400 PRELATES AND THREE PRESIDENTS MAKE NEWS IN WASHINGTON
While Democrats continued to spin negative stories about Ken Starr in an effort to deflect public support of the House Judiciary Committee's possible vote to recommend impeaching Clinton for perjury, America's Catholic bishops voted on new directives dealing with religious, theolgical, liturgical, political, national and international matters specific to the Church in America.
"Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholicism" recieved the most attention from the bishops and the media. The document is strongly worded in its condemnation of abortion and Catholic politicians who vote for abortion. Catholics were urged to take note of elected official's positions on all forms of abortion when casting their votes.
Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany told the Conference that "We run the risk of creating another anti-Catholic backlash, of creating the impression that the Catholic bishops are trying to dictate how a politician must vote. From the public's point of view, it looks like undue coercion."
A priest attending the conference rephrased Hubbard's statement. "It looks like long 'overdue' coercion and it's what every one of them should have been preaching from the pulpit for years."
Boston's Bernard Cardinal Law, who helped draft the document, reproached his two senators, calling Democrats Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry "Wrong in the way the approach abortion," as is, he added, Massachusetts Republican Governor Paul Celluci.
Kennedy's office responded immediately: "Senator Kennedy has great respect for Cardinal Law and the Catholic Conference but he continues to support a woman's right to choose."
A spokesman for Catholic Rep. Nick Lampson (D.Tex.) said the Congressman feels "abortion is a personal matter and his personal salvation is his own personal, private matter."
Philadelphia City Councilman Frank Rizzo, a Catholic, said the bishops are making a mistake in criticizing pro-life Catholic politicians. "If they (the bishops) only focus on a single issue, that would be a terrible mistake...I want them to care about graffiti, the homeless, public safety - which they do."
What didn't make the news was the shelving for yet another year of the l990 Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities (Ex Corde Ecclesiae - From The Heart Of The Church). Two institutions that will ultimately be affected by its passage did make news on opposite sides of town: The Catholic University of America and Georgetown.
Predictably, the Jesuit magazine AMERICA (11/14/98) - whose new editor Thomas Reese, S.J., was at the Woodstock Center at Georgetown for several years - had already announced its opposition to Vatican interference on Ex Corde. The editorial labeled the canonical obligation of Catholic teachers of theology to obtain an official approval or mandate (mandatum) from the local bishop as being "inconsistent with the institutional autonomy expected of colleges and universities in American higher education."
Adding to its disagreement with so much that takes place in this papacy, AMERICA claimed that Cardinal Bavilacqua's committee report to the NCCB is "well-intentioned but unworkable" because it imposes a new obligation on presidents of Catholic institutions. As assessed in the editorial, one of the 'unworkable' statements by the committee reads: "On assuming office, they will be required to make a profession of faith and take an oath of fidelity to the Magisterium. Furthermore, only 'faithful Catholics' who manifest an integrity of doctrine and personal conduct, should be recruited for the faculties of Catholic institutions. The majority of the boards of trustees should also be 'faithful Catholics'."
The editorial ended with this warning: "To attempt to impose a monolithic juridical framework on the Catholic colleges and universities of the United States will not enhance their Catholic identity, but only endanger it by forcing unnecessary choices between loss of official church approval and a marginal role in American higher education. The impact of these norms could be disastrous for U.S. Catholic education. The church in the United States, its bishops and its educators, can do better than this. Given time and freedom, we hope they will."
That last sentence has been described by those familiar with AMERICA's anti-papal policy as a not-too-veiled reference to the time remaining in the reign of John Paul II.
In its attempt to legitimize the increasing secularization of Jesuit universities, AMERICA chose not to address issues raised in two other publications: the student published GEORGETOWN ACADEMY and the University published GEORGETOWN VOICE.
The October l998 ACADEMY called for Father O'Donovan's resignation because of his support of pro-abortion student groups; 'Safe-sin' courses in how to uses condoms; homosexuality; and his "moth-to-light attraction to Clinton in inviting him to be Guest of Honor at the kickoff of the Fall Capital Campaign despite the affairs, the lying, the perjury, the corruption, the possible indictment".
Within 24 hours of distributing approximately 3,000 copies across campus, all but a few hundred were mysteriously removed.
