would recall neither brief exchange) and I have disagreed, publicly and repeatedly, with Wuerl’s general position on Canon 915. If I am a surrogate or chum of Wuerl’s, it’s only in Neumayr’s imagination.

That said, though, I will cut Neumayr a little slack and grieve with him that the word “pastoral” was hijacked by the heterodox in the decades after Vatican II. When I read what nonsense sometimes gets excused under the cover of “pastoral”, I cast an apologetic glace at my well-worn set of Henry Davis’ pre-conciliar Moral and Pastoral Theology and sigh to myself that some of these guys would not recognize “pastoral” if it walked up to them and punched them in the nose (which, I have a feeling, is exactly what a 1940s British Jesuit would do).

But to dismiss the word “pastoral” from the Church’s lexicon? No, don’t dismiss it! I say, reclaim it. The Church’s mission on earth is fundamentally “pastoral” and Neumayr’s likening “pastoral” to spittle dribbling from an old man’s lips is not to help us reclaim it, but to help others trash it.

Finally, as I have noted many times, canon lawyers (qua canon lawyers) do not enforce law, but they do explain it, often, to an audience that has no idea what it says. Some canon lawyers sign their names to their views, others laugh anonymously with journalists who seem primed and looking for more jibes at bishops. But it doesn’t change what the law says and, one of these days, my repeated calls for bishops to take in hand, say, Canons 1369 and 1373 will, Deo volente, be acted upon. Neumayr and his chuckling confreres should read those norms. Any Catholic who writes what Neumayr writes, and who proudly “apologize[s] for nothing”, and loudly proclaims that “the faithful have not only a right but a duty to resist heterodox [sic] bishops”, seems to be asking for it. + + +

* I understand how this point sticks in the craw of Catholics who take Church teaching on, first, sexuality, and second, the Eucharist, seriously. Really, I do understand. I have tried to explain the point in several earlier posts on this matter, and I will be addressing it more comprehensively in another forum. In the meantime, I can only say, folks must understand that personal disclosure of a sin, even an unrepented grave sin, to a priest does not allow him to withhold holy Communion from that person if s/he approaches for it publicly. And it has never sufficed under Church law. But this is only to repeat myself.

PS: (Tuesday eve): I just winced as I re-read part of the line above (now a few hours after it went it up), but I’ll leave my unhappy phrasing in place as a reminder of what can happen when one restates the same point so many times in so many places: one is bound to misstate it at least once! Obviously, being a “practicing lesbian” is relevant to one’s receiving Communion (per c. 916, etc.), but not, as I have explained many times, to having Communion withheld (per c. 915, etc.) from one under the circumstances generally being treated in this discussion. I have pointed out that difference between “reception” and “administration” of holy Communion many times in many places, and apologize for any confusion arising from my having misstated it this time.

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