"Reshaping the collar - Looking at the Jesuit role" was the theme of the November l9 issue of the VOICE. In the feature article "Bringing Catholic and Jesuit identity to the forefront of campus culture" (ll/l9), English professor Scott Pilarz, S.J. saw O'Donovan in a different light. Pilarz thinks Georgetown's Jesuits are in the tradition of Ignatius Loyola in "ministering to the marginalized'.
"That's why I love it when Father O'Donovan is having dinner at the White House with President Bill Clinton (SFS '68) and other Jesuits are down in a soup kitchen serving the poor."
Whether he considers Pesident Clinton, a proven liar, to be among the 'marginalized' wasn't made clear but he clearly chose not to address the scandal of Georgetown's Catholic identity being marginalized by President O'Donovan's frequent dinners with the most pro-abortion president to ever serve in the White House.
According to O'Donovan in the VOICE article, "The Jesuit tradition is a long and rich history, and no two people put it the same way," In light of some solidly orthodox Jesuits at Georgetown, this is a revealing - although perhaps not in ways he intended - statement. The article went on to describe Georgetown's Jesuits as "living in a tightly knit brotherhood" and listed three in the community by name: "Robert Drinan, S.J., former congressman from Massachusetts" (Drinan's staunch support of Clinton's veto of the ban on partial birth abortion was conspicuously absent); "Edward Ingebretsen S.J., who is openly gay, is abroad in Europe finishing a book about homosexuality in the church"; and "William Walsh, S.J., who was working at the Woodstock Theological Center, came under fire by his five grown nieces when they alleged in a televised press conference that they had been sexually molested as children by Walsh."
By any standards, these three men are not in the original Ignatian mold of a 'long and rich history'.
The VOICE also quoted another Georgetown Jesuit, Kevin Wildes, S.J., who said that "Priests used to be on a pedestal above the rest. In retrospect, that wasn't healthy." As for dealing with criticism of events and practices at Georgetown, Wildes thinks it is time for the Jesuits to "work together as a group to respond. Every week I pick up the HOYA or the VOICE and see some letters from a Conservative Catholic that is full of error. Part of the reason I don't respond to them is because it is not worth paying attention to them, but some people come away with the opinion that this is what Catholicism is about."
Across town and cut from a very different bolt of cloth, the Very Reverend David M. O'Connell, a 43 year old Vincentian canon lawyer, professor and former dean of New York's St. John's University, was being inaugurated the l4th president of The Catholic University of America in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on C.U.'s campus.
Father O'Connell made it very clear where he stood: "Our greatest strength is our Catholic identity, for it gives form and substance, shape and direction to all that we do as a university. To diminish it, even slightly, would diminish us, the Church and even the diversity that American higher education boasts about to the world."
He will not allow campus activities that "legitimize the homosexual lifestyle." He stated further: "I want it (the University) to be faithful to the Church. What would it profit us if we surrender that responsibility or even strike compromise in its regard to gain the grudging acceptance of the whole academic world - only to lose our soul in the process."
Father O'Connell's allegiance to the Pope is well known and he repeatedly quoted papal encyclicals. He also advised those who dispute that "The University does not have a responsibility to be all things to all people" to go elsewhere.
He got a standing ovation.
The prelates closed their conference as Ken Starr opened his testimony on Capitol Hill. They had passed such ecclesially disparate issues as moving the celebration of Ascension Thursday in the five western provinces to the 7th Sunday after Easter and, under Canon 284, addressing clerical garb: "In the exercise of the priest's ministry, as well as for street dress, the black suit and Roman collar are appropriate. Religious clerics are exempted."
A Jesuit from another Province said he'd never be invited to teach theology at Georgetown because he doesn't own a necktie.
Unlike previous meetings, there were no protestors at this year's conference. There were, however, many outside the Rayburn House Office Building. When told of the bishop's statement about abortion, several cheered. They held signs proclaiming "Set an example for the children",
"Vote truth. Visualize integrity", "Jail to the Chief", "Fire the Liar" and "Thank you Judge Starr" while motorists hit their horns in response to "Honk for impeachment".
President Clinton was on a state visit to the Far East with his brother Roger. President Leo O'Donovan, S.J. was at Georgetown with Robert Drinan, S.J. Ex Corde Ecclesiae was on next year's agenda and to much acclaim and hope, Father O'Connell was the new President of Catholic University. 